Nation’s Second-Leading Rusher Poses Problems for Pokes
LARAMIE -- It's not often you hear a defensive coordinator say the goal is to limit the passing game and hope the rushing attack doesn't get going in the process..
That was Jay Sawvel's game plan last Saturday night in Austin, and until the fourth quarter, it worked to near perfection.
Traditional philosophy returns this week. It's no secret why, either.
The nation's second-leading rusher is coming to town.
Nate Noel has gashed defenses to the tune of 435 yards in just three games. He accomplished that on just 75 attempts. That's an average of nearly six yards per tote. The junior has already found the end zone four times, too.
Only Notre Dame's Audric Estime (521) has more rushing yards than Noel.
Appalachian State's running back has Wyoming's full attention.
"He runs very, very hard," Sawvel said. "He has really good speed to the hole, a really good burst into the hole. He's really physical for not being a big guy. So, this is just a really, really excellent running back."
The Cowboys held Texas Tech's Tahj Brooks to 39 yards on 11 carries. Portland State quarterback Dantae Chachere was held in check, amassing just five rushing yards on 17 tries. Until he busted a 61-yard run and tacked on 26 more during the final 15 minutes, Jonathon Brooks was held to just 77 yards through three quarters. Texas had just 88 yards rushing in that same timeframe.
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Noel finished with 115 yards in an opening-day victory over Gardner Webb. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Miami product added 127 more in a double-overtime loss at No. 17 North Carolina.
Last Saturday, Noel carried the ball 25 times in a blowout win against East Carolina. He rolled up 193 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
"He's right at the top of the backs of what we've played so far this year," Wyoming's defensive coordinator added. "I think that he's excellent. This is a really good football player."
What makes Noel so special?
Craig Bohl said the Mountaineers' offensive line is partially responsible. So is the zone blocking, a scheme Wyoming has implemented with Brian Hill, Shaun Wick, Nico Evans, Xazavian Valladay and others.
"Noel has explosive ability," the Cowboys' head coach said. "If he can get in the secondary -- in the second level -- he can hurt you. That, combined with a really good offensive line, you've got a really good running back and they have players that make you cover the whole field. That, many times, can weaken you against the running game."
Looking for a comparison? Look no further than RB1 in Wyoming's offense.
"Yeah, there's probably a good comparison," Sawvel said, referring to Harrison Waylee, who rushed for 110 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown run, during his UW debut last Saturday night in Texas. "(Noel) is excellent. He has great vision, great balance and a great burst."
Noel and Appalachian State (2-1) will face Wyoming (2-1) Saturday night inside War Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
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