University of Wyoming's Xazavian Valladay carries the ball during Saturday's game against Fresno State at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. Rhianna Gelhart/Wyoming Tribune Eagle


The mystery surrounding who Wyoming’s starting quarterback will be is set to last until close to kickoff Saturday. UW coach Craig Bohl reopened the quarterback competition after replacing Sean Chambers with Levi Williams late in last week's loss to Fresno State. Chambers compiled 162 total yards in the defeat, but turned the ball over four times while completing less than 35% of his passes. Williams, meanwhile, went 1 of 7 for 32 yards and an interception in limited action. New Mexico has some uncertainty of its own behind center, with Terry Wilson Jr. missing last week's game due to an injury. If he's unable to go, one of two freshmen will be taking snaps for the Lobos.

Advantage: New Mexico

Running back

The running back position has been far from a strength for the Lobos, who are averaging a conference-low two yards per carry and 58.7 rushing yards per game during Mountain West play. Aaron Dumas and Bobby Cole have accounted for the bulk of New Mexico's rushing production, with a combined 618 yards between the two through seven games. UW hasn’t been at its best running the ball lately, but Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen should provide the Pokes with a significant advantage in the backfield.

Advantage: Wyoming

Wide receiver/tight end

New Mexico has three players – Luke Wysong, Mannie Lagan-Greene and Andrew Erickson – with more than 100 receiving yards on the year. However, nobody on the team has recorded more than one touchdown catch this season – something that doesn't bode well as the Lobos take on the top passing defense in the conference. UW has had its own struggles in the passing game, failing to reach the 150-yard threshold in each of its past three contests, but there’s little doubt UW sophomore Isaiah Neyor will be the most dangerous receiving weapon on the field Saturday.

Advantage: Wyoming

Offensive line

Once presumed to be the strength of the Cowboys, UW’s offensive line has struggled to get push and protect the quarterback throughout the past three games. Bohl pointed to improvement up front as an area of emphasis this week for the Pokes, who are set to face the second-worst run defense in the conference. New Mexico has a plethora of underclassmen on the offensive line, something that could be a vital factor against an experienced UW defensive front. The Lobos have given up 14 sacks in three MW games, the most in the conference.

Advantage: Push

Defensive line

UW ranks last in the conference with just two sacks during league play, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys haven't been productive up front. They held the No. 1 rushing attack in the country to its second-lowest production of the season two weeks ago at Air Force, and held the nation's No. 3 passing offense to 300 yards below its season average last week, with pressure from the defensive line being a key factor in both performances. New Mexico's woes against the run speak for themselves, with the Lobos giving up an average of 258 yards per game on the ground.

Advantage: Wyoming


UW senior linebacker Chad Muma has bounced back from an underwhelming showing against UConn with back-to-back standout performances, recording 11 tackles in each of the past two weeks. Easton Gibbs was also solid against Fresno State, recording five tackles, including four solo stops and a tackle for loss. New Mexico’s linebackers bear as much blame as the defensive line for the team’s struggles against the run, but the Lobos do have some playmakers at the position. Syaire Riley and Ray Leutele have combined for 52 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss, with Leutele also recording three sacks, an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumble that he returned for a touchdown.

Advantage: Wyoming

Defensive backs

New Mexico has had its flaws when it comes to stopping the pass, but the Lobos should feel optimistic about holding opponents to 52% passing this year, especially considering UW’s struggles with the aerial attack as of late. The Cowboys still hold an edge in the secondary, however, with a MW-low 158.7 passing yards allowed per game.

Advantage: Wyoming

Special teams

While neither team has found the end zone in the return game this year, New Mexico has come close a few times – with three different players recording kick returns of more than 35 yards, as well as two with 50-plus-yard punt returns. Both kickers are close to 80% on field goal tries this season, while the punters are each averaging just over 42 yards per kick.

Advantage: New Mexico

Predicted final score: Wyoming 24, New Mexico 10

Josh Criswell covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at jcriswell@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @criswell_sports.

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