CHAMPAIGN, Ill., -- Believe it or not, there were a few solid outings in Wyoming's season-opening 38-6 loss at Illinois Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Stadium.

Not much went right for the Cowboys, who gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense all while racking up just 30 passing yards of their own. The visitors also added a pair of turnovers and helped the Illini out by going 1-for-12 on third down.

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It wasn't pretty, but when you are fielding one of the most inexperienced lineups in the college game, duds like this -- especially in Big Ten Country -- are bound to happen.

Here's my subjective list of the Cowboys' three stars of the afternoon:


1st star: John Hoyland - Placekicker

Wyoming scored just six points on Saturday. Every single one of those belonged to sophomore placekicker, John Hoyland.

The Broomfield, Colo., product was true from 22 yards out in the first half and added a career-long 46-yard boot in the third. Hoyland has now connected on 25-of-30 kicks (83.3%) during his two-pus year stint in Laramie.

For the second straight season, Hoyland is also taking care of kickoff duties.

Thrown into the fire during the 2020 season, Hoyland was one of only 32 players nationally to be named to the 2020 FWAA Freshman All-America team. He also led the nation in field goals made per game with 2.17. That landed him All-Mountain West Second Team honors.


2nd star: Emmanuel Pregnon - Right guard

This 6-foot-6, 312-pound redshirt freshman was one of nine Cowboys to make their first-career start on Saturday in Champaign.

He looks the part. Against the Illini, the Denver product played the part, too.

When Wyoming had success running the ball, it was typically to the right side, where Pregnon, along with tackle, Frank Crum, were blowing holes in the Illinois front. Titus Swen rushed for a team-high 98 yards on 17 carries, falling just two yards short of his fourth-career 100-yard outing.

The Cowboys finished with 182 rushing yards on 31 carries, as a team. That equates to nearly six yards per tote. Quarterback Andrew Peasley wasn't sacked one time Saturday. In fact, Illinois didn't even register a hit on Wyoming's signal caller.


3rd star: Wyett Ekeler - Free safety

Wyett Ekeler said during fall camp that he was confident it was his time to step into a starting role.

That didn't quite happen in Illinois.

Miles Williams and Isaac White were on the field first. However, the sophomore from Windsor, Colo., made an impact in this one, registering a career-high six tackles, including four solo stops. Ekeler, the younger brother of Los Angeles Chargers running back, Austin Ekeler, also finished with a pass breakup.

Ekeler's previous high for tackles in a game was one. He's done that six times in his brief college career. He recorded six stops in 2021 with most of that damage coming on the Cowboys' special teams unit.

Ekeler was UW's leading tackler out of the secondary against the Illini.


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