Making the grade: UW vs. SDSU
SAN DIEGO – 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 26-22 setback at San Diego State Saturday evening.
For the third straight game, Sean Chambers scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. He also ran in a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a brief, 22-19 lead. Wyoming’s signal caller tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Raghib Ismail, too. With all these positives, it doesn’t feel right to give the redshirt freshman an average grade here but failing to complete 40 percent of his passes on the night is where that decision was made. Once again, Chambers completed just 5-of-14 passes. When the Pokes needed a game-winning drive with 2:09 on the game clock and all three timeouts, they mustered just one first down before Chambers was picked off over the middle. This quarterback has deficiencies, but the intangibles – and will to win – showed up again in a losing effort Saturday night. If the passing game can get sorted out, watch out. But, until then, prepare for more grades like this.
RUNNING BACKS: C
This unit was well on its way to an A+ through the first 30 minutes in San Diego. The Aztecs had not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season long. Xazavian Valladay, Titus Swen and Chambers recorded 129 yards on just 25 attempts in the first half. They also held a 14-6 lead that looked pretty commanding at the time. Unfortunately, football has two halves. And the second one was not kind to the Cowboys. Wyoming rushed for just 28 yards on 14 carries as its lead vanished in the third quarter thanks to a pair of long scoring drives from the home team. The rushing attack never got back on track. A late second quarter injury to starting left guard, Eric Abojei, certainly didn’t help things.
WIDE RECEIVERS/ TIGHT ENDS: D
Wyoming receivers snagged just four passes in the loss to the Aztecs. Swen caught arguably the prettiest ball of the night, a 24-yard wheel route out of the backfield to give the Cowboys a big second half first down. Other than that, the numbers pretty much tell the tale. Ismail caught a pair of nice passes, including a 34-yarder on fourth down on the Pokes final drive. Gunner Gentry snagged the lone long ball of the night, a 45-yarder that put Wyoming in business at the two-yard line. Craig Bohl said this team is “working like crazy” to develop a passing attack, but he also pointed to drops and inconsistent throws to why this seems like a never-ending broken record each week. Tight ends were not targeted once Saturday night. Neither was Ayden Eberhardt. Austin Conway caught one pass for six yards and John Okwoli was targeted once.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
The “Dirt Dogs” were getting plenty of push in the trenches in the early going against a stingy Aztec rushing defense. Holes and cutback lanes were a plenty. Valladay looked like he would go over 100 yards on the night. So did Swen. Heck, so did Chambers. Then, it all came crashing down. The second half – mainly the third quarter -- was a disaster for the entire squad, but with Wyoming relying so heavily on the run game, it was particularly rough for the front five. Losing Abojei hurt. The fact that he was lost on an extra-point attempt was just another kick in the gut. Some credit has to be given to the Aztecs here, though. They did enter Saturday night with the No. 1 rush defense in the nation, allowing just 54 yards per game. Rocky Long’s bunch flexed its muscles in the second half. That was the difference in this one.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C
This was supposed to be a big night for the Cowboys pass rush. SDSU had given up 11 sacks entering the contest. The Cowboys, well, their 20 on the season was tops in the Mountain West. Advantage Wyoming, right? Wrong. The Cowboys front four never got to Aztec quarterback Ryan Agnew. Anytime they came close, he simply escaped. To make matters worse, he kept his eyes down field, completing one pass after another after escaping danger. Five players carried the ball for the Aztecs Saturday night, amassing just 132 yards on 36 carries. That is an average of 3.3 yards per rush. That’s the positive. However, those short bursts wore out the Cowboys defense, especially in the third. This unit was steady, but the lack of a pass rush really hurt in the end.
Wyoming’s linebackers were a busy bunch. Cassh Maluia led all tacklers with nine, and Logan Wilson chipped in with seven and a pair of tackles for loss. Chad Muma finished with three and a pass breakup. This group held the Aztecs tight ends in check for most of the night, too. With three linebackers on the field at all times, the Cowboys expected a heavy dose of run from Long’s Aztecs. They got it, too. And though the tight ends were mostly quiet, Daniel Bellinger’s two catches caused the most damage. The first one was on a screen-type pass that went for 28 yards down the sideline to set SDSU up with its first touchdown drive of the game. The second, well, that was the game-winning touchdown. That came on a 12-yard pass from Agnew, who was escaping pressure only to throw across the grain and find Bellinger all alone in the back of the end zone. SDSU running back, Juwan Washington, also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass.
If there is one unit that is slowly progressing each week, it’s the secondary. These guys were abused through the first four games of the season. In back-to-back conference games, they have allowed an average of 236 yards per. That’s roughly 100 yards less per game through the air. Tyler Hall was back in the mix against the Aztecs after missing the UNLV game with a concussion. Hall, along with Jordan Murry and Azizi Hearn, held SDSU standout receiver, Kobe Smith, to just 39 yards on five catches. However, Jesse Matthews did snag six passes for 73 yards. The biggest blemish on the secondary Saturday night was not coming away with a turnover. Agnew took plenty of chances on his 32 passing attempts. Not one came close to being picked off. Bohl said the Pokes needed to be at least a plus-1 in the turnover margin. They were minus-2. When Wyoming wins, they create turnovers. When they don’t, this happens. Alijah Halliburton continued his tackling ways, racking up eight to go along with two tackles for loss. Murry finished with seven stops and Hall landed four tackles.