Cowboys look to regroup after first loss of the season.
WEEK 5: UNLV (1-2) vs. Wyoming (3-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 28 — 5:00 PM PT/6:00 PM MT
WHERE: War Memorial Stadium; Laramie, Wyoming (29,181)
STREAM: WatchESPN or SlingTV (7-day free trial)
RADIO: The University of Wyoming broadcast can be found in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming on KFSB, 1240 AM. It can also be found on 26 affiliate radio stations around the state.
LAST WEEK: Wyoming was three yards away from staying undefeated last week against Tulsa. Instead, the Cowboys literally fumbled their way to the first loss of the season, 24-21.
SERIES RECORD: This is the 24th meeting between the two conference squads. They are 8-8 as Mountain West opponents and Wyoming leads the series with one more victory more than UNLV, 12-11.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Wyoming – 10
SP+ PROJECTION: Wyoming by 9.1 (71% win probability)
Conference play couldn’t come at a more ambiguous time for the Cowboys. Wyoming is coming off a game where the highlights were countered by just as many lowlights. The injuries outnumbered touchdown celebrations. The defense line was a menace, sacking the Golden Hurricane’s passer with seven sacks and yet the secondary allowed over 350 yards in the air. The starting quarterback, Sean Chambers, got benched only to re-enter the game and rack up more passing yards in three series than he had in the three previous games.
And despite the topsy-turvy world that last week presented, Wyoming is in a pretty solid position against a struggling UNLV squad to enter their home turf and leave with a Mountain West opener win and a 4-1 record.
Here are some keys to pulling out a victory for the Cowboys:
Three Keys to a Wyoming Victory
Nobody else get hurt.
What a Saturday it was for the Pokes with keeping players healthy. Right guard Logan Harris laid motionless in Tulsa for quite awhile before being taken to a local hospital and later released. He’s out for Saturday’s contest and following the concussion protocol. Harris was just one of five starters to go down. Running back Trey Smith was lost for 6-8 weeks with an ankle injury, Alonzo Velazquez went out with a knee injury, and the backup to Smith, Titus Swen, also went down. That was just on offense.
For the Cowboys to be successful, the backups, especially on the offensive line will have to stay healthy and be consistent in protection. Redshirt freshman, Frank Crum will play right tackle and sophomore Patrick Arnold will play next to Crum at guard.
The backfield will be helped by sophomore Xazavian Valladay being available, but coach Craig Bohl expressed concern for that position at Monday’s press conference.
Glimpses of Chambers passing ability
Yes, Chambers continues to show what he can do with his legs. But it was what he did during the four non-consecutive series in last week’s game that could bring hope to the dreadful Wyoming pass attack. He started the game 3-of-3 and a scoring drive and ended it with a couple more touchdowns and more yards under his belt.
Chambers showed the ability to not just zip the ball to his receivers, but also to add the touch needed for his receivers to hold onto the ball. He was still just 9 of 25 passing, but on the last three drives of the game had two deep passes – one for a 53-yard score to Ayden Eberhardt – that helped him throw for the most yards in his young career.
The Cowboys will need Chambers to string together a few more series of consistency in the passing game to be successful against the Rebels.
Balance of Pressure
The Cowboys are tied for fifth in the nation in sacks, racking up 18 so far. They’re also in the bottom five for most passing yards allowed.
In Monday’s press conference, Bohl mentioned that inexperience of the safeties and how that has led to big plays being allowed. It has been an adjustment as the two safeties that left, Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps, are now both playing on Sundays. Senior Alijah Halliburton has been a stalwart at tackling in his first season starting at safety, with 43 on the season.
As conference play begins, the coverage will need to improve, but the Rebels should be a good test to help improve as they have amassed only 300 yards passing in the three games under junior quarterback Armani Rogers.
One thing is for sure, the pressure will keep coming under first-year coordinator Jake Dickert.
It’s hard to say what the Cowboys will show on Saturday. However, the identity of the team was solidified in last week’s loss and that was that they will find a way to stay in games and come out on top in a handful of them. With Chamber’s ability to make plays and the defensive pressure always a factor, Wyoming should come away with their fourth win of the season at home.
Wyoming 24, UNLV 20