LARAMIE – Chad Muma’s fingerprints were all over the Cowboys’ first three wins.
The Wyoming star linebacker averaged 11.0 tackles, intercepted three passes, returned two of those picks for touchdowns, recovered a fumble and blocked a field goal in a spectacular start to the season.
NFL scouts marched through UW practices and the War Memorial Stadium press box throughout September to take a closer look at Muma.
But the team’s most productive player was largely absent from the stats sheet in the Pokes’ 24-22 win on September 25 at UConn. Muma finished with three tackles and a rushed quarterback in East Hartford, Connecticut.
The Huskies’ game plan was pretty obvious: keep the ball away from No.48.
“I was pretty frustrated when I played there,” Muma admitted. “Just because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to go play with the ball. So it was really a little frustrating. But it’s also huge to have the players we have on our defense making these games when I might not be involved.
“I thought all the other defenders did a great job making these plays. “
Nickel full-back Keyon Blankenbaker led the team with seven tackles, defensive end Solomon Byrd had 1 1/2 sacks, safety Esaias Gandy had an interception to set up the winning touchdown and safety Rome Weber deflected a 2 point conversion pass to prevent UConn from forcing overtime in the final seconds.
“I don’t know too many offensive coordinators who would look at our defense and be like, ‘I’m going to run straight to Chad Muma,” “linebacker Easton Gibbs said when asked about the calm afternoon of Muma by his high standards. “I really think (UConn) tried to take him out of the game as much as possible. This opens up more things for the rest of the defense. I certainly don’t hit Chad at all, he plays really well.
Muma, of course, wasn’t worried about the box’s score as the Cowboys returned to Laramie from the East Coast to celebrate a 4-0 start.
All is well that ends in a victory.
“I was just delighted for (Weber) and our team that we were able to succeed,” said Muma. “One thing we’ve talked about every week with our defense is that it’s been great learning from wins instead of learning from losses.
This week, the Muma-led Cowboys face their biggest challenge yet when they open the Mountain West game against the Air Force on Saturday at Falcon Stadium (5 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
The Falcons lead the FBS in rushing (367.4 yards per game) and will try to make sure Muma doesn’t ruin their much-vaunted triple-option offense.
“He’s everywhere,” Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said of the UW Butkus Prize nominee. “He’s very strong on the attack, but the chasing angles are about as precise as you can get. … He follows the line of the last inside linebacker they had.
That would be Logan Wilson, who currently leads the Cincinnati Bengals with 40 tackles and three interceptions in three games. The former Natrona County High star also had the decisive interception in UW’s 2018 win over the Falcons.
Muma appears to be the next Poke designed to play on Sundays. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound elder from Lone Tree, Colo., Who is about 40 miles north of the Air Force Academy, anxiously awaits the challenge of facing the Falcons’ triple-option attack. .
“The Air Force is completely different from any other team that we have played this season with what they do with their offense,” said Muma. “They are extremely disciplined in the way they run their business. The most important thing for me is just walking into the movie theater and having these different looks all week long because they do so many different little things here and there.
“Whatever our defense call, I have to make sure I do my job, whether it’s following a fullback or reading down the alley and seeing all of the (shooting the guards). Doing my job is huge.