What a rush
Sean Chambers and Nico Evans are making for a dynamic duo in Wyoming’s backfield. Wyoming’s freshman quarterback and senior running back have played three games together since Chambers took over the reins of the offense from Tyler Vander Waal, and both of them have rushed for 100 yards in all of them.
Evans paced the Cowboys’ best rushing performance of the season Saturday with 187 yards while Chambers added 129 on just 17 carries, including a career-long 64-yard touchdown in the second half. Since Chambers entered the equation three games ago, he’s averaging 110 yards on the ground while Evans is running for 165.3 yards a game — nearly 30 yards more than his season average.
Chambers’ presence is taking some of the pressure off Evans by making defenses pick their poison. It’s also opening things up for when Wyoming wants to take shots through the air. Chambers has essentially iced the Cowboys’ last two wins with touchdown passes off bootlegs where the threat of the run left receivers wide open.
Defense returning to form
No, SJSU isn’t some offensive juggernaut. In fact, the Spartans entered Saturday’s game dead last nationally in rushing yards per game. But Wyoming played without its two best defensive linemen in All-Mountain West performers Youhanna Ghaifan (indefinite) and Carl Granderson (relative’s funeral) and still suffocated the Spartans — a recent trend for a Wyoming defense that’s looking more and more like its 2017 self.
The Cowboys allowed just 39 yards in the first quarters on their way to pitching their third first-half shutout of the season and second in as many games. Wyoming took away SJSU’s ground game as expected (3 yards per rush) and pinned its collective ears back to get after SJSU quarterback Josh Love, who spent most of the afternoon picking himself off the War Memorial Stadium.
Love completed just 59 percent of his passes for 173 yards — 96 fewer than his season average — as SJSU mustered just 244 yards and put together just one scoring drive longer than 38 yards. Wyoming’s defense has held two of the last three opponents to less than 250 total yards and has gone three straight games without allowing more than 21 points.
The mixture of sleet and snow that fell off and on played a factor, but Wyoming let SJSU hang around too long with a rare lack of ball security.
The Cowboys came in with just seven turnovers all season but committed two Saturday, and it could’ve been more if Austin Conway hadn’t recovered his own fumble early in the second quarter and if Nico Evans hadn’t pounced on a loose ball after a muffed exchange with Chambers near midfield just before halftime. That along with Chambers’ fumble early in the second quarter with the Cowboys threatening again inside SJSU’s 5-yard line prevented Wyoming from adding to its 10-0 halftime lead.
Evans gave SJSU a short field with a fumble midway through the fourth quarter, and the Spartans turned it into a touchdown to make it a one-score game with 8:48 left. Wyoming answered with a 14-play scoring drive that finally put it out of reach, but the Cowboys might not be so fortunate against better teams.