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This week must feel a lot different for Wyatt Mazour, in his fifth year in the Nebraska program but with only 22 game appearances and just 19 career carries. What exactly is going through his mind now that he's co-No. 2 on the depth-chart? "Nothing, really. I've approached every game this year like I'm going to get a lot of reps. I haven't had a change in my focus." Veteran approach.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

LARAMIE -- He recovered a first-half fumble for Wyoming’s lone takeaway. On the first possession of the second half, with New Mexico electing to go on fourth down from Wyoming’s 29-yard line, he was the first to get to Ahmari Davis in the backfield for a loss to end the Lobos’ scoring threat.

Whenever he gets the chance, Esaias Gandy is usually around the ball.

“It’s exciting every game,” Gandy said. “You practice hard in practice, and you never know how much time you’re going to get in the games. Just being able to get in and actually make plays, it just feels good.”

That’s become a theme for Wyoming’s safeties in recent years. Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps, the most productive safety tandem the program has ever seen, ended their careers last season among the top 11 tacklers in school history. Wingard’s replacement, Alijah Halliburton, leads the team and all Mountain West safeties with 69 tackles.

Gandy doesn’t have nearly those numbers, but he’s not a starter either. But he’s starring in his most significant role on Wyoming’s defense since joining the program three years ago, and he’s earning rave reviews.

“Every time he’s out, it’s less and less that you worry about E,” defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said. “He just goes out there and gets it done.”

Gandy has 14 tackles on the season, which doesn’t sound like a lot until context is attached to it. Buried on the depth chart behind Wingard, Halliburton and sophomore Miles Williams at strong safety, he had 12 tackles for his entire career entering this season, spending the majority of his first two years in the program as a contributor on special teams.

But Gandy is experiencing the most significant playing time of his career this fall, and it’s not just because of the attrition at the position. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder has always had the physical ability, but Gandy has grown more comfortable with the Cowboys’ defense, one that hasn’t changed much from the 4-2-5 base look Wyoming ran the previous two seasons under Scottie Hazelton. With that comes less thinking and more confidence in his assignments.

“I think I know the plays very well, so I’m just able to react,” Gandy said. “(The coaches) just put me in the right position to make plays, so I make it.”

By the time the spring was over, Gandy had earned his spot as Halliburton’s backup on the depth chart -- the first in his career he had appeared on Wyoming’s two-deep. He held on to that spot all the way up to the Cowboys’ season opener against Missouri and didn’t waste any time making his presence felt.

With Missouri looking to add to its 14-3 lead early in the second quarter, quarterback Kelly Bryant tucked the ball and took off around left edge. Gandy quickly recognize it, pushed past his blocker and stuck Bryant before he could turn the corner, popping the ball free. C.J. Coldon scooped it up and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, sparking a 24-point second quarter and a 37-31 win that got the momentum going on Wyoming’s 5-2 record to this point.

Gandy also has two tackles for loss and a pair of pass breakups as the first safety off Wyoming’s bench.

“(Opposing offenses) always throw you something different each game, but if I see a formation I recognize, I can recognize what I’m about to get out of the formation just off the set.

“I know the coaches are going to put me in the right position to make plays. I just don’t try to do too much. Just try to make plays when the opportunities are there to make a play.”

With Halliburton being a senior, Wyoming will be looking for yet another replacement at strong safety after this season. Gandy may be at the forefront of that impending competition now that he’s emerging as a reliable reinforcement on the back end of Wyoming’s defense.

“I can tell you this, our confidence level is better with him,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “I talked to him about his play during fall camp because I’d noticed a difference. … He came into fall camp and he compared well (to the other safeties) during fall camp, and it was showing. Now he has an opportunity, and he’s taking advantage of his opportunity.”

Injury update

Right tackle Alonzo Velazquez is scheduled to have knee surgery Monday, Bohl said Wednesday. What that means for Velazquez’s availability for the rest of the season will be determined then.

“When (doctors) get in there, it’s either going to be a two-week, smooth-out deal or maybe eight months,” Bohl said.

Velazquez missed last week’s game against New Mexico after reinjuring his knee at San Diego State. Ryan Galovich (shoulder) practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and is in line to handle punting duties Saturday against Nevada, Bohl said.

Pro Football Weekly’s Power Rankings are updated every Tuesday during the NFL’s regular season and intended to rank teams based on their talent and performance to date. Rankings will change each week because of personnel changes, injuries and perform…

Tuesday, October 22, 2019