LARAMIE -- Coming off its first loss of the season -- one in which quarterback Sean Chambers was briefly benched and injuries piled up -- questions about Wyoming’s passing game, a not-as-effective running game and the back end of the defense continued to linger.
For a week at least, the Cowboys came up with an emphatic answer.
Wyoming got a little bit of everything Saturday night to open the Mountain West portion of its schedule with a dominant 53-17 win over UNLV at War Memorial Stadium. Chambers threw two touchdowns, doubling his total through the first four games, but Wyoming (4-1, 1-0 MW) racked up a season-high 374 rushing yards, outscored the Rebels 26-0 in the second quarter and bounced back from their loss at Tulsa with their most lopsided win since a 42-3 victory over New Mexico in 2017.
“Over the course of the week and even during the course of this game, I almost had to get out a roster to see who the heck was out there because there were a lot of new faces,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “We just had a whole host of guys. I think UNLV is a good football team, and it was a great, dominating win.”
Despite being down two starting offensive linemen in right guard Logan Harris and right tackle Alonzo Velazquez, the Cowboys also piled up season-highs in yards (498) and points. It’s the most points Wyoming has scored in regulation since putting up 56 against Hawaii on Nov. 23, 2013.
Chambers ran for 102 yards and two more scores while freshman Titus Swen added 136 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown, for his first career 100-yard game. Chambers matched a season-low with 12 pass attempts given Wyoming’s 7.8 yards per carry, but he completed five of them for 124 yards. The redshirt freshman has accounted for 391 total yards and six touchdowns with just one turnover in the last five quarters since being benched for two series in the third quarter against Tulsa.
“I told Coach Bohl it sparked something underneath me and lit a fire underneath me,” Chambers said. “I don’t know how long the fire is going to burn for, but it’s going to burn for a while. I just got that eagle eye, went out there and tried to do my best to help the team win. I took that same passion and attacked today. The team really just rallied around each other, and it clicked tonight.”
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Wyoming had 203 of its rushing yards by halftime and outgained UNLV (1-3, 0-1) 498-340 in total yards. Xazavian Valladay got the scoring started for the Cowboys with a 7-yard touchdown run to cap Wyoming’s second possession and capped it with a 4-yard run late.
Valladay’s first scoring run started a string of six straight scoring possessions for Wyoming, which answered Armani Rogers’ 56-yard touchdown pass to Giovanni Fauolo on a jump pass to take the lead for good. Chambers capped a four-play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown run to put Wyoming up 13-10 early in the second quarter.
“We wanted to establish the run,” Bohl said. “We felt like we needed to impose our will on them.”
Wyoming opened the game with 17 straight runs before Chambers’ first pass attempt went for a 56-yard touchdown to Josh Harshman on the Cowboys’ next possession as they built a 33-10 halftime lead. Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia set up two of those scores with interceptions as Wyoming held UNLV to just 4 of 16 on third down.
UNLV scored 10 first-quarter points but didn’t score again until a fourth-down sneak with 10 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth by Kenyon Oblad, who replaced Rogers for good in the second half. Even against a Wyoming secondary that was missing senior cornerbacks Tyler Hall (concussion) and Antonio Hull (personal matter), neither was particularly effective through the air as the duo combined to go just 22 of 44 with three interceptions.
“At first, we were preparing for the running quarterback (Rogers), so we were depending on a lot of RPO stuff," Maluia said. "We saw that they changed the quarterback, and we talked about it on the sideline that he wasn’t really going to pull the ball on the zone read. So no run and more pass.”
The Rebels hadn’t thrown it more than 28 times in a game this season, but Wyoming forced their hand with another stout performance against one of the better rushing attacks it’s seen. UNLV’s Charles Williams, the MW’s leading rusher on a per-game basis, left the game early with a leg injury, and Wyoming held the Rebels to 77 yards on the ground -- 166 fewer than their season average.