DEKALB, Ill. – With 31 yards per catch in his first season at the college level, Isaiah Neyor left University of Wyoming football fans giddy about the possibility of having a home-run threat at the wide receiver position for the first time since Tanner Gentry left campus.

On Saturday, Neyor validated the hype.

The sophomore receiver hauled in four catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 13 yards and a score in the Cowboys’ 50-43 win over Northern Illinois.

His biggest moment of the day, however, didn’t occur on a scoring play.

With UW trailing by one and less than two minutes on the clock, Neyor rose above an NIU defensive back to make a dazzling high-point grab on the sideline – landing a foot in bounds and securing the catch before taking a hit from the Huskies’ safety.

The snag, which was initially ruled an incomplete pass, set up the Pokes’ game-winning touchdown run by junior quarterback Sean Chambers.

“I’m surprised they had to even challenge that,” Neyor said. “I thought it wasn’t close at all.

“I’m glad we got the play called. (Chambers) gave me the signal to take it down deep, and I made the play. I’m really excited and glad I was able to make that play for my team.”

Added Chambers: “I’m speechless. I put the ball up in the air and he goes up and gets it. I can put the ball seven-and-a-half feet up in the air, and there’s a good chance No. 5 is going to come down with it. I’m just really happy he’s on my squad.”

Neyor followed up a promising freshman season with an impressive showing during spring practice. After suffering a high-ankle sprain early in fall camp, though, initial expectations were that he wouldn’t be back to full strength until next Saturday’s game against Ball State.

Clearly, Neyor is ahead of schedule.

“We’ve been monitoring his ability level,” UW coach Craig Bohl said. “A high-ankle sprain on a really skilled player is going to take longer. We were given information that it would probably be the Ball State game before he could really, really go.

“I think he’s a little ahead of the curve, and (Saturday) was a great showing of his ability. I think you’re going to see more and more plays like he just did in the future.”

Day of firsts

Neyor hauled in the first touchdown catch of his career on a 33-yard pass from Chambers in the first quarter, and later in the first half became the first UW player since Austin Fort in 2017 to record multiple touchdown receptions in a single game.

He wasn’t the only Cowboy to have a career-first Saturday, though.

Senior safety Miles Williams pulled down his first career interception in the first quarter on a tipped pass by sophomore linebacker Easton Gibbs. Saturday also marked the first time UW hit the 50-point threshold offensively since the Pokes rolled over UNLV 53-17 on Sept. 29, 2019.

Chicagoland standouts

A pair of Cowboys from the Chicago area made their presence felt while playing roughly an hour outside their hometown.

Senior running back Xazavian Valladay – who hails from Matteson, Illinois, and earned special mention all-state honors at Brother Rice High on the westside of Chicago – rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, with 64 of his yards coming in the first half alone.

Sophomore defensive end Jaylen Pate – a Chicago native who played his high school ball at Lane Tech College Prep – finished the game with two solo tackles, and also provided pressure on multiple plays that resulted in incomplete passes.

Never forget

With Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, college football teams across the country displayed tributes during this week’s slate of games. Wyoming’s matchup with NIU was no different.

Northern Illinois remembered those lost in and impacted by the events with a pregame display, unfurling a 40-yard-long American flag for the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Cowboys, meanwhile, had various parts of their uniform serve as a tribute. This included a flag-inspired gloves and a Stars and Stripes version of Steamboat on the helmets, as well as “Always Remember, Never Forget” and 9/11 stickers on their helmets.

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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