LARAMIE – Solomon Byrd missed the University of Wyoming’s season-opening victory over Missouri because of a high ankle sprain.
The redshirt freshman defensive end was limited during the Cowboys’ victory at Texas State, but had an assisted tackle and two quarterback hurries.
He still wasn’t completely healthy when UW hosted Idaho last Saturday, but he made his presence felt. The 6-foot-4, 243-pounder finished with five tackles (1½ for loss) and 1½ sacks during the Cowboys’ 21-16 victory over Idaho.
His solo sack late in the fourth quarter helped UW escape with a victory.
An offensive pass interference penalty had already taken a touchdown off the scoreboard and moved Idaho out of the red zone and back to UW’s 33-yard line for a third-and-24. Byrd brought the Vandals’ scoring threat to an end.
The Palmdale, California, product started the play on the right side and started his rush as soon as the ball was snapped. He paused slightly, allowing redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mario Mora to get between him and Idaho senior left tackle Sean Tulette. Byrd was engaged by Idaho sophomore left guard Matthew Faupusa as soon as he started his efforts to get to Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino.
Byrd worked to his right before blowing past Paupusa on the left. Petrino – who was already dancing around the backfield under duress – tried to avoid Byrd by scrambling to his left, but Byrd dove and swiped at Petrino’s feet to bring him to the ground for a 12-yard loss.
“(Mora) and I had a whole conversation about what we were going to do during that play,” Byrd said. “I told him to stay high because I was going to take my shot. I needed him to do his job so I could go pursue the sack.
“Javaree (Jackson) was over on the other side keeping contain, and that’s when I showed up. It worked out just about the way (Mora) and I talked about it.”
The Vandals were forced to punt, and UW took over with 3 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.
The Cowboys were able to get two first downs and run out the clock.
“That’s always difficult to do, but our offense did that,” UW coach Craig Bohl said.
Byrd was close to earning a starting spot during fall camp. The Cowboys are happy to have him back and eager to have him healthy, UW defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said.
“Getting his energy, physicality and some of the other things he brings to the table back is good,” Dickert said. “He plays with a high motor, and can do some good things for us. He can rush the passer and keep the other two guys fresh. That has been huge the past two games.”
Byrd had five tackles in three games last season, and admits he is still learning on the job.
“I am starting to get better at everything,” Byrd said. “I played three games last year, and two this year. Garrett (Crall) over there has played in a million games, so it’s nothing for him.
“For me, I’m still learning and getting used to it.”
Bohl said before Tuesday’s practice sophomore cornerback C.J. Coldon and redshirt freshman defensive end Leevi Lafaele are out for the season with upcoming surgeries scheduled for what Bohl described as injuries to “the lower extremities.”
Coldon started at cornerback the first three games of the season. He is replaced by sophomore Azizi Hearn on the depth chart. Hearn backed up senior Tyler Hall on the other side last Saturday against Idaho.
Coldon was fourth on the team in tackles with 11 solo tackles and three assisted to go with one tackle for loss, two pass breakups and a 30-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to turn the tide in UW’s favor during the season-opening game against Missouri.
Coldon missed all but two and a half games last season with a stinger that led to nerve damage from his neck down through his left arm.
Lafaele was the back up to senior Josiah Hall against Idaho. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Teagan Liufau, who has played in all three games with three solo tackles, and unassisted tackle and a tackle for loss.
Back on the field
Senior cornerback Antonio Hull was back practicing with the Cowboys. Hull missed UW’s first three games because he has been in his native California dealing with what Bohl has described as a personal issue.
Hull is currently listed as the backup cornerback to Hall.
“He’s cleared and we will see how he goes this week,” Bohl said. “(Starting) will probably be a game-time decision as we go.”
Also practicing Tuesday was sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay, who was held out of the Idaho game with a right ankle injury. Valladay is listed as the No. 1 running back, and rushed a total of 25 times for 149 yards and a touchdown against Missouri and Texas State.