LARAMIE — It’s hard to do much more than what Alijah Halliburton did on the back end of Wyoming’s defense Saturday, but that’s what the Cowboys’ safety expects out of himself.
Halliburton racked up a career-high 17 tackles and recovered a fumble in Wyoming’s upset of Missouri. It was just the seventh career start for the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior after largely biding his time behind former UW standout Andrew Wingard at strong safety, but nothing came close to the way Halliburton performed against what’s arguably the most talented team the Cowboys will see all season.
He had 13 solo tackles, which was also a career-high. His previous career bests in solo and total tackles were eight and 11, respectively, against Boise State last season. He finished six tackles shy of the program’s single-game tackles record set by Brian Hendricks, who had 23 against Air Force in 2009.
Halliburton’s performance was good enough to earn Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week honors, the league announced Monday.
“I expect this or more (production) to be honest with you,” Halliburton said. “That’s what I’m holding myself to as a standard. I want to be the best safety ever.”
Halliburton nearly added a touchdown when he scooped up Larry Rountree III’s fumble near the goal line late in the second quarter and took off down the sideline with only Missouri quarterback Kelly Byrant to beat. But the fleet-footed Bryant eventually brought him down 79 yards later, though a horsecollar penalty allowed Wyoming to extend its halftime lead with Cooper Rothe’s first field goal.
“That was the longest (run) ever,” Halliburton said. “I thought I was going to outrun him. I had a quick burst and got to like the 50 and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m out of breath.’ He’s a great athlete though. And he’s pretty fast.”
‘Good start’ for Galovich
Ryan Galovich’s first career start at punter came with mixed reviews. The junior averaged 43.8 yards on his six punts but had a 37-yard line drive early in the fourth quarter that Richaud Floyd returned 43 yards to set up a touchdown cutting Wyoming’s lead to 10 at the time.
Galovich came back on Wyoming’s next possession and boomed a career-long 64-yarder that rolled to Missouri’s 2-yard line. He also had a 53-yarder in the first quarter.
“He responded,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “I think the next one we pinned them down about the 4, so I thought he had a good start and those numbers bear it out. But we’ve got to eliminate that (earlier) part.”
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Galovich, who averaged just 37.9 yards on 13 punts last season, won the job during fall camp over senior Tim Zaleski, who still isn’t 100 percent after having ACL surgery midway through last season.
Coming in hot
Wyoming had a few players sustain cramps during the latter stages of Saturday’s game, which Bohl said is a concern considering where the Cowboys are headed this weekend.
Temperatures are expected to be approaching the triple digits Saturday in San Marcos, Texas, when Wyoming hits the road for the first time to play Texas State. Wyoming could practice indoors to try to replicate Texas’ heat and humidity this time of year, but Bohl said his primary concern is making sure his team is better hydrated.
“I think we underestimated our readiness from that standpoint and our hydration levels,” Bohl said. “I mentioned to our strength and conditioning staff and our sports medicine staff that we’ve got to have a better plan.”
Hull dealing with personal matter
Cornerback Antonio Hull is back home in California dealing with a personal matter, Bohl said.
Bohl didn’t offer a timetable as to when he expects Hull to return to the team but said the Cowboys are preparing as if they won’t have him for Saturday’s game. Hull, who’s started 31 career games, didn’t play against Missouri and wasn’t listed on Wyoming’s updated depth chart Monday.
That leaves sophomore C.J. Coldon in line to start for the second straight game opposite Tyler Hall. Coldon started three games last season.
“It had nothing to do with team discipline. It had nothing to do with university issues,” Bohl said. “It’s strictly a personal thing.”
As for injuries, Bohl said his team got out of the opener relatively healthy. Backup defensive end Solomon Byrd is still dealing with a high ankle sprain that kept him out of the opener, but Bohl said he’s hoping to be able to play more defensive ends Saturday.