A furious comeback by the Cowboys fell short in a 24-21 loss to BYU in the Twelfth Annual Poinsettia Bowl in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. on Wednesday evening. In a rain soaked game that was Wyoming’s first game on natural grass since last season, UW battled back to within three points at 24-21 with under two-minutes remaining after trailing 24-7. UW falls to 6-18 in their 14 Bowl appearances.
“We got more rhythm offensively in the second half of the game,” UW head coach Craig Bohl said. “They have a big strong running back with a big offensive line making us really have to scrap defensively. We had an opportunity to win the game late, but came up short. We had a great belief we could win the ball game, but we just ran out of time.”
Wyoming recorded 373 yards of total offense on the night with BYU recording 313. UW recorded 254 yards of offense in the second half, while only allowing 167 yards in the second stanza. BYU rushed for 216 yards on the evening with Jamaal Williams accounting for 210 of those yards.
Junior running back Brian Hill rushed for 93 yards on 26 carries. He finished the season with 1,860 yards. He now has 4,287 yards in his career at UW. He also has 35 career touchdowns after scoring Wyoming’s first touchdown. He stands all alone in career rushing touchdowns at UW.
Senior Tanner Gentry grabbed seven catches for 113 yards. It was his 10th career game with over 100 yards receiving and his seventh this season. He finishes his career 2,815 yards ranking fifth all-time at UW. Gentry also grabbed two touchdowns. He has 20 touchdowns for his career tying for fourth all-time with former teammate Robert Herron.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen was 17-of-32 passing for 207 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He tied Josh Wallwork for the season record for touchdowns responsible for with 35 this season.
Defensively, Sophomore Antonio Hull and redshirt freshmen Logan Wilson and Youhanna Ghaifan tied for the team lead with six tackles. Senior Logan Wilson finished with four tackles. He had 344 career tackles passing Ward Dobbs for seventh in career tackles at Wyoming.
The Cougars got the first break of the contest on a miss handled snap by UW punter Ethan Wood, which resulted in a first and goal for the Cougars near the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Tanner Mangum capitalized on a three yard run to five the Cougars a 7-0 lead after one quarter of play.
The Pokes offense struggled in the first quarter recording only 50 yards of offense on 17 total plays. The Pokes recorded 31 of those yards on their first possession with a 28 yard reception by senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry highlighting the drive.
The Pokes got inside BYU territory after an interception and return of 20 yards by sophomore Andrew Wingard in the second quarter. The Cowboys failed to capitalize after a miss handled snap on a field goal try. The Cougars responded with a 11-play, 66 yard drive that lasted five minutes that ended in a 27-yard field goal by Rhett Almond to increase BYU’s advantage to 10-0 with 3:08 remaining in the opening half.
UW could not get on the board in the first half and went into the break trailing 10-0. It was the first time since Nov. 14 of last season against San Diego State that Wyoming was held scoreless in the first half.
The Pokes opened the second half on a mission with a 16-play, 60 yard drive that lasted a season-long 8:22. The drive was balanced with 31 rushing yards and 29 yards coming via the air attack of Allen. Sophomore Josh Harshman highlighted the drive with a fourth down reception for nine yards to the BYU 19 yard line. Hill punched in his touchdown from four yards out.
The Cougars responded with an eight play, 73-yard drive that ended with a Magnum pass to Tanner Balderree that was deflected by two Cowboy players in the back of the endzone. A 29-yard completion from Magnum to Nick Kurtz highlighted the BYU drive.
After an Allen interception that was returned to the BYU 45-yard line, the Cougars extended their lead to 24-7 on a 36-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Williams. He rushed with 46 yards rushing on the drive, as his 36-yarder was the longest of the contest for either team.
UW responded with another impressive drive that last over six minutes that featured 14 plays going 76 yards. The scoring drive ended with a nine yard touchdown pass from Allen to Gentry to cut the BYU lead to 24-14 with 7:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. Once again, another fourth down play highlighted the drive this time a 14-yard run by senior Shaun Wick to put the Pokes at the BYU 25-yard line.
After the Pokes’ defense forced a BYU punt, Allen and the Cowboy offense put together a seven-play, 81-yard scoring drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Gentry to make it a 24-21 contest with 2:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. Another clutch play by the Cowboy offense was featured this time on third down when Allen found senior Jake Maulhardt for a 22-yard reception to put UW inside the Cougars’ 30-yard line.
The Cowboys defense stepped up once again forcing a three and out by the Cougars. Sophomore defensive end Kevin Prosser recorded a sack on third down for the Cowboys, as the Pokes got the ball back with 1:44 left on their 49-yard line.
The first play of the drive, Allen found Hill on a 20-yard reception, but the following play Allen was picked off by Kai Nacua and the Cougars knelled to earn the 24-21 win.
UW finishes the season with an 8-6 record. The Wyoming offense finished the season with 503 points. It was the second most in school history. UW scored 511 points in 1988.