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October 15, 2013

A look back: New Mexico

Each night my wife and I take turns reading to and rocking our two-year-old mountain of a son to sleep. Over his bed is the 2013 Wyoming football promotional poster with the schedule under the shot of Brett Smith and Company at the top of the page.

Last night it occurred to me as I was rocking back-and-forth. This schedule is about to get real. Awaiting Wyoming in the coming weeks are the likes of Fresno State, Boise State and Utah State.

And all that before Sheep Week.

So it appears we better take one last fast look at the Pokes' 38-31 win over New Mexico last Saturday in Laramie and get to looking forward. So as GoWyoGo.com does every week, the site pours over the stat sheet and offer our thoughts on what worked, what didn't work and what we learned about Wyoming after Saturday's contest.

WHAT WORKED

"Winning is winning" - Wyoming Head Football Coach David Christensen's quote was spot on. Let's not over-think this one. There are no beauty points, at the end of the day the Pokes got a win and washed out some of the taste of the Texas State loss. With just two wins needed for bowl eligibility and the meat of the conference still awaiting the Cowboys, this was a win the Pokes had to have if they didn't want to spend Christmas in Laramie this year and they got it.

Playing by the rules - The Cowboys were penalized just twice on Saturday, which is a season-low. Despite the fact their nickname is the Cowboys, this Wyoming squad saw no reason to shoot themselves in the foot on Saturday.

Back over 500 yards - The Cowboy offense showed how good it can be by posting a 532-yard output on Saturday. The running game was humming (Shaun Wick and Smith both cleared the 100-yard mark) and Smith completed passes to six receivers for 247 yards through the air. When the offense is clicking like that, you pat your offensive line on the head. They earned it in this one.

Wyoming's offensive pace - After the game, New Mexico Coach Bob Davie mentioned Wyoming's offensive pace as something that was difficult for his Lobos to work with. He said, "The up-tempo really affected us. Our defense was on its heels most of the game." Score one for the quick-draw Cowboys and an offensive play-calling and executing system that seems more fluid this year.

Wyoming's answer - Show me a Cowboy fan who wasn't nervous about this game through the third quarter and I will show you a man who was probably hunting antelope or scouting the honey hole for deer and elk. After going up 21-0, the Lobos ran at will against Wyoming and tied it up 24 with 5:35 to go in the third quarter. Wyoming's answer was a thing of beauty. The Pokes went 75 yards on nine plays for a score and then got a defensive stop, followed by a 48-yard Brett Smith touchdown run on the first play of the next series.


WHAT DIDN'T WORK

Rush Defense needs some work - I know the Wyoming Sports Information staff pointed out Wyoming held New Mexico 110 yards below its season average, but the fact is, the Lobos still ran for 257 yards and an average of 5.1 per carry. That includes two 100-yard rushers in Cole Gautsche (113) and Kasey Carrier (104). I know it is below the average, but for now, we are keeping this stat in the "didn't work," category.

Good news, bad news - Not sure how to categorize this one, but Marqueston Huff led the team with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Good news is Huff's aggressiveness netted him a double-digit tackle game. The bad news - he is the Cowboys safety and there are very few instances where your safety as your leading tackler is a good thing.

Defending the Lobo passing attack - I was stunned to read the paper on Saturday morning before the game and see New Mexico had thrown the ball just 65 times all season coming into the Wyoming game. During the game, they threw 21 times, completing just 11. While their passing game could be termed as inexperienced, having just 65 throws on film makes defending the pass game something of an experiment too and Wyoming did very well against the Lobo throw.


WHAT WE LEARNED

Honestly, we didn't learn more than we already knew.

New Mexico proved the game plan for playing Wyoming is plain vanilla - run the ball, run the ball, and when that gets old, run some more. Rest assured the Colorado State Rams have some guys who can run the ball and that makes next week a dangerous game for Wyoming.

When I used to cover Colorado State recruiting for Rivals.com it was suggested to me that Kapri Bibbs got serious about his academics later than a lot of coaches wanted him to in high school. It was the one thing that kept the big-time schools away from the player who was first team All-Chicago area (he once ran for 520 yards and seven scores in one game) as a senior. Even more impressive was the fact he put his nose to the grindstone and powered through two years of community college in roughly a year and a half before honoring his commitment to Colorado State.

He's not alone in the CSU backfield. In addition to being the son of former Kansas City Chief, Donnell Alexander was known as one of the steals of his recruiting class running for over 7,000 yards in high school and leading the team as a freshman with 587 yards rushing last year.

Chris Nwoke ran for 232 and 269 yards in separate games two years ago before injuries limited him to 570 last year.

In short, these Rams can run and after seeing the stat sheet and the New Mexico film, I expect them to do just that. Hopefully next week this space offers us room to speak to the fact the Cowboys proved they could meet the challenge of a strong running game.



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