By Timothy Harkins, University if Wyoming athletics
The Wyoming Cowboys were unable to overcome a 14-3 halftime deficit and fell to the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday by that same score as neither team scored points in the second half. Wyoming is now 4-3 on the season and 0-3 in the Mountain West Conference. New Mexico improved to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference.
For the second consecutive week, the Cowboy defense held the opposing offense in check for the majority of the game, giving up only 14 points and 259 total yards to New Mexico. The week prior, UW’s defense held Fresno State to only 17 points – 22 under its scoring average – and 259 yards of total offense, which is half of its average of 519.8
Also for the second straight week, Wyoming’s offense generated similar total yards to its opponent – 255 total yards for Wyoming to 259 for New Mexico. The previous week, the Cowboys out-gained Fresno State 271 to 259.
But for the fourth straight week Wyoming lost the turnover battle as UW threw one interception and lost a fumble to the Lobos. New Mexico didn’t commit any turnovers on the day.
An interception by the New Mexico defense in the first quarter turned into a 77-yard touchdown drive by Lobos. The Cowboys also fumbled on their first possession of the fourth quarter, but Wyoming’s defense forced a field-goal attempt that was unsuccessful by New Mexico.
After winning the toss and deferring to the second half, Wyoming’s defense held New Mexico to 16 yards on five plays on the Lobos’ first drive of the day.
Wyoming’s first possession began at its own 14-yard line. The Cowboys led by quarterback Sean Chambers moved the ball 45 yards in 11 plays to the New Mexico 41-yard line. On a third and nine at the 41, Chambers tried to find wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt down the right sideline at the UNM 19-yard line, but Lobo cornerback Corey Hightower intercepted the pass and returned it to the UNM 23.
The Lobos would move the ball to the UNM 48-yard line where they would face a fourth and one. Running back Aaron Dumas would gain two yards on the play, giving UNM a first down at the 50. Four plays later at the Wyoming 43-yard line, New Mexico would once again face a fourth down and three yards. Lobo quarterback Isaiah Chavez would find tight end Trace Bruckler down the left hash for a 43-yard touchdown pass to give New Mexico a 7-0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cowboys and Lobos would exchange punts on their next two possessions. On Wyoming’s third possession of the game, Cowboy quarterback Levi Williams would be inserted into the lineup. Running back Xazavian Valladay would gain 20 rushing yards on the drive and Williams would complete two of three passes, including a 38-yarder to wide receiver Isaiah Neyor. The Cowboys drive would stall at the New Mexico 10-yard line and place-kicker John Hoyland came in to make a 27-yard field goal, to cut the UNM lead to 7-3 with 4:30 remaining in the half. Hoyland’s field goal improved his season total to 5 of 7 and his career total to 18 of 21 field goals made.
The Lobos would respond on their next possession, driving 75 yards in eight plays, taking 4:01 off the clock. The big plays on the drive were a 34-yard pass from Chavez to tight end Kyle Jarvis and a 12-yard pass from Chavez to Jarvis. On the 12-yard completion, Wyoming defensive end Victor Jones was called for roughing the passer and targeting. Jones was ejected from the remainder of the game and the ball was placed at the Wyoming four-yard line. The Cowboys were called for offside on the next play, moving the ball to the two-yard line. Running back Aaron Dumas would carry the ball into the end zone from the two and following the extra point, New Mexico led 14-3 with only 29 seconds remaining in the half. After the kickoff, Wyoming took a knee to end the half.
With a little more than five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Wyoming defense came up with a big defensive stop holding the Lobos on a third and one and a fourth and one from the Wyoming 19-yard line to take the ball back on downs with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter. That was the only scoring threat that either team mounted in the third quarter.
On Wyoming’s first possession of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys committed their second turnover of the game on a fumbled handoff between quarterback Williams and wide receiver Neyor on a jet sweep. New Mexico linebacker Cody Moon recovered the fumble on the Wyoming 20-yard line.
Looking like New Mexico had another prime opportunity to score, the Cowboy defense rose to the occasion and held the Lobos to only five yards and forced a UNM field-goal attempt. New Mexico place-kicker Andrew Shelley came in to attempt a 30-yard field goal, but the kick went wide right with 12:15 remaining in the game.
The Cowboys took over at their own 20-yard line, and Chambers was inserted back into the Wyoming lineup at quarterback. The Pokes moved the ball 36 yards down to the UNM 44. Valladay had two runs for nine yards. Chambers completed two passes for 20 yards – one for 15 yards to wide receiver Joshua Cobbs and one of five yards to Eberhardt. Chambers also gained seven yards on two QB runs. But on a fourth and eight at the New Mexico 44, Chambers pass attempt to Cobbs fell incomplete and the Lobos took over on downs.
Wyoming’s defense once again forced the Lobos into a punt, and the Cowboys got the ball back at their own 20. Chambers would lead Wyoming’s offense all the way to the UNM 30-yard line. He completed five of seven passes on the drive, including one of four yards to Valladay, two passes of five and 13 yards to tight end Parker Christensen, another one of six to Valladay and one of six yards to running back Titus Swen. On a third and four at the UNM 30, Chambers was sacked for a loss of eight, and on fourth and 12 from the 38 he was sacked for 16 yards with 2:36 remaining in the game.
UW’s defense held New Mexico to a three-and-out, and the Cowboys got the ball back one last time at their own 20-yard line with 58 seconds remaining. Chambers completed three consecutive passes of six yards to tight end Treyton Welch, six yards to tight end Christensen and 26 yards to wide receiver Eberhardt to move the ball to the UNM 42. But that was followed by two incompletions as time expired, and the Lobos secured a 14-3 victory.
Quotes From Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl
“Congratulations to New Mexico. I know they’ve had a lot of adversity, and they came up with a good game plan,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl. “We’ve got to improve in a lot of areas of our football team, specifically offensively. When we are scoring the number of points we are scoring, we aren’t going to win any football games off of that. I think there’s a couple things that we are doing well but obviously we aren’t doing nearly enough things well.
“We tried two quarterbacks during the game. At times I think we ran the football well. We didn’t bring down some contested balls. We overthrew some open deep players. It’s discouraging.
“My job as a head football coach is to rally these guys. We are going to regroup. We have a big game in San Jose this next week. We are also 4-3, and I reminded our football team of that. We need to band together. We’ve got to learn from this. We are frustrated. You can sense my frustration, but we have to get better.
“I think there were some things we did OK on defense. We need to generate some offense. The identity (on offense) is not clear, and it has to get clear.
“It’s been really challenging to me as a head football coach, and I’ve tried to connect with our team to let them know how important it is to play clean. We have to play more disciplined and cleaner football. I don’t believe we have a takeaway in the last two games in a row. We keep on chasing the turnover margin, and that’s a bad formula for us.
“There’s nobody in that locker room who’s not trying. I don’t question the effort. We need to get a better plan, and we have to execute a better plan.
“Defense can always keep you in a game, and they kept us in the game for the lion’s share of the game today. The touchdown before the half changed the complexion of the game.
“I’ll look at the tape, and I understand we have to get better, and that’s my job as a coach to figure out what buttons to press to get us better.
Wyoming’s defense was led by linebackers Easton Gibbs and Chad Muma. Gibbs was credited with 11 tackles on the day, including eight solo tackles. Muma had 10 tackles, including 1.0 tackle for a loss of three yards. Defensive end Garrett Crall added nine tackles, and nose tackle Cole Godbout recorded seven.
Offensively, Chambers completed 11 of 23 passes for 96 yards and threw one interception. Williams completed 3 of 7 for 51 yards and had one fumble. Valladay led the Cowboys in rushing with 41 yards on 14 carries. Wyoming’s leading receivers were: Christensen with three catches for 24 yards; Neyor with two receptions for 45; Eberhardt had two for 31; Cobbs caught two for 19; and Valladay had two for 10 yards.
New Mexico quarterback Isaiah Chavez completed 10 of 11 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown. He also led the Lobos in rushing with 49 yards on 16 carries.
The Lobos’ top defenders were cornerback Tony Collier and Lobo Tavian Combs, who each registered seven tackles. Linebacker Cody Moon had five tackles to go with his fumble recovery, and cornerback Corey Hightower added two tackles in addition to his interception.
Next Up for the Cowboys
The Cowboys travel to San Jose, Calif., next Saturday, Oct. 30 to play the San Jose State Spartans. The game will kick off at 2:00 p.m., Mountain Time (1:00 p.m., Pacific) and will be televised on FS2. The Spartans are 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West this season.