Defensive Pressure Will Stop Lobos
WEEK 8: New Mexico (2-4) vs. Wyoming (4-2)
WHEN: Saturday, October 19 — 12:00 PM PT/1:00 PM MT
WHERE: War Memorial Stadium; Laramie, Wyoming (29,181)
TV: AT&T Sports Net
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 traveled to San Diego State and suffered its first conference loss to the Aztecs, 26-22.
SERIES RECORD: This is the 72nd meeting between the two conference squads. Wyoming leads the series, 38-33.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Wyoming – 19.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Wyoming by 16.1 (82% win probability)
Looking at games this season where the Cowboys have been the favorite, the areas that have been key to their wins have been pretty much the same. And Saturday’s contest is no different, except maybe for one. In previous games, it’s been about staying healthy, asserting themselves on defense, and figuring out the passing game. Against the Lobos, the health of the team and the pressure on defense will be paramount to victory. However, it’s definitely time to look at the passing game from another perspective.
Here’s a look at three keys to a Cowboy win:
Three Keys to a Wyoming Victory
1. Next Man Up
There is no choice, but the depleted offense keeps getting thinner as the season moves along so the offensive line and the backfield will have to adapt.
While guard Logan Harris is back listed on the depth chart at right guard after recovering from a concussion, Eric Abojei, Wyoming’s most dominant blocker this season, is out several weeks with a knee injury and Alonzo Velazquez hasn’t practiced this week due to a knee injury that has hobbled him for most of the season.
The backfield has lost all of its backups from the start of the season. True freshman Titus Swen is out after injuring his MCL against San Diego State last week and Trey Smith has been missing since Week 4 with an ankle injury. So, that leaves Xazavian Valladay, the sophomore starter to carry the load.
2. Under Pressure
The defensive front that was so pesky in the first five games of the season, needs to assert themselves again against the Lobos. Wyoming wasn’t able to wrestle the San Diego State quarterback down for a single sack last week and yet are still in the top 15 of the NCAA with 20 total on the season.
It will be a challenge for Wyoming as New Mexico’s offensive line has only allowed four sacks all season, the same as the Cowboys. Along with sturdy protection, the Lobos have had a solid rushing game, averaging over 200 yards per game.
With a turnover margin of +6 that’s 11th in the country, Wyoming can hope that takeaways will become a factor as New Mexico has thrown 11 interceptions this season and sits at the bottom of the NCAA in the same category.
3. Do What You Do And Run With It
Since the start of the season, it’s been about figuring out the passing game. Well, we’re halfway through and it’s not getting any better – still hovering in the bottom five in FBS. But the running game still is. Despite the injuries, Sean Chambers and whoever has been behind him have produced.
Chambers is second behind Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma for quarterbacks for yards per carry, averaging over six yards per carry. Hurts has two yards more per carry and 200 yards total more yards on the season, but that’s still impressive company.
Wyoming still ranks in the top 20 for rushing in the nation and that’s with the revolving door up front and carrying the ball. The constant has been Chambers and his ability to use his feet to move the offense.
I don’t think this will be the cakewalk that it is predicted to be for the Cowboys. The New Mexico offense can produce and I think it will. However, I think the Wyoming defense will be the difference in this ballgame. The pressure from the packages that the Cowboys use will create opportunities for the defense to make stops and force the much needed turnovers.
Wyoming 35, New Mexico 24