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University of Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers (2) carries the ball for a gain during the second half of the Cowboys' 45-12 victory over Ball State on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. Rhianna Gelhart/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Quarterback

Despite a two-interception outing two weeks ago at UConn, Wyoming Sean Chambers had a productive first month of the season. The junior has 858 total yards and seven touchdowns on the year, and is completing 58% of his passes while averaging 7.7 yards per attempt. Prior to the game against the Huskies, he'd gone 78 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Air Force quarterbacks always pose a unique challenge, and Haaziq Daniels is no exception. The junior leads the Mountain West and is tied for sixth nationally with eight rushing touchdowns, but has also displayed the ability to move the ball through the air on the rare occasions the Falcons’ offense calls for it – averaging 11.6 yards on 33 attempts.

Advantage: Air Force

Running back

The rushing attack is the driving force for both offenses. Air Force leads the country with 367.4 rushing yards per game, with Brad Roberts sitting atop the MW with 540 yards in five games. Roberts and Daniels are hardly the Falcons’ only other options on the ground, however, with four other players above 100 yards rushing. Wyoming – which ranks third in the conference in rushing – has a formidable one-two punch in Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen, but Dawaiian McNeely and Trey Smith could also play important parts as UW takes on the league’s top scoring defense.

Advantage: Push

Wide receiver/tight end

Between Ayden Eberhardt and Isaiah Neyor, the Cowboys boast a combination of reliability and big-play ability that is difficult to account for. They also get back tight end Treyton Welch, who ranks second on the team with two touchdown catches – including the game-winner against Montana State – but missed UW’s last game against UConn with an ankle injury. Injuries have hampered the Falcons so far this year at receiver, but a 45-point outburst against Utah State last month showed that they can be a threat in the passing game.

Advantage: Wyoming

Offensive line

Following a disappointing season-opener by their own account, Wyoming’s offensive line has dominated its past three opponents at the point of attack. The Pokes rushed for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Huskies, but will face a much stiffer test against the second-most productive run defense in the conference. With 1,837 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground already, it's no secret the offensive line is a strength for Air Force.

Advantage: Push

Defensive line

With the fullback dive being an integral part of Air Force’s triple-option offense, the Cowboys’ success Saturday could very well hinge on the play of the defensive line. Their success as of late, holding their past two opponents to 228 combined rushing yards on an average of 3.3 per carry, provides optimism in this area. Solomon Byrd, Ravontae Holt, Cole Godbout and Victor Jones have been a problem for opposing offensive lines, racking up a total of 10 tackles for loss for one of the deepest units on UW's roster. Containing senior defensive tackle Jordan Jackson, who started 24 games for Air Force over his past two seasons and has two tackles for loss despite facing constant double teams this year, will be a major focus for the Pokes.

Advantage: Wyoming

Linebackers

After a quiet showing against UConn, UW’s Chad Muma will be looking to bounce back and reinsert himself into the Mountain West defensive player of the year discussion. Sophomore Easton Gibbs has also emerged as a formidable threat, compiling 24 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, but depth could be an area of concern against an Air Force team that’s averaging 67 carries per game. Linebacker might be the strongest overall position group for a Falcons defense that ranks in the top-three in the MW in total defense, passing defense, rushing defense and scoring defense. Air Force's Demonte Meeks is one of the top players in the conference at the position, while Vince Sanford is coming off a 3.5-sack performance in a rout of New Mexico.

Advantage: Air Force

Defensive backs

While not necessarily an area of concern entering the season, the Cowboys’ secondary has been a surprising strength so far in 2021. The UW defensive backfield has shown an ability to step up and stop the run as well, something that will be pivotal against a run-heavy Air Force squad. C.J. Coldon and Esaias Gandy have combined for 48 tackles and rank second and fourth on the team, respectively. Looking at the Falcons’ lone loss of the season against Utah State, one thing stands out instantly – 448 yards and five touchdowns allowed through the air. If Neyor or Eberhardt is able to get going for UW in the passing game, it could be the difference between a 5-0 start and the Cowboys’ first loss.

Advantage: Wyoming

Special teams

The punting game appears to be a pretty even match, with UW's Ralph Fawaz and Air Force's Charles Bein both averaging over 40 yards per punt. The kicking game could be an advantage for the Cowboys, however, as the Falcons have missed three of their six field goal attempts this season.

Advantage: Wyoming

Final score: Wyoming 24, Air Force 21

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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