The 2016 season opener for the Wyoming Cowboys resulted in one of the most memorable victories in the history of Cowboy Football. In triple overtime, the Pokes captured a 40-34 triple overtime home win over Northern Illinois to kick off the 120th season of Wyoming Football.
In the third overtime the Cowboy defense held the Huskies on their final series of the contest. During the Cowboys' final possession on a third and four from the seven-yard line, UW sophomore quarterback Josh Allen scrambled out of the pocket and after avoiding several defenders dived into the end zone for the winning touchdown giving the Pokes' a 40-34 victory. Allen ended the night with 315 yards of total offense, with two touchdown passes and his game-winning rushing TD.
The game was the longest in school history at 4 hours and 14 minutes. It eclipsed a 53-45 triple overtime Wyoming victory over UNLV on Nov. 6, 2004 in Las Vegas. That 2004 win lasted 4 hours and three minutes.
Thunderstorms forced a one hour and 43-minute delay prior to the opening kickoff against Northern Illinois. The game was originally scheduled to kick off at 8:37 p.m., but was delayed until 10:20 p.m., which made it the latest kickoff in Wyoming Football history. The game ended at 2:34 a.m., making it the latest finish to a game in Cowboy history.
But in spite of all the circumstances surrounding the night, it was the play of the Cowboys in all three facets of the game that made it a memorable night for Cowboy fans, players and coaches alike.
In addition to Allen’s outstanding performance, junior running back Brian Hill rushed for 125 yards on 33 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a five-yard TD run in the second overtime. Senior wide receivers Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt each had 100-yard receiving games. Gentry caught eight passes for 104 yards and one TD. Maulhardt had five receptions for 106 yards.
Defensively, sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard led the way with 12 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Logan Wilson and senior linebacker D.J. May each finished with nine tackles. Wilson also had an important fumble recovery in the first overtime when NIU quarterback Drew Hare fumbled on the two-yard line.
“It was a phenomenal win,” said Bohl. “Northern Illinois is a good football team and a good program. We saw a lot of positives coming and certainly felt like we were going to be more competitive, but that next step to winning is something you can’t x and o it comes down to character. I believe we have some good character and I’m happy for our kids.
“I’ve never been a part of a game with so many plays and three overtimes, along with the final play on the bootleg by Josh (Allen). There were a lot of great plays in the game so it was a excellent win for our program.
“We really believe in being a physical team, being able to run the football and play good defense. I thought there was a lot of speed and athleticism out there. We have steps to go, but we’re starting to see the stamp of the program we want to have.”
When Allen was asked about the final scoring play after the game, he said, “It was one of our run action plays. Coach told me to be smart about it, and I probably should have thrown it away. I looked back and our guys were there. I trusted them, cut it back, made a guy miss, found a hole and dived in -- felt great.
“The game slowed down for me as it went on. I came out a little nervous, eager to play, calmed down after halftime.”
Neither team scored in the
first overtime. Both teams scored a touchdown in the second overtime. In the third overtime, the Cowboy defense came up with a big stop of the Huskies offense on their final possession. Allen sealed the with his touchdown scamper.
The victory gave the Pokes its second consecutive win, as they won the final game of the 2015 season at home over UNLV. Wyoming also broke a five-game losing streak against non-conference opponents.
Wyoming’s offense displayed the kind of ball-control that Bohl and his staff have been striving for. The Cowboys possessed the ball 35 minutes and 39 seconds to the Huskies 24 minutes and 21 seconds.
The Cowboy defense was also effective at holding the Huskies on critical third-down situations, allowing NIU to convert only 5 of 18 (27.8 percent) third-down attempts.
Wyoming did not commit a single turnover on the night, and did not allow a sack.
On special teams, true freshman place-kicker Cooper Rothe converted the first two field goals of his career, hitting a 35-yarder in the first quarter and a 39-yard attempt in the second quarter. He was also a perfect 4 of 4 in point after touchdowns. It appeared Rothe had made the game-winning field goal at the end of regulation when he hit from 48 yards out, but Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey was granted a timeout just as Rothe attempted his kick. Rothe’s second attempt after the timeout went wide right. In the first overtime, Rothe also had a chance to hit the game winner, but his 37-yard attempt narrowly missed left.
In addition to the excellent special teams play, the Cowboys had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by D.J. May called back due to a holding penalty, and an 83-yard punt return for a TD by Austin Conway called back on a block in the back.
Wyoming’s 40 points were the second most scored during the Bohl era -- second behind a 45-point total in a 45-17 win over Fresno State in 2014.
The Cowboys will travel to Lincoln, Neb., next Saturday to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a game that will kick off at 10 a.m., Mountain Time (11 a.m., Central Time). That game will be televised on ESPN2.