Whether Sean Chambers or Levi Williams gets the start, the Cowboys need Valladay to take some pressure off the quarterback with a big day running the ball. During the 17-0 loss to Fresno State, Valladay only had nine carries for 35 yards, which was enough to pass Wynel Seldon (2,672 yards, 2005-08) for fourth place on UW’s all-time rushing list with 2,682 yards. Two of Valladay’s 12 career 100-yard games have come against New Mexico -- 192 yards in the Pokes’ 31-3 win on Nov. 24, 2018, in Albuquerque and 127 yards in a 23-10 win on Oct. 19, 2019, in Laramie. Valladay did not play in UW’s 17-16 loss to the Lobos in 2020 due to a leg injury.
UW’s talented defensive end had the team’s only sack of Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener and is now tied with Victor Jones for the team lead with 3.5 sacks. Byrd, who opted out of the 2020 season, is on pace to surpass his 6.5 sack total in 2019. The 6-foot-4, 249-pound sophomore helped the Cowboys hold Haener, who had been averaging 372 yards passing, to 96 yards through the air. He will be licking his chops to face a New Mexico offensive line that allowed six sacks totaling 41 yards in losses to Colorado State.
The Lobos’ offense was lost without the starting quarterback last week. Wilson, who is questionable after missing the 36-7 loss to Colorado State due to injury, has passed for 1,058 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Those are not great numbers but the dual-threat senior signal-caller is talented. Wilson began his career at Oregon, where he was beaten out by Justin Herbert, before starting at Kentucky and then arriving in New Mexico this year as a graduate transfer.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior defensive end is one of the nation’s most productive players with 48 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. UW’s offensive line will have to make sure Noble doesn’t wreak havoc rushing the passer. Noble was a bright spot during the lopsided loss to CSU with eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and a quarterback hit. Like Byrd, he will be looking forward to this matchup after UW’s quarterbacks combined for four interceptions and five total turnovers last week.