It was quite the tale of two halves for the Wyoming Cowboys in Saturday’s Week Two contest with the Huskies of Northern Illinois. The two teams squared off for what turned out to be an offensive slugfest, not unlike the last time they met in 2016 where the result had the Cowboys coming out on top over the Huskies, in triple overtime.
The Pokes came out of the gate firing in the First Half
At the beginning of this contest, it seemed like the Pokes had completely let go of their first half struggles in Week One. QB Sean Chambers was a completely different player, throwing accurately and spreading the ball out well to all of his receivers. The running attack was steady, seemingly notching sizable positive yardage on every other carry from RBs Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen. In addition to the offense, the Poke defense arguably looked even more stout than they’d been in the contest prior. The Pokes were able to halt the dangerous and speedy Huskie RB Harrison Waylee to minimal yardage, as well as limit the passing efficiency of QB Rocky Lombardi by picking him off twice. It seemed like the first time this year that the Pokes were going to play up to their potential and run away with a win.
But the Huskies refused to go away…
Credit the Northern Illinois Huskies for sticking around when they could have easily gone quietly. The Huskies came out a different team at the start of the second half and looked a lot like the Pokes did at the beginning of the game. They were able to score on their opening drive, and despite an almost immediate answer from the Pokes and a pick six returned by Cowboy standout LB Chad Muma, (who made another great case to be considered for Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week), the Huskies showed a lot of heart and resilience, capitalizing on a few big mistakes from the Cowboys. They were a completely different group and were able to carry their momentum all the way through the fourth quarter.
A brand new ballgame
The fourth quarter was where it seemed like the tide had officially turned. Harrison Waylee was able to break a couple huge runs and thanks to some key stops by the Northern Illinois defense, they were able to climb all the way back. The Huskies scored 27 unanswered points to take the lead at 43-42 with just under five minutes left in the contest. At this point, it seemed like both of these teams, who barely snuck out victorious one week prior, were headed for yet another tumultuous finish. Luckily for the Pokes however, this one was going to end up in their favor. The experience and poise shown from their leaders on the final drives of the game meant that losing wasn’t going to be an option. QB Sean Chambers showed both of those qualities in the final drive, marching all the downfield for a 10 play 75 yard drive that would put his team up 7 with 1:35 remaining, thanks to a converted 2-point conversion. That would end up being the deciding score for the Pokes, as they sneak out of Dekalb, remain undefeated and improve their season record to 2-0.
So who stood out?
There were a number of Poke players to select who made noticeable impacts on the game’s outcome, making it hard to choose just three. Here’s who I felt deserved the most recognition.
RB Xazavian Valladay - Valladay was a workhorse all day, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. The Pokes don’t win this game without his contributions.
WR Isaiah Neyor - Neyor was all over the field and in the end zone constantly, catching 4 balls for 87 yards, including 2 TDs and 1 rushing TD.
LB Chad Muma - It feels like I may end up putting Chad Muma on this list every week. His NFL potential showed yet again on Saturday, recording 10 TOT with 7 solo, 1 TFL and a pick six. At this point, what can’t this player do.