LARAMIE — Just two years ago, Jevon Bigelow was beginning his junior season at Central (California) High School as a backup wide receiver. Saturday, his first collegiate start came at running back in a Southeastern Conference stadium.
“Just taking it day by day and game by game, I’ll get more comfortable,” Bigelow said after Wyoming’s 40-13 loss at Missouri. “For me right now also, it’s just also me being a young person and just me being a freshman and just my second year at running back, I’m just trying to find that groove so I can get started on the first carry or maybe the second carry so I can help the offense out.”
Bigelow, a true freshman, started in place of senior running back Nico Evans, who bruised his ribs the week before in Missouri’s loss to Washington State. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said Monday that he doesn’t expect Evans to be able to return for Saturday’s game against Wofford.
Evans also made his debut as a starter this season, rushing for 190 yards in the Cowboys’ season opener at New Mexico State. The next week against Washington State, he had 18 carries for 89 yards before getting injured. At the end of Evans’ last drive, Wyoming had led its opponents 48-20 this season. Since then, the Cowboys have been outscored 68-13.
Obviously, that’s a lot to put on a true freshman, much less one who has only been playing running back since late 2016. But Bigelow has shown positive signs this far.
“We appreciate where Jevon is at,” Bohl said. “He went out and he battled and he made some nice plays.”
Bigelow knew he was getting the start midweek.
“Sometime during the week, we just noticed (Evans) wasn’t practicing, so that’s when we all got together as a running back group just to try to help each other out,” Bigelow said. “We said we’re going to have to step up without Nico.”
The Fresno, California, native struggled early in his first start, fumbling his first carry to end Wyoming’s first drive of the game.
“I’ve got to go back to the basics of having ball security,” Bigelow said, “but I just tried to get it out of my head as much as possible and just try to shake it off so I can get started.”
Bigelow also had a dropped pass that led to Wyoming’s second three-and-out of the night. But the Cowboys stuck with the freshman and he rewarded them with a career-best 56 yards on 18 carries and a seven-yard touchdown, his second score of the year.
Of course, that all came in the context of a second straight disappointing performance by the Wyoming offense.
“The confidence is most definitely still there,” Bigelow said. “We’ve just got to figure out what we need to do as an offense to get started faster. Because we got started in the second half, but it needs to start from the very first drive, the moment we get the ball.”
It’s something to build on nonetheless.
“I thought Jevon’s running out there against a fortified SEC team, and it wasn’t like he was backing down,” Bohl said. “He’ll learn from the fumble, and some of the pass protections were challenging, and I thought they answered the bell there. Good experience. Unfortunately, we came away with some good experience from a loss. I think those guys will benefit from it, though, and I feel comfortable with them.”
Bigelow could get some more help this week. Bohl said the Cowboys will make an effort to use redshirt freshman Xazavian Valladay more.
“We had an extensive conversation in the offensive staff meeting about that,” Bohl said. “Those two guys are good players. We’re in hopes that we’ll get Nico back. Certainly, Nico, he’s a captain, he’s a leader on our team, and he’s an emotional leader as well. So that element has been sorely missed, but I think both those two guys have got some really good talent.”