Making the grade: UW vs. UNLV
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 dominating 53-17 victory over UNLV on a windy, chilly Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
Sean Chambers accounted for four touchdowns -- two through the air and a pair on the ground -- leading the Cowboys to a lopsided win in their Mountain West opener. Chambers eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in his young career, and threw two touchdown passes for the first times since his initial start at CSU last November. Chambers had full command of the offense Saturday night and ran right through UNLV defenders at will. He looked like a kid playing in the sand lot, something UW coaches have wanted him to do the past few weeks. Chambers didn't throw the ball much, completing just 5-of-12, but he made the most of those passes, eclipsing 124 yards. This version of Chambers could win a lot of ball games.
RUNNING BACKS: A
No Trey Smith, no problem. Titus Swen got the start and it didn't take long to see why. The true freshman had his best day in a Wyoming uniform, racking up 136 yards on just 14 carries. He had a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That wasn't even his longest rush of the day though. Early in the first half, Swen broke a 59-yard run, but ran out of gas inside the Rebels' red zone. Xazavian Valladay, who is still recovering from an ankle injury, scored twice Saturday night and added 58 rushing yards. Brett Brenton even got in on the action, recording 82 yards on seven carries. He busted a 41-yard run on the Pokes' final offensive drive. He was dragged down at the one. Wyoming did whatever it wanted on the ground. UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez was open about that post game. He blamed tackling -- or lack there of. Either way, Wyoming's running game was good. Like, 374 yards on the night good.
WIDE RECEIVERS/ TIGHT ENDS: B
Hey! The tight ends got involved Saturday night. In a big way, too. Jackson Marcotte snagged a 20-yard touchdown pass and fifth-year senior, Josh Harshman, put the Pokes ahead for good with a 56-yard scoring strike. It was the second touchdown of Harshman's career. Austin Conway was the only Wyoming receiver to catch a ball against UNLV. That was two for 48 yards. When you open the game running the ball 17 straight times.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A+
Eric Abojei says the offensive line is referred to as the "Dirt dogs." Saturday night, the ground the Rebels into the dirt and strutted around like proud junkyard dogs in the process. Wyoming running backs amassed 374 yards on the ground in the conference opener. And they did it short-handed. Frank Crum, a Laramie product, made the first start of his career in place of Logan Harris and didn't disappoint. Patrick Arnold stepped in for an injured Alonzo Velazquez. He didn't skip a beat. Seeing a pattern yet? UNLV finished with one sack. It was a coverage one. The Rebels tackled just four Cowboys in the backfield. This was as dominant a performance as you will see out of a college line. These guys have a tight bond and play for each other. They showed that in spades Saturday night.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Cole Godbout got a big tackle on a 4th-and-1, and sophomore, Davon Wells-Ross, landed a pair of sacks. The front four held the Rebels to just 77 yards on the ground. Charles Williams, UNLV's dynamic junior tailback, averaged 9.1 yards per carry coming in. He left with an injury early on. So did starting quarterback Armani Rogers. The Cowboys finished with six tackles for loss in the win. Solomon Byrd, Javaree Jackson and Godbout accounted for most of those. The only reason the Pokes don't get an "A" here is because they didn't get to quarterback enough. UNLV had given up 11 sacks through three games. Wyoming was tied for fourth in the nation with 18 sacks. On the flip side, the Pokes did play this one without senior captain, Josiah Hall. It was a solid outing all round for these guys.
Logan Wilson was arguably the best player on the field Saturday night. I know that's not anything new, but he had extra impact in this one, including picking off a pass and nearly taking it to the end zone. It was the seventh-career interception for the Casper product. He added four tackles, including one for loss for good measure. Cassh Maluia also snagged a pick late in the game. He suffered the same fate at Wilson, coming up just short of the goal line. Chad Muma continued his breakout campaign with five tackles, and Cheyenne native, Ben Wisdorf, owned the most emotional moment of the night when a video of his brother, Jordan Wisdorf, appeared on the Jumbo Tron before halftime. Jordan is an active member of the Army and is stationed in Afghanistan. It was quite a moment.
This space is typically reserved for our weekly "What's-wrong-with-the-secondary" observation. We figured another one could be coming, too. Wyoming played without Tyler Hall. That's a huge blow to a group that has been torched all season long. Antonio Hull didn't play again either. CJ Coldon is out for the season. Craig Bohl called this group "razor-thin" because of injuries. None of that mattered to true freshman Jordan Murry and Arizona transfer, Azizi Hearn. Those two brought it all night long. Murry, who was making his first start, finished with five tackles, including the one that changed the game. He is the one that blasted Williams on the sideline, sending him to the bench with a sprained knee. Hearn landed five tackles on the night and was all over UNLV wide outs. Rebel quarterbacks did complete 22 passes for 263 yards and a 54-yard touchdown, but most of that came in garbage time with the visitors trailing big. Safety Rome Weber thwarted a late UNLV drive with an interception in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter. And you'll never guess who the Cowboys leading tackler was -- Alijah Halliburton. He tacked on 11 more to his already impressive resume. This position group has been shredded -- both literally and figuratively -- but Saturday, they get my game ball. Great job by this undermanned group.