Saturday will mark 91 days since Wyoming won a game on the road that Tyler Vander Waal started at quarterback. That was the season opener against New Mexico State all the way back on Aug. 25. Wyoming’s road losses have come against Missouri, Hawaii and Fresno State, which was the last road game Vander Waal started. The redshirt freshman hasn’t completed more than 50 percent of his passes or thrown for more than 160 yards in any of his last three road starts.
Vander Waal’s first start in more than a month may be coming at a good time considering the defense he’s going up against. San Jose State is the only team in the MW that’s been worse at defending the pass this season than New Mexico, which is allowing 275.5 yards a game through the air. The Lobos are allowing a league-worst 14.8 yards per completion. New Mexico has also allowed multiple touchdown passes in four of its last five games. Vander Waal threw for a career-high 225 yards last week.
New Mexico has helped its offense out in the third facet of the game. The Lobos are leading the MW in yards per punt return (18.2) with one of the league’s most dangerous punt returners in Marcus Hayes, who’s averaging a conference-best 19.9 yards a return. He’s returned one of his 14 returns for a score with his longest return covering 86 yards. The Lobos are averaging nearly 29 points a game with many of their scoring drives set up with shorter fields after punt returns.
Whether the Cowboys can continue producing offensively with Vander Waal under center and their top two running backs banged up remains to be seen, but Wyoming has been scoring points at its highest clip of the season during its winning streak. The Cowboys are averaging 31 points over the last three games after scoring a season-high 35 last week in their comeback win over Air Force. That’s 11 more than the season average for the Cowboys, who are still last in the MW in scoring offense. Wyoming is averaging 20.4 points in conference play.