Time is running out for Shaun Wick.
Through four games this season, the senior running back has amassed just 97 rushing yards — his least-productive four-game stretch since running for 96 yards in the same span early in 2012, as a true freshman.
Concussion-like symptoms will keep Wick from traveling to Appalachian State this week, so when Wyoming’s game Saturday in Boone, North Carolina, ends, his season rushing total will remain at 97 yards.
“Sometimes you look and say, ‘Is it just the opportunities? Is it getting in rhythm?’” UW offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said when asked to explain Wick’s lack of production. “It’s probably a combination of those things. Two of the four games, we just haven’t run the ball well, period. In the other games, Brian (Hill) has maybe had the good fortune of some plays, but he’s made some plays, too. I don’t know. It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher.”
At the Cowboys’ media day on Aug. 10, Wick discussed his yearn to finally rush for 1,000 yards in one season.
In 2013, he came close with 979 yards. And last season, he was on pace for 1,000 before a hand injury sidelined him for nearly four games.
During fall camp this year, though, he sustained a concussion that held him out of practice for about 10 days.
UW’s four games have been similarly stagnant for Wick, who was not made available to media this week.
He finished with 15 yards on six carries in the Cowboys’ season opener against North Dakota, when UW ran for just 29 yards as a team.
At Washington State, Wick ran 12 times for 8 yards, and last week against New Mexico he carried five times for minus-2 yards before leaving the game with his head injury.
His best outing came against Eastern Michigan, when he accounted for 76 of Wyoming’s 430 rushing yards.
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“(His lack of production) probably has been a surprise in the fact that, I don’t want to say he’s had bad luck, but the opportunities he’s had have come at times when we’ve had some of those (blocking mistakes),” said UW running backs coach Mike Bath, referring to the Pokes’ inexperienced offensive line. “You look back at the Eastern Michigan game and I think he had (76) yards. Those were (76) earned yards.
“We’ve talked and I told him I haven’t been disappointed in his play at all, it’s just been minus-7 here because of an M.A. (missed assignment) or they get us with the pressure. It hasn’t been anything by his doing.”
Wick entered the season with 2,082 career rushing yards, which helped him land a spot on the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list.
His performance in Week 2 against Eastern Michigan moved him into eighth place on Wyoming’s career rushing yards list.
Wick’s past success makes his setbacks this season even more perplexing for teammates.
“He’s running hard and he’s working hard,” senior quarterback Cameron Coffman said. “Sometimes things just don’t go your way. But knowing him, he’s just going to keep working hard and keep doing what he can. I’m sure at some point — I don’t know when it’ll be — he’ll have a breakout game and he’ll do well again because he is a good player.”
With seven games likely remaining in Wick’s career, it’s unlikely that he’ll reach his 1,000-yard goal.
Yet he began the year needing just 882 yards to become UW’s all-time rushing leader.
He’ll need 785 yards — or 112.1 yards per game, if he plays in the final seven contests of the regular season — to accomplish that feat.
Wick’s best seven-game stretch of his career came in the first seven weeks of 2014, when he amassed 707 rushing yards.
“I feel bad for Shaun to have the slow fall camp like he did and then what this (second concussion) is going to lead to, I’m not sure,” Vigen said. “Hopefully at some point we get him back and get him back in the groove.”