Owning the line
Only once this season has Wyoming rushed for more than the 366 yards it ran for Saturday, and the Cowboys were efficient in piling them up.
Wyoming’s offensive line blew New Mexico’s defensive front off the ball for most of the game, leaving gaping holes and cutback lanes for the Cowboys’ running backs that were available. Xazavian Valladay, who shared carries with Nico Evans with Jevon Bigelow back in Laramie nursing bruised ribs, had a career-high 179 yards and two touchdowns. Evans wasn’t 100 percent himself after dealing with a sprained ankle all week, but even he finished with 142 yards.
Evans’ lone touchdown run went for 30 yards, a big chunk that proved to be the norm throughout the day. Wyoming ripped off six runs of 19 yards or more and averaged nearly 7 yards per carry.
New Mexico’s running game? Wyoming held it to 49 yards.
Wyoming’s previous trip to Albuquerque might have been the most embarrassing one the Cowboys have made during Craig Bohl’s five-year tenure, giving up the most rushing yards of any FBS team during the 2016 season in a 56-35 loss to the Lobos.
The Cowboys flipped the script Saturday. New Mexico used three quarterbacks but threw for just 34 yards and finished with 83 total yards as Wyoming held the Lobos to their lowest output since gaining just 85 in a 69-0 loss to TCU on Oct. 22, 2011. New Mexico crossed midfield just once on the 12 possessions that the Lobos started in their own territory.
Averaging just 1.6 yards per play, New Mexico allowed nearly as many sacks (4) as it had first downs (6). The Lobos trailed just 17-3 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, but it might as well have been a four-score deficit with Wyoming’s most suffocating effort of the season never allowing New Mexico to make a game of it.
Wyoming has its longest winning streak of the season at four games. The question is whether the Cowboys will get a chance to extend it to five.
Saturday’s win made Wyoming bowl eligible for the third straight season, but the Mountain West already had six bowl-eligible teams entering the day. The league only has five guaranteed bowl tie-ins.
The highest-ranked Group of Five champion in the final College Football Playoff rankings will automatically get a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls, but that will go to No. 10 Central Florida if the Knights beat Memphis for the AAC title next weekend. That would keep all MW teams tied in to their contracted bowls and leave less space for Wyoming to squeeze into the postseason picture.
A bowl bid this season would be historic. Wyoming has never played in three consecutive bowl games.