The Wyoming Cowboys got their season off to a start in style with a road win over FBS independent New Mexico State. There was excitement in the air in Las Cruces, New Mexico as the Aggies were coming off their first bowl appearance since the 1960 Sun Bowl. The Wyoming defense would stifle this enthusiasm though by forcing the Aggies to go three-and-out on five of their first six drives. The drive that didn’t result in a three-in-out was a safety that gave Wyoming a 9-0 lead following a Nico Evans touchdown run.
The offense had the running game rolling with a trio of running backs that included Nico Evans, Xazavian Valladay, and Jevon Bigelow. The star of the show was certainly Nico Evans who recorded a 190-yard and two touchdown rushing day. It was the best rushing performance by a Wyoming running back since Brian Hill rushed for 289 yards against Nevada in 2016.
The defense showed complete dominance and wasn’t scored upon until late in the fourth quarter in garbage time when the Wyoming starters were resting comfortably on the sideline. The defense didn’t look like they skipped a beat from last season and held the pass-happy Aggies to just 144 yards passing and 135 yards of total offense.
First-time starting QB Tyler Vander Waal was effective especially early when he completed his first eight collegiate passes. He finished his college debut completing 13 of 22 passes for 137 yards with zero touchdowns and interceptions. The only real offensive set-back on the night was a knee injury to TE Austin Fort in the second half. Fort is a key component to Wyoming’s vertical passing game so hopefully, he won’t miss any to little time. Craig Bohl said afterwards that he thinks Fort could play this coming weekend against Washington State.
The Wyoming defense set the tone all game so the key series will come from the offense. After going three and out on their first series the Wyoming offense set the tone on the second series. That series resulted in a nine play, 60-yard drive that took just 1:43 off the clock. The big plays of that drive saw RB Xazavian Valladay rush for 15 yards on three carries while RB Nico Evans caught one pass for 10-yards and finished the drive with a 24-yard run that would give Wyoming a 7-0 lead. First-time starter Tyler Vander Waal completed four of four passes on the series for 36-yards as well to get the Pokes off to a good start in the New Mexico heat.
“To go on the road against a good opponent who won a Bowl game last season and earn a win it was a positive. New Mexico State is a tough team and we answered the bell. We will learn a lot from the tape and get ready for another tough opponent in Washington State next weekend.”
Wyoming Football Coach Craig Bohl
– With a bigger, faster and stronger RB Nico Evans, the Wyoming offense rushed for a total of 321 yards. Which was 134 yards more than their 187-yard season-high output of last season against San Jose State.
– The Wyoming rush defense was completely dominant holding their hosts to -9 yards rushing. This was the lowest total for a Wyoming opponent since 1968 when the Pokes held Utah State to an amazing -104 yards rushing.
– Tyler Vander Waal looked posed especially early, reading through his progressions and taking the check-down option when needed. He has all the tools to succeed in this offense and all he needs is experience to become a top-flight MWC quarterback.
– Season openers on the road are difficult and Wyoming has improved their record to 20-25-1 on the road in season openers. Most people expected a close game and the Pokes surely exceeded expectations with their dominant road victory.
Quick Box Score
Score by Quarters
New Mexico State
QB Tyler Vander Waal: 12 / 22 – 137 passing yards
RB Nico Evans : 24 rushes – 190 yards, 2 TD
TE Tyree Mayfield: 4 catches, 39 yards
DT Sidney Malauulu 3 tackles, 1 sack
N Tyler Hall: 4 tackles, 1 pass break-up
K Cooper Rothe: 2/2FGs from 36 and 39
Wyoming will open their 2018 home slate in Laramie on September 1st hosting Washington State of the Pac-12. Kickoff is at 1:30 pm MT and the game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.