Chris McNeill’s University of Wyoming teammates and coaches describe him as clutch and consistent.
Unfortunately, they will play their final football game in 2012 without him.
The senior receiver won’t play in the Cowboys’ regular season finale Saturday at home against San Diego State because of a knee injury.
He sustained it in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s 28-23 win at UNLV. He landed on the turf awkwardly after a catch.
McNeill leads UW with 63 catches for 722 yards, and he is tied for second with five touchdowns. He has caught at least five passes in nine of 11 games this season, including four straight with six or more.
“It’s definitely a tough circumstance,” McNeill said Monday during UW’s interview session with players and coaches.
“At the same time, you want to look back on all the great things I did accomplish with this team. It’s not the end of the season that we wanted, but we still have one more Saturday left to go out to try to execute the best we can.”
UW (4-7 overall, 3-4 Mountain West) has won three straight and will try to spoil San Diego State’s (8-3, 6-1) bid for a conference title.
The Aztecs have won six straight.
McNeill ends his career with 150 catches, one shy of a tie for 10th place on UW’s all-time receptions list. He was a Second Team All-Mountain West pick last season despite missing the last four games with an arm injury.
McNeill has played since he was a true freshman in 2009. He was part of bowl teams in 2009 and 2011 and never lost to Border War rival Colorado State.
McNeill said he is proud to be a part of those teams and also to be the lone senior and leader of a receiving corps this season.
“Hopefully I did enough here to continue that legacy in years to come,” he said.
One UW receiver hopes to pick that up right away.
“Everybody has to step up,” said junior receiver Robert Herron, who has 21 catches for team-best 470 yards and six touchdowns.
“But me, personally, since I’m going to be a senior next year, I have to try to step up more than anybody to take that leadership role and carry it into next season.”
Most of McNeill’s 105 catches the last two seasons came from sophomore Brett Smith. The quarterback said he will miss more than the fact McNeill emerged as one of his favorite targets.
“I was bummed when I found out because of the kind of guy he has been to me since I first got here,” said Smith, whose locker is next to McNeill’s.
True freshman running back Shaun Wick and safety Luke Ruff and linebacker Oliver Schober, both seniors, are out.
Wick was hurt against UNLV and didn’t return. Ruff suffered a shoulder stinger in the Oct. 6 game at Nevada and hasn’t played since.
Players of the week
Smith and junior cornerback Marqueston Huff were named MW Players of the Week Monday.
Smith won the Offensive Player of the Week honor for the fifth time. Huff won the defensive honor for the first time and shared it with Nevada linebacker Albert Rosette.
Smith threw for a personal best 412 yards with three TD passes at UNLV. That ranked as the ninth-best single-game effort in school history and made him only the seventh player to pass for over 400 yards in a single game.
Huff registered seven tackles (three solo) and a forced fumble. His forced fumble came on a UNLV fake field goal attempt midway through the third quarter with UW holding a 28-10 lead.
As Rebels quarterback Caleb Herring made a sideline dash from 25 yards out, Huff knocked the ball from out at the 1-yard line, sending it through the end zone for a touchback.
Coach Dave Christensen said the officials missed a couple of calls on the fake field goal attempt on which Huff forced the fumble.
“We had two guys not held but tackled at the point of attack,” he said.
Defensive coordinator Chris Tormey has surfaced as a potential candidate for the head coaching job at Idaho.
Tormey didn’t say much about it Monday.
“We’re just focused on San Diego State this week,” he said. “We’re 3-0 in November and trying to go 4-0. That’s where our focus will be.”
Christensen said he hasn’t been contacted by Idaho about Tormey. After the UNLV game he said he hopes Tormey gets the job as that would mean a step up for one of his staff.
Tormey was a linebacker at Idaho in the 1970s, an assistant in the 1980s and the head coach from 1995-99 when he went 33-23 and guided the Vandals to their first-ever bowl – a 42-35 win over Southern Mississippi in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
COWBOYS GAME DAY
Game: San Diego State (8-3 overall, 6-1 Mountain West) at Wyoming (4-7, 3-4)
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, Laramie
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie; KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne;
Tickets: www.gowyo.com; UW Athletics Ticket Office 877-966-3261.