Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Robert Gagliardi

Evans' injury causes uncertainty for UW's offense


September 4, 2018

COURTESY/ SHANNON BRODERICK/ Boomerang photographer

Wyoming running back Nico Evans avoids a tackle from Washington State safety Skyler Thomas (25) and linebacker Jahad Woods (13) during Saturday's game at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

LARAMIE – The running back situation for the University of Wyoming may have become a little more uncertain.

UW lost senior co-captain and leading rusher Nico Evans to injured ribs early in the third quarter in its 41-19 home-opening loss to Washington State this past Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. Evans led the team with 18 carries for 89 yards, but the Cowboys gained just 52 yards of total offense the rest of the game after Evans' injury.

Fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl didn't know after the game how long Evans will be out.

The uncertainty isn't who will play running back if Evans misses any time, but how effective the running game – and the entire offense – will be.

UW redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal was just 8 of 20 for 67 yards and an interception.

True freshman Jevon Bigelow got the bulk of the carries in place of Evans, and finished with 11 carries for 42 yards with a long of 11. Redshirt freshman Xazavian Valladay had four carries for 15 yards.

Earlier last week, junior running back Kellen Overstreet announced he is retiring from football due to a series injuries and surgeries. UW moved true freshman Dauson Booker from safety to running back to provide depth. Booker was a running back and defensive back in high school, but has yet to play in a game.

"Jevon Bigelow has great promise, but we're going to need to have a running back by committee," Bohl said.

Evans has scored three of UW's five touchdowns in the first two games. He has 42 carries for 279 yards. Bigelow is the second-leading rusher with 24 carries for 97 yards.

Safety first

UW has recorded a safety in each of its first two games, and three of its past 10 going back to last season. The defense recorded one in the season-opener at New Mexico State, and special teams got one against Washington State.

The Cowboys also recorded a safety last season at Utah State.

Productive Pownell

The start senior nickel Chavez Pownell Jr. made against Washington State was his first since his redshirt freshman season in 2015. Pownell started at weak-side outside linebacker (WILL) in place of junior Cassh Maluia, who was suspended by Bohl for his suspicion of driving under the influence arrest over the summer.

It was expected that senior Adam Pilapil would start at the WILL, but Bohl said based on Washington State's skill players in the passing game, the best matchups for UW's defense was to start Pownell.

Pownell finished with seven tackles against Washington State, the most since he had nine in 2015 in the season opener against North Dakota.

Bigger test

An issue for UW against Washington State was a lack of a pass rush, which helped the Cougars throw for 319 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys didn't record a sack or quarterback hurry.

UW plays at Missouri at 5 p.m. Saturday and faces one of college football's top quarterbacks and a Heisman Trophy candidate in senior Drew Lock. Missouri opened the season with a 51-14 home victory over Tennessee-Martin. Lock was 19 of 25 for 289 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

"We just didn't come out and execute like we normally could as a front line," UW senior defensive end Carl Granderson said after the Washington State game. "We had a game plan, and as a front four we didn't get the job done. We got to come back next week and be ready.

"The confidence is still there. We've got to work harder in practice and do some things different."


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