A slight ray of sunshine in a mostly cloudy season

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The first half of the University of Wyoming football team’s season has largely been one to forget. The Pokes have lost four games — the most recent one coming to Hawaii, which trotted out a freshman quarterback making his first-ever collegiate start — by an average of 18.3 points. In one of UW’s two wins, the Pokes needed a last-second touchdown to edge FCS Wofford, while the other victory came over two-win New Mexico State.

The defense has disappointed, the offense is beyond inept, even the punter is lost for the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament — that injury has opened the door for former Sheridan Bronc Dontae Crow to take over the punting duties.

The season already looks lost. Finding four more wins in order to reach bowl eligibility is growing more and more difficult in a season for which many predicted the Pokes finishing inside the top three of the Mountain Division.

But a couple bright spots have shined through, and running back Nico Evans is one player having an outstanding and unforeseen breakthrough season.

I wrote about Evans before the season started, stating that the redshirt senior deserved the starting role he was given, and he’s far exceeded my expectations.

The running game was abysmal last season. Kellen Overstreet, who has since retired from the game because of injuries, led the Pokes in yards per carry at 4.3 en route to gaining 471 yards on the season. That ranked Overstreet 198th in the country, and last year, there were only 128 FBS teams, meaning Wyoming’s best rusher ranked behind many team’s second-string running back. That made expectations for UW’s 2018 running game relatively low, and giving the reins to a fifth-year senior, who had never started, gaining a total of 108 yards in his three previous seasons, cemented those low expectations.

Boy was I proven wrong, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that department. Evans has not only given Wyoming a running game, but he’s been one of the best backs in the country — and he doesn’t even qualify statistically speaking because he hasn’t played the minimum number of minutes, necessary.

In total rush yards, Evans ranks 14th nationally with 612. His 153-yard-per-game average would rank him third nationally. He’s played in four games, and that’s not even a full four games as he left the Washington State contest in the third quarter with a rib injury that kept him out the next two games.

Evans gains, on average, 7.8 yards per carry this season. In the three games he completed, Evans has rushed for 192, 190 and 141 yards, respectively. In all three of those games, Evans logged long runs of 75, 63 and 56 yards.

Evans has provided an offense that has sputtered — and that’s putting it lightly, as UW’s offense ranks fourth from the bottom nationally, accumulating 292.5 yards per game — with a spark and a workhorse that it can lean on in a year where everything else hasn’t worked.

Evans was a nobody, a little-known, fifth-year senior who had never made an impact in a college-football setting. And now, he’s one of the best running backs in the nation and a bright spot in a Wyoming football season that has been, and will likely finish as, a disappointment.

Pokes notes

Former Sheridan Bronc Dontae Crow is the new starting punter for the University of Wyoming. He booted it five times in the loss against Hawaii, averaging 43.2 yards per punt.

UW’s men’s golf team placed sixth at there Paintbrush Invitational this week. Former Sheridan Bronc Kirby Coe-Kirkham tied for 23rd at 7-over.

UW’s women’s soccer team toppled Colorado College 3-1 and tied Air Force 1-1 last week to move to 3-2-1 in MWC play.

UW’s women’s volleyball team swept Utah State 3-0 Thursday to improve 5-2 in MWC play.

By |Oct. 12, 2018|

About the Author:

Bud Denega joined The Sheridan Press in November 2017 as the primary sports reporter. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in Sheridan, Bud spent time as a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, before being a sports reporter for the Laredo Morning Times in Laredo, Texas. Email Bud at: bud.denega@thesheridanpress.com

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