Making the grade: UW vs. New Mexico
LARAMIE – We all get graded, right?
Whether it’s in school, at work or your significant other, we are always under some sort of pressure to learn and produce results.
So, let’s see what Wyoming’s final grades were after a 23-10 homecoming victory over New Mexico Saturday afternoon.
Sean Chambers was not 100 percent healthy Saturday. His legs were sore. He admitted as much after the game. Maybe that's why he came up 11 yards short on a 40-yard dash toward the end zone. Ask Mizzou, he doesn't get caught in the open field. Wyoming's redshirt freshman quarterback carries the ball 18 times, racking up a game-high 141 yards on the ground. It was Chambers' third 100-yard rushing game of the season. He also completed 9-of-15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown to a wide open Josh Harshman in the fourth. His numbers through the air aren't eye-popping, but when you consider his completion percentage through the first six games, it was by far his most efficient passing day of the season. He completed 60 percent of his throws, well above his average of 37 percent.
RUNNING BACKS: B
Jeff Burroughs started the game at running back for the Cowboys Saturday. There's a positive and negative there. First, the good news. Burroughs became the first native of the Cowboy State to start at running back since the Mountain West was formed back in 1999. The bad -- Wyoming is deep into its depth chart without the services of injured Titus Swen and Trey Smith. No worries, Xazavian Valladay picked up the pieces. The sophomore from suburban Chicago rushed for 127 yards on 33 carries in the win. He also scored a touchdown in the second quarter, his fourth of the season. Valladay and Chambers kept the Wyoming running game on track despite the loss of two starting offensive lineman. The yards didn't come easy, but they came.
WIDE RECEIVERS/ TIGHT ENDS: C
Hello, John Okwoli. The senior receiver caught three passes for 33 yards with a long of 15 in the victory over the Lobos. What is significant about that? Okwoli had caught just four passes coming into the game and drawn the ire of fans after dropping passes over the past few weeks. The tight ends got involved to a degree, too. Harshman caught two passes, including that fourth quarter touchdown. Jackson Marcotte snagged one for six yards. Six pass catchers got in the action against the nation's worst pass defense. For most programs, this would be considered a rough day through the air. Not Wyoming.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-
The Cowboys were without their best offensive lineman, Eric Abojei, and maybe their most consistent blocker, Alonzo Velazquez. Both were out with injuries. There's no timetable for either's return. Patrick Arnold stepped in for Abojei and Frank Crum, a freshman from Laramie, filled in for Velazquez. Craig Bohl praised the effort and toughness of both, but the run blocking visibly wasn't the same, which was to be expected. As a team, the Cowboys averaged just 4.7 yards per rush and recorded 259 hard-earned yards on 55 carries. Chambers was sacked a season-high three times in the win. It wasn't a perfect outing from the front five, but they got the job done. Chambers admitted the "dive" plays weren't as effective without Abojei in the lineup, but the return of Logan Harris was a boost to the entire team. He said he was out of shape Saturday after missing the last three weeks with a concussion.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Coming off a sack-less game in San Diego, Garrett Crall said the Lobos would be getting a "pissed off" Wyoming defense on homecoming. They sure did. And Crall took things into his own hands late in the first half, sacking New Mexico quarterback Sheriron Jones right out of field-goal range. Cole Godbout also recorded a sack against one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Wyoming held the Lobos to just 169 rushing yards and landed six tackles for loss without the services of an injured Mario Mora. Crall and Godbout also registered five tackles each. Josiah Hall led the team with two tackles for loss.
Keyon Blankenbaker didn't get in on many snaps against San Diego State a week ago. Instead, Bohl went with a three-linebacker system. The nickel back took a back seat. That changed Saturday. Blankenbaker led the Cowboys with nine tackles, including eight of the solo variety. He aided in helping Cassh Maluia, Chad Muma and Logan Wilson hold the Lobos leading receiver, tight end Marcus Williams, to just two catches for 27 yards. New Mexico running backs also finished the game with zero catches. The trio of linebackers finished with 13 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. The Pokes second line of defense was active once again. They passed their test with flying colors.
Of course, we could've given Blankenbaker's stats to the secondary. The nickel back position is a hybrid between the linebackers and secondary. But, he was a beast up near the line of scrimmage, laying one lick after another Saturday. The secondary, who was without Braden Smith, struggled against the Lobos, giving up 203 receiving yards on just 14 completions. That's an average of 14.5 yards per catch. Back-up quarterback, Tevaka Tuioti, completed 5-of-10 passes in the fourth quarter for 60 yards and a perfect 21-yard touchdown strike to Aaron Molina. Alijah Halliburton did his thing again against the Lobos, registering seven tackles. Tyler Hall had four tackles and a pass breakup, and Azizi Hearn landed three tackles. Hearn also picked off a pass, but it was called back on a holding call -- on Hearn himself. New Mexico signal callers tossed 11 interceptions coming into Saturday. Wyoming's secondary failed to pick off one pass. That doesn't mean the Cowboys secondary wasn't ball hawking. In the second quarter, Safety Rome Weber forced a fumble and it was recovered by Esaias Gandy.