Donald Hammond III
Quarterback play is always important, but given just how involved Air Force’s signal caller is on every snap in the Falcons’ triple-option offense, that goes to a new level this week. Hammond is Air Force’s fourth-leading rusher with 456 yards and leads the Falcons with 10 rushing TDs, but the junior is also coming off the best passing performance of his career. Hammond went 9 of 10 passing for 327 yards and four TDs in the Falcons’ thumping of New Mexico. Slowing down Air Force starts with slowing down the Falcons’ trigger man, but it won’t just be Hammond’s legs that Wyoming will have to contend with Saturday.
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Air Force has plenty of talent on the Mountain West’s No. 2-ranked defense, but in a game where the ball will be kept primarily on the ground, Meeks will be one player in particular to watch when Wyoming has the ball. The junior linebacker not only leads the Falcons in tackles (87) but is also tops in tackles for loss (8) and second on the team in sacks (4). Meeks is coming off arguably his best performance of the season with a season-high 14 tackles against New Mexico. It’ll be up to the Cowboys’ offensive line to know where Meeks is before each snap and get a hat on him.
Valladay has not only carried the load for Wyoming’s rushing attack but produced while he’s done it. The Cowboys’ sophomore running back has had five straight 100-yard games. His last one against Colorado State came on a banged-up right knee as he eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season. He may not be completely healthy for Saturday’s game, but Valladay has averaged right at 30 carries over the last five games regardless of the circumstances. Wyoming played freshman QB Levi Williams last week to help alleviate some of the pressure on Valladay, but with Trey Smith (ankle) and Titus Swen (knee) still out, the workload doesn’t figure to drop off much for the Cowboys’ biggest threat in the running game.
Wilson has been a ball magnet throughout his career, and against an option offense that could have anybody in the backfield carrying the ball, Wyoming’s senior linebacker will be key to slowing down the Falcons. Wilson, who ranks in the top 5 in school history and Mountain West history, is second on the team with 88 tackles and leads all Football Bowl Subdivision linebackers with four interceptions. He’s had picks in three straight games. Wyoming will need its best defensive player to continue his ball-hawking tendencies to contain an Air Force offense that’s averaging nearly 36 points per game.