With a fourth consecutive losing effort against a Mountain West opponent, it seems that the Cowboys have proven their soft preseason schedule to be the reason they began the year 4-0.
The rare day game at CEFCU stadium between the Cowboys and the Spartans began with both team defenses flying around the field, on Saturday afternoon. While you could argue that both of their offensive gameplans just weren’t very well executed early on, the first quarter saw less than 100 yards accounted for, for both teams on offense.
The San Jose State Spartans made the quicker offensive adjustment, cashing in on a 7 play, 74-yard drive that included a 48-yard run from QB Nick Nash to the Wyoming 15. That would set up the score for the Spartans four plays later, making it 7-0. Following the kick-return, two plays later, Wyoming QB Levi Williams would throw his first interception of the day, planting San Jose State firmly in Wyoming territory. A Wyoming defensive stop would limit the damage to 3, making the score 10-0 with just under 9 minutes to play in the first half.
The touchdown drought for Wyoming would soon end on their next drive in dramatic fashion. After a few short runs, Levi Williams would scramble out of the pocket and deliver the first touchdown for the Pokes in three games. A 53-yard bomb to Isaiah Neyor would cut the Wyoming deficit to 3, but not for long. On the ensuing Spartan drive, the Cowboys were unable to stop their vicious ground attack. The elusive combination of Nick Nash and Tyler Nevens set up the Kairee Robinson touchdown to make the score 17-7 heading into the half.
The second half got underway much quicker than the first half did to start the game. The third quarter began with Wyoming receiving the kick and a few plays into their opening drive, Levi Williams would throw his second interception of the day setting up yet another Spartan field goal, following a turnover. The next two drives both resulted in touchdowns from each team, starting with Wyoming RB Xazavian Valladay’s big 67-yard run setting up Titus Swen’s waltz into the endzone for six. In response on the next drive, the Spartans were able to convert on 3rd & 18 with a 44-yard pass from Nick Nash to WR Charles Ross to extend their lead. Wyoming would come back and score after Levi Williams’s second touchdown pass of the day to a leaping Neyor, to bring the Pokes once again to within six. The score would however remain as the Spartans were able to hold on to beat the Cowboys, 27-21.
The Cowboys remain winless in the Mountain West and hold an overall record of 4-4. There were however some encouraging signs for them in their matchup with San Jose State, and they’ll look to improve next week when they face off against the Colorado State Rams, in Laramie.
1. The return of the running game
If there’s one positive to take away from Saturday’s contest for Wyoming, it’s the return of X. Xazavian Valladay totaled 172 yards on 22 carries and was the main contributor on the offensive side of the ball. His success on the ground helped open up things on offense and was a big reason why Wyoming was able to put up any points on the board at all this weekend. Though his contributions on the ground didn’t result in a victory, his breakout performance is a major jolt of optimism for this offense that has been in a rut. Titus Swen was also able to rush for 45 yards on 9 total carries.
2. Turnover discrepancy
The turnover discrepancy has been a major point of concern for the Pokes these last few weeks. They have been unable to generate any turnovers on defense and have seldom been able to conserve the rock themselves. If the Pokes want to be able to win a conference game in the near future, they are going to have to create some turnovers and not allow opposing offenses to get comfortable against them.
3. QB seems to be Williams...for now.
Levi Williams put together just as good a performance as has been expected of him. He was 12-22 and threw for 129 yards with 2 TDs & 2 interceptions. While it wasn’t the flashiest or most efficient showing from him on Saturday, it does seem like it may have been enough to earn him the starting gig for now. Next week’s game should be a major indicator to see just how secure that job is.