Laramie, Wyo. (Nov. 19, 2016) -- In a season of spectacular finishes for the Wyoming Cowboys, Saturday night’s win over No. 24 ranked San Diego State was one for the record books. It ended a perfect 6-0 regular season at home for the Cowboys for the first time since 1996. The win was Wyoming’s second over a Top 25 ranked team in 2016, marking the first time the Cowboys had defeated two Top 25 teams in the same season since 1999. The Cowboys improved their record to 8-3 and 6-1 in the Mountain West Conference to maintain a tie for first place in the Mountain Division. For the Aztecs, it was their first conference loss of the season. Their record now stands at 9-2, 6-1 in the MW.
Wyoming did not lead in the game until taking a 34-27 lead with only 1:07 remaining in the game on a 29-yard touchdown pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen to redshirt freshman wide receiver C.J. Johnson. It was a meticulous drive by the Pokes, going 85 yards in 15 plays and taking six minutes and 14 seconds off the clock.
On the following kickoff, it appeared the Cowboys would benefit from the Aztecs having to go 99 yards after SDSU running back Rashaad Penny’s knee touched down on the Aztecs’ one-yard line as he received the kickoff. But San Diego State was up to the challenge, driving those 99 yards to score a touchdown on the final play of regulation when SDSU quarterback Christian Chapman connected with wide receiver Quest Truxton in the back right corner of the end zone. Truxton got his hands on the pass after it was falling to the ground after a combination of Cowboy defenders and another SDSU receiver had tipped the ball. The reception was first ruled incomplete, but after a review of the play by the officials the original call was reversed and the Aztecs were within a point of the Cowboys at 34-33.
SDSU head coach Rocky Long made the decision to go for a two-point conversion and the win. Chapman took the snap on the two-point conversion and rolled to his right. He then attempted to throw back across the field to fullback Nick Bawden who was running to the front left corner of the end zone, but sophomore cornerback Antonio Hull knocked the ball down and Wyoming captured a huge win as it continues to fight for a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game.
“Two really good competitive football teams,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl following the game. “Rocky (Long) and I are close friends, and I knew it was going to be a tough game. It certainly turned out that way. Lots of ebbs and flows to this game. I want to congratulate our players.
“(Donnel) Pumphrey is a really good player, and I think our guys did a great job of tackling and establishing the line of scrimmage. Our guys hung in there, and we had to overcome some adversity. San Diego State is an excellent football team, and we were able to come up with a big win.”
“We are 6-0 at home for a reason,” said quarterback Allen in the postgame press conference. “Crowd was amazing today, extra motivation with senior day and glad we could finish the way we did.
“First half, we were getting a feel for what they were doing. They did a lot of things we didn’t know they were going to throw out there. We got caught in a couple situations. At halftime, the coaches made adjustments to the plan, and it worked out in the second half.”
Highlights for the Cowboys included Allen completing 16 of 31 passes (51.6 percent) for 282 yards, two TDs and one interception. He added 58 rushing yards for 340 yards of total offense, marking his fourth consecutive game with 300 or more yards in total offense.
Cowboy junior running back Brian Hill wrote himself into the Wyoming record book again. With his two rushing touchdowns on the day, he improved his season total to 18 and set a new single-season school record. It broke the previous record of 16 touchdowns scored either rushing or receiving that was shared by former Cowboy wide receiver Ryan Yarbrough (1993) and former UW quarterback Randy Welniak (1988).
Hill also recorded the 19th 100-yard rushing game of his career, with 131 yards versus the Aztecs. He has now rushed for 1,548 yards this season, which ranks second only to his school record 1,631 rushing yards in 2015.
Freshman receiver Johnson not only caught what would be the winning TD pass, but he set career highs in receptions (5) and receiving yards (85).
Senior linebacker Lucas Wacha came up with a huge fumble recovery in the second half that led to a Wyoming field goal. Wacha ended the day with eight tackles, 1.0 tackle for a loss and one pass breakup. He also put the pressure on SDSU quarterback Chapman on the failed two-point conversion to end the game.
Sophomore safeties Marcus Epps and Andrew Wingard ended the game with 12 and 11 tackles each. Wingard also added 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and one pass breakup. And sophomore cornerback Hull had 10 tackles to go with his critical pass breakup on the final play of the game to give the Cowboys the win.
The game began with a bang for San Diego State as Penny returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to give SDSU a 7-0 lead with 13 seconds gone in the game.
But the Cowboys responded immediately with a nine-play, 57-yard drive of their own on their first possession. Cowboy quarterback Allen hit senior tight end Jacob Hollister on a 33-yard pass down the middle on a third and 10 and connected on a 23-yard pass from Allen to senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry taking the ball down to the SDSU 11-yard line. But the Cowboys couldn’t get the ball into the end zone, and freshman place-kicker Cooper Rothe would come in to hit a 32-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 San Diego State.
That is the way the first quarter would end, with the Aztecs holding a 7-3 lead. Wyoming’s defense held the Aztecs to only 34 yards of total offense in the first quarter -- 34 rushing and 0 passing. The Cowboys’ offense accounted for 119 total yards in the first quarter and also held the advantage in time of possession -- 9:52 to 5:08
San Diego State would extend its lead to 10-3 in the second quarter, following a 10-play, 64-yard drive with Penny making the key play on a 39-yard run. Place-kicker John Baron capped the drive with a 27-yard field goal.
With 3:55 remaining in the half the Cowboys took the ball at their own 20-yard line following an Aztec punt that went into the end zone. Hill would carry for 15 yards on first down, followed by a 27-yard pass from Allen to Johnson. A 15-yard personal foul penalty against San Diego State at the end of the play moved the ball to the Aztec 23-yard line. Later in the drive, Allen converted a fourth and one from the 14-yard line when he kept the ball for a three-yard gain. Hill finished off the drive with an 11-yard TD run to tie the game at 10-10.
It appeared that the half might end in a tie as only 1:07 remained, but Roth’s kickoff went out of bounds and the Aztecs began the drive at their own 35. Chapman would proceed to complete 4 of 7 passes for 32 yards, while running for nine yards himself. Pumphrey added a 24-yard run, and Chapman hit tight end Parker Houston for a three-yard TD pass on the final play of the half to put SDSU up 17-10 going into halftime.
The stats had become more even by halftime, with Wyoming totalling 208 yards to San Diego State’s 195. Wyoming retained its lead in time of possession -- 15:57 to 14:03.
The Cowboys took the opening kick of the second half and put together a 13-play, 70-yard drive that took 6:07 off the clock. Hill finished off the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the day, this time from one yard out and the game was tied at 17-17.
But the tie didn’t last long as San Diego State freshman running back Juwan Washington would return the kickoff 92 yards for the score. It was the first time in San Diego State history that they had scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns in the same game. It was also the first time in Wyoming school history that the Cowboys had given up two touchdowns on kickoff returns in one game.
Wyoming was unable to move the ball on its next possession and Cowboy senior punter Ethan Wood pinned the Aztecs back at their own 15-yard line. On second and eight from the 17, Pumphrey lost control of the ball following a hand off and Cowboy senior linebacker Wacha recovered the ball at the SDSU 18.
Hill gained one yard on first down, but two incomplete passes followed and Roth came in to convert a 34-yard field goal to pull UW to within four points at 24-20. That is where the score would sit going into the fourth quarter. Wyoming had built up a substantial statistical advantage at the the end of the third quarter, with 330 yards of total offense to SDSU’s 199. UW also led in time of possession -- 28:32 to 16:28.
San Diego State took its first possession of the fourth quarter 66 yards in six plays to set up a 31-yard field goal by Baron to stretch the Aztec lead to 27-20.
Now trailing by a touchdown with 10:45 remaining in the game, Wyoming took over at its own 25-yard line. After a first down rush for no gain by Hill, Allen was flushed out to his right and hit senior wide receiver Jake Maulhardt for his first reception of the game good for 45 yards. On the very next play, Allen would find Maulhardt again on the left sideline for 30 yards and a touchdown, tying the game at 27-27.
The Cowboy defense allowed only 20 yards to San Diego State on its following possession, but a 41-yard punt by SDSU’s Tanner Blain pinned the Pokes back at the 15-yard line.
It was then that the Cowboys would put together their impressive 85-yard drive over 15 plays capped off by Allen’s 29-yard TD toss to Johnson to give them the 34-27 lead on way to the 34-33 victory.
The final stats showed the Cowboys with 487 yards of total offense to San Diego State’s 389. Wyoming finished with an decisive advantage in time of possession -- 36:43 to 23:17. Wyoming’s defense recorded 6.0 tackles for loss on the day and 4.0 sacks.
Wyoming will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., next Saturday to play the Lobos in a game set to kick off at 8:15 p.m. The game will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. The announcment of that network will be made after the conlcusion of this weekend’s games.