LARAMIE -- Alvester Alexander burst through the open hole, flew by one defender and spun out of the grasp of another while charging downfield.

On just the third play from scrimmage in the fourth game of the year, Wyoming’s sophomore running back finally broke free for the Cowboys’ first run of more than 20 yards all season.

By the end of the drive, Alexander had already nearly matched his rushing numbers from his first three games combined and by the end of the game he had his second-career 100-yard outing.

It was all part of a plan that began at the beginning of the week and, while it didn’t lead to a victory, the Cowboys’ switch of schemes surely paid off in terms of confidence.

“As far as what people were saying, we were so low in the running game they were just like, ‘Can we run the ball?’” Alexander said this week. “Our offensive line stepped it up big and opened tremendous holes.

“I feel like, as an offensive unit and our run game, we all got a boost.”

The Cowboys entered the 20-14 loss to Air Force with the worst rushing attack in the country in terms of yards per game.

They only moved up a few spots -- the bottom spot now belongs to Mountain West Conference foe Colorado State -- but more importantly the Pokes averaged more than five yards per carry as they put up 174 yards on the ground.

“Talking to those guys [on the offensive line] after the game and just feeling the boost that those guys had during the game [was great],” Alexander said. “I just could feel that they had a vibe about them that they had it under control.”

The confidence was clearly growing for Alexander in the first half as well.

While the second half proved tougher, the sophomore running back was finishing his runs with punishing hits on defenders and fighting for more yardage.

“That’s something we’ve talked about, being more physical and ending the runs with violence,” UW running backs coach Jason Ray said. “He’s started to turn over the leaf. I don’t want to say it’s completely turned over.

“Hopefully he’ll continue to improve the rest of the season.”

In other words, it was a step in the right direction across the board.

However, there are certainly still some unanswered questions, like whether the Pokes can put together a strong rushing attack for an entire game?

And perhaps more importantly, can they do it without a nearly wholesale change in scheme that came against Air Force as UW added extra blockers in the form of H-Backs and shortened their splits on the offensive line?

Coach Dave Christensen has said that particular offensive plan was designed specifically to take on the personnel of the Falcons, but whether they can revert completely to a more wide-open spread will be answered on Saturday at Toledo.

“It was a good step in scheme stuff for Air Force,” Ray said. “Even in the spread, Alvester can still find seams and still do the things that we’ve done in the past.”

The more-confident Pokes still have to prove that.

Contact sports reporter Eric Schmoldt at eric.schmoldt@trib.com. Check out his blog at tribtown.trib.com/ESchmoldt/blog

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