Making the grade: UW vs. Utah State
LOGAN, Utah -- 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 26-21 loss to Utah State at Maverik Stadium in Logan.
It was a rough day at the office for Tyler Vander Waal. Making his second start of 2019, the sophomore from Elk Grove, Calif., turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions. His final heave -- a desperation toss across his body down the middle of the field -- was picked off by Utah State's Eric Munoz. It was his second interception of the game. This one was the dagger. Though most will remember the blunders from this one, Vander Waal did have some good moments in Logan. He scored twice on the ground and spread the ball around to seven different receivers while attempting a season-high 36 passes. Vander Waal has had an early connection with his tight ends. Josh Harshman, who entered the season with 23 career catches, has hauled in 12 in the past two contests. Jackson Marcotte has also been on the receiving end of some Vander Waal bullets. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the 6-foot, 7-inch target was lost for the season with a left leg injury in the loss. Does Vander Waal need to be better? Absolutely. Will he be? Time will tell.
RUNNING BACKS: B
For the fourth consecutive week, Xazavian Valladay went over the 100-yard mark. And for the second straight week, every one of those yards were the hard-earned variety. He also went down with an injury again at Utah State. He was horse-collar tackled near the sideline and his legs were bent awkwardly underneath him. It didn't look good. But, as always, the sophomore returned. This kid is not just a workhorse, he's about as tough as they come. He showed that again Saturday afternoon. Could reinforcements be on the way? Titus Swen, who was injured in the loss to San Diego State, likely won't play Friday night against Colorado State, per Craig Bohl. Trey Smith could be back for the regular-season finale against Air Force. He's been out of the lineup since suffering an ankle injury at Tulsa. I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up one 25-yard jaunt Saturday by Casper product, Brett Brenton. The youngster broke through the Aggies defensive line and leapfrogged a linebacker in the process. It was a sweet run. Wyoming needed more of those. Bohl did say Monday that Alphonzo Andrews has performed better in practice and has been taking meaningful reps in practice. There's a very real possibility the true freshman sees the field against the Rams.
WIDE RECEIVERS/ TIGHT ENDS: C
The loss of Marcotte will be big. He was a major target for Vander Waal and catches everything. His loss will also be felt in the running game. Harshman had another solid outing, and so did senior receiver, Austin Conway, who caught five passes for 64 yards. He also had a game-changing punt return late in the fourth. Instead of the Cowboys setting up shop at the Aggies 35 with 2:02 left on the clock, a holding penalty negated the run and Wyoming marched all the way back to its own 30. Gunner Gentry snagged a pair of catches and Ayden Eberhardt finished with one. Raghib Ismail Jr., who has arguably been the Cowboys top weapon on the outside, was held off the stat sheet in Logan. Wyoming will need him to make plays in the final two weeks of the season. Utah State's secondary has struggled this season. They didn't Saturday, allowing just 160 yards through the air and picking off three passes.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C+
Zach Watts is back. So is Alonzo Velazquez. That's the good news. The bad? Wyoming gave up two sacks and averaged just 3.7 yards per rush on the ground. This group holds itself to a higher standard. Bart Miller demands it. Valladay busted a run of 16 and Brenton picked up that electrifying 25-yard burst. Other than that, yards were not easy to come by Saturday. As usual, the box was loaded with Aggies for a majority of the night. And the loss of Marcotte was felt. Harshman admitted as much after the game. Nate Weinman, another 6-foot, 7-inch tight end, is playing with a club on his hand. Catching the ball isn't happening, but he could be in on the team's "jumbo package" plays, which also includes true freshman, Latrell Bible. Colorado State is not exactly known for it's run-stopping ability. This will be a big week for this unit. They are healthy and deep right now. Can they take advantage Friday night?
DEFENSIVE LINE: C+
A patchwork line for Utah State filled with youth and inexperience did a nice job against the Cowboys front four. Wyoming only got to Jordan Love twice Saturday. Javaree Jackson picked up one of those. The junior defensive tackle was a beast in Logan. In the first quarter, he jumped up and batted down a Love pass. He then dove on the turf and hauled in the interception. He finished with two tackles. Garrett Crall and Mario Mora both registered three tackles. Wyoming's line helped hold the Aggies to just 105 rushing yards on 44 attempts. That's just 2.4 yards per carry. These guys were really good again. CSU throws the ball a lot. Solomon Byrd, Crall and Josiah Hall will need to play a large role in this one. At times, Wyoming struggled when Love was on the move. They won't have to worry about that with CSU.
Logan Wilson scored his fourth career touchdown at Utah State. He's one of only two active players in America who can say that. His running mate, senior linebacker, Cassh Maluia, deserves an assist on that one. He batted down the Love pass right into Wilson's arms. Ten yards later, he was standing in the end zone. This dynamic duo was at it again in Logan. Wilson finished with eight tackles. Maluia recorded seven. Chad Muma, who is playing the back-up role for both with the loss of Ben Wisdorf, picked up a pair of tackles. Utah State's big tight end, Caleb Repp, was held to just two catches for 32 yards. One of those was for 28 yards. These guys continue to dominate under interim coach, Aaron Bohl. They will need to be very active Friday night.
Wyoming gave up way too many explosive plays. Bohl said those exact words at his Monday press conference. He was likely referring to an 80-yard touchdown pass from Love to Siaosi Mariner. He caught four passes on the day for 123 yards. Six other Aggie pass catchers got in on the action, too. It was a 317-yard effort for those guys. CSU has even better receivers. If there was a bright spot Saturday, it was the play of nickel back, Keyon Blankenbaker. He was all over the field in this one, racking up a team-high nine tackles. Alijah Halliburton had seven tackles and Tyler Hall, who was called twice for pass interference, had four tackles and a pass breakup. This unit is thin. That isn't breaking news, but it's a very real issue. Braden Smith has had to move to the outside. So has Blankenbaker, at times. Boise State had plenty of speed and size at the receiver spot. Utah State was talented, too. CSU is better than both. You will learn the name Warren Jackson if you don't know it already.