One confident corner
LARAMIE -- Arguably no one was more bummed out about not playing Utah State than Azizi Hearn.
It wasn't just because it was the second straight game to fall by the wayside thanks to COVID-19.
It wasn't just because back-to-back rivalry games against Air Force and those Aggies were axed.
It wasn't just because there was a trophy on the line and the Pokes were looking to get the sour taste out of their mouth from losing to Border War rival Colorado State more than 20 days ago.
There was another reason.
"I was excited for that Utah State game," the senior cornerback said. "I don't know if you guys know their situation with their quarterback, but they were going to have a freshman that never played before. I wanted to pick on him, kind of, but I didn't get to.
"I guess I'll just see him next year."
Hearn is referring to Cooper Legas, the Aggies' redshirt freshman who was set to take his first collegiate snap in Laramie last Thursday night.
Utah State, just a little over 24 hours from kickoff, canceled the game with ongoing coronavirus issues within the program. Wyoming was a 20-point favorite against the winless Aggies.
Hearn, who is not short on confidence, has been a real bright spot for a Cowboys' secondary that has dealt with about every imaginable distraction possible over his year-plus in Laramie.
Last fall, it was supposed to be the tandem of Tyler Hall and Antonio Hull holding down the corner spot. Those were a pair of three-year starters. Arguably the best duo in the Mountain West.
It didn't work out that way.
Hull left the team. Hall was injured midway through the season. CJ Coldon suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. The depth chart -- filled with former prep stars with zero college experience -- was tapped.
The transfer from the University of Arizona slid seamlessly into the rotation and played in all 12 games for the Cowboys in 2019. He finished the season with 24 tackles and four pass breakups.
Through three games this season, Hearn has 10 tackles and has knocked down three pass attempts.
The one thing on his resume that is missing -- an interception.
Hearn has played 23 games in college and has yet to snag a pick. That time, he feels, could be coming. And what better place to nab No. 1 than inside Allegiant Stadium, new home of the UNLV Rebels -- and the Las Vegas Raiders.
"I can't wait," Hearn said about facing the Rebels Friday in Sin City. "I feel like we are going to win the game, too, so it's going to be fun. It's going to be real fun."
Hearn said this won't be his lone trip to the new 65,000-seat stadium in the Nevada desert.
"I plan on playing in that stadium on Sundays one day," he said. "This is just going to be my first experience in that stadium. That's how I'm trying to look at it. We'll make it a good one."
The Cowboys (1-2) enter Friday with Hearn and Coldon at the two corner spots. Beyond that, like a season ago, depth is thin. Keonte Glinton, who spent fall camp at the nickel back position, and true freshman Cameron Stone are slated as backups.
UNLV likes to throw the ball, too.
In fact, Marcus Arroyo's Rebels have tossed it around the yard 129 times through four games. Most of that was out of necessity. UNLV (0-4) has been outscored 95-39 in the first half alone.
But the fact remains, Hearn could be a very busy guy Friday.
Will there be a "rust factor?"
"I feel like we are coming along well," he said. "We are missing some key pieces -- some guys who opted out and things of that sort. We got young guys, too. It's their first year playing so they are learning new techniques."
Out of all the misfortune that has happened to the Pokes over the past few weeks, Hearn chooses to find a silver lining.
He hopes it pays off in a city known for gambling.
"Some games getting canceled, that could be a blessing in disguise," Hearn said. "It gives us more time to practice. I'm showing these guys practice habits. I think we are coming along. I feel like everything is going to be OK."
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. MST.