Wyoming Cowboys vs. UNLV Rebels: How the Cowboys will win
A face-off between two bowl-eligible teams in a premiere Mountain West matchup between the Wyoming Cowboys and the UNLV Rebels.
WEEK 11: Wyoming Cowboys (6-3, 3-2 MW) vs. UNLV Rebels (7-2, 4-1 MW)
WHEN: Friday, November 10 — 6:45 PM PT
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium (65,000)
STREAMING: Get a free trial with FuboTV
RADIO: Cowboy Sports Network
SERIES RECORD: Wyoming 14-11
LAST MATCHUP: Wyoming won 45-14 on Nov. 27, 2020 in Las Vegas
ODDS: UNLV -5.5
OVER/UNDER: 50.5 points
Of the 25 games between the Wyoming Cowboys (6-3, 3-2 MW) and the UNLV Rebels (7-2, 4-1 MW), 14 were decided by one possession, and nine of those came in the Sin City. The Rebels have a slight advantage in those nine games, winning five of them over the Pokes, most recently in the triple overtime bout in 2016.
Both squads have overcome expectations for the season, as Wyoming was projected to finish sixth in the conference, and UNLV was projected ninth. However, the Rebels are now in their first bowl-eligible season in the past decade.
“Our opponent is playing, I think, maybe the best in the Mountain West right now,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said in his weekly press conference.
Led by a heavy rushing attack, totaling 28 touchdowns, and an explosive wide receiver on the Biletnikoff watchlist, the Rebels are having one of their best seasons in recent memory. It is the first time UNLV has won seven of their first nine games since 1984, when the team’s quarterback was Randall Cunningham.
The Rebels’ Ricky White is closing in on 1,000 yards for the season, currently sitting at 884 with six touchdowns. Additionally, the trio of Vincent Davis Jr., Jai’Den Thomas and Donavyn Lester combined for 1,293 rushing yards.
UNLV also dominated in their game last weekend against New Mexico, 56-14. With three rushing touchdowns in the second quarter and a 28-point lead by halftime, the Rebels secured their seventh victory.
On the other sideline, it has been a tale of two stories for the Cowboys, as the team is 6-0 at home but 0-3 when traveling. While facing one of the top teams of the Mountain West, the Pokes are 2-2 in games this season against teams with a winning record.
A bright side of Wyoming’s play has been transfer running back Harrison Waylee, who has rushed for 686 yards this season in only six games. Quarterback Andrew Peasley has also found himself in the best season of his collegiate career. He has thrown for 1,195 yards and 15 touchdowns, with only four interceptions.
The Pokes’ defense has been another key to their success. From the numbers, it would look like Wyoming is a losing team. They allow more points than they score and give up 375 yards of offense a game, but one reason they have totaled six wins is a top turnover-forcing team in the country. Wyoming has snagged seven interceptions and forced nine fumbles, leading to a +8-turnover margin, tied for 10th best in the country.
The — College Football At Its Finest — Cut pic.twitter.com/Dz2EDqPOuq
— Wyoming Cowboy Football (@wyo_football) November 8, 2023
Last week, Wyoming overcame Colorado State’s effort to win the Bronze Boot, 24-15.
As underdogs, Wyoming will have to overcome the odds, play its hand and ensure it doesn’t fall to the house.
Wyoming will win if…
As with any game, winning the turnover battle is extremely helpful for a victory. However, as Wyoming is tied for 10th in the country for its turnover margin, UNLV is tied for sixth with +9. The Rebels have contributed 19 turnovers this season and haven’t had a game without forcing one.
The Cowboys won the turnover battle in six games, including losses at Air Force and Boise State. Against the Rams last Friday, Wyoming forced three turnovers, including a 61-yard scoop and dash for defensive end Tyce Westland and the linebacker duo of Easton Gibbs and Shae Suiaunoa snatching the ball out of the air.
The only conference loss UNLV has suffered this season came to Fresno State, where the Rebels gave the ball away four times. But UNLV knows how to get the ball back as well as Jaxen Turner is tied for first in the Mountain West with four interceptions.
Between two teams that don’t dominate the margin of turnovers, Wyoming must force more than the Rebels, Peasley must maintain his efficiency and keep the ball away from the UNLV defenders, and the Cowboys must continue their trend of not fumbling the football. The last time a Wyoming fumble occurred was Sept. 30 against New Mexico.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball for Wyoming, the Go-Go offense that UNLV runs allows a re-introduction to the option play for the Cowboy defense. Wyoming got killed against the option offense of Air Force last month as the Falcons ran for 356 yards and three touchdowns.
Wyoming will get another crack at shutting down an offense that will operate out of the option. This season, the Pokes have been able to shut down the run in particular games, with only allowing 93 yards to Texas Tech, 90 to Portland State, 38 to Fresno State, and 51 to Colorado State. However, in addition to the Air Force game, Wyoming has given up 217 yards to Appalachian State, 225 to New Mexico, and 227 to Boise State.
Flipping to the Wyoming offense, the team must score early and often. In several games this season, the Cowboys have gotten solid leads in the first half but fallen short later in the game. While needing to finish out the game, scoring early and often puts pressure on the UNLV offense to match the Pokes. If UNLV is falling behind several scores, the team may abandon the rushing attack altogether, a plus for Wyoming.
To get a sizeable lead, the Cowboys must utilize Waylee. Wyoming’s leading rusher is one of the school’s impact players when healthy. He averages 93.4 yards per game on the ground, and when he rushes for 100 yards, which he has done four times this season, the Pokes are 3-1. Cut that down to at least 83 yards, and it becomes 4-1. When Waylee wins, Wyoming will win.
UNLV’s defense has held teams to only 125 yards rushing per game, which raises a problem for Wyoming. Although, UNLV has only played two teams who currently have a winning record, and both games were losses for the Rebels.
The combined record of UNLV’s opponents is 37-47. In contrast, Wyoming’s opponent’s records are 47-32. Specifically looking at this, Wyoming has had a tougher schedule thus far and only lost one game more than the Rebels. According to Sports Reference, Wyoming’s schedule is ranked 70th in the country compared to UNLV’s at 121st.
In what will be another close game in the series, Wyoming will prove to be the superior team and leave Sin City victorious.
Wyoming 34 – UNLV 30