LARAMIE, Wyo. — Avante’ Cox’s first touch as a college player could’ve used a little more grip.

The Wyoming true freshman receiver took a carry for 9 yards on the Cowboys’ second drive Saturday in Iowa, but he fumbled on the play. Lucky for him, a teammate recovered the ball.

“I was like, ‘They don’t trust me anymore. I’m not getting back in,'” Cox said. “That’s the first thing I thought of.”

He did get back in and gained 14 yards on a catch, as well.

With serious turnover in the receiving corps, the Cowboys are going to have to trust Cox this year — and not just him. Sophomore John Okwoli also picked up his first four career catches in the game, and redshirt freshman Dontae Crow, of Sheridan, had his first career target.

“They fared well,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “As a group, we’ve still got to continue to keep getting better, but I was very happy for them. … But there were still some plays left out there that we need to make. I have no doubt that they’re plays that we can make and will make. Just unfortunate to play a good team like Iowa and not come out and execute like we hoped to do.”

Sophomore Austin Conway led Wyoming with seven receptions for 47 yards. Last season, he had 11 catches for 103 yards all year. Conway, Okwoli, Cox and C.J. Johnson were the four Wyoming wide receivers to record a catch in the 24-3 loss. Wyoming’s two leading receivers last year were seniors — as was their top tight end, for that matter — and junior James Price missed the game with a collarbone break.

“I think they were just average,” wide receivers coach Mike Grant told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2xdNqpM). “I really do believe that we can be better. It’s a good thing that there’s room for improvement. We got a chance to see some guys take their first run and then make their first catch. Especially in a big environment like that. So, kind of shake off the kinks and move on, move forward.”

The Cowboys’ passing game approach against Iowa involved a majority of throws to the sidelines, a contrast to the Pokes’ vertical-first mindset in 2016. Okwoli’s 23-yard reception was Wyoming’s only play of more than 20 yards.

“I think it’s more of a game-by-game, take what the defense gives us (approach),” Grant said. “We’re always prepared that if it becomes a vertical game, we want to be involved in it. If it’s outside, we want to dominate the perimeter, whichever way it comes. Toss sweeps, speed reverse, whatever. We have to be involved in it, which makes us have to be multi-versatile as a receiving corps.”

The Cowboys had just 174 receiving yards in total.

“It was frustrating to watch and play (in),” Cox said, “but as the season goes on, I believe we’re going to get a lot better.”

Conway played the role of a much more traditional receiver after being primarily a ground threat as a freshman speedster in 2016.

“I saw his speed and his ability to catch the ball and take a hit,” said Cox, who has similar tools to Conway. “His size, he’s really small, but he packs a big punch.”

Jared Scott is another true freshman who is expected to contribute this season, but did not play at Iowa. The 6-foot-6 receiver is considered a red zone target, and Wyoming was never in the red zone.

“I think he’s come along fine,” Grant said. “I think (him not playing) was a little bit of a combination of putting a guy in as a freshman in that environment and you see things happening. You see mistakes happening. And you’re like, ‘Well, we’d better avoid that and keep some of the veterans in until we can find our niche and find our gelling.’ So I fully expect him to play.

“I’ve got to do a better job as a coach, as well, of making sure we substitute guys and keep them fresh. As I examine my performance on Saturday, that’s one of the things I would want to do.”


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com