LARAMIE, Wyo. - It was a total-team effort for the University of Wyoming football team on Saturday, as the Cowboy hung a dominant 45-10 win over Texas State in front of 23,248 fans in War Memorial Stadium. The Bobcats scored early in the second quarter to pull within 14-10 and went into halftime down just a touchdown, but TXST wouldn't push the ball past midfield in the second half and the Cowboys rolled.
"We weren't perfect early on, but we made adjustments and once we did that we shut their offense down," Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said. "Our offense came up with big play after big play and rushed for 382 yards. Once we made adjustments in the last two series of the first half, we had guys playing their assignments and I felt really comfortable that we could shut down their run game and force them into throwing the football."
Freshman Brett Smith put forth another solid effort, as the quarterback passed for 236 yards and one touchdown on a 16-for-31 effort, while adding 73 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Junior running back Ghaali Muhammad rumbled for 123 rushing yards and sophomore Brandon Miller had 101 to go with a touchdown for both, as the duo notched their first career 100-yard efforts on the ground. Freshman wide receiver Dominic Rufran had five catches for 96 yards, and sophomore Robert Herron snagged five for 29 yards.
"We work on the offense line opening up holes for us in practice, and they work hard making those holes for us," Muhammad said. "Every time they opened up like that and the running backs were able to score, you give those guys a pat on the back because that's where it starts."
Defensively, freshman linebacker Devyn Harris led the Cowboys with seven tackles, while safety Luke Anderson, linebacker Brian Hendricks and safety Luke Ruff each had six stops. Junior defensive end Korey Jones added three sacks, with all of them coming on successive plays. The UW defense held Texas State to just 189 yards of total offense, while the Cowboy offense racked up 618 yards. Other than an interception in UW territory in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats did not move the ball past midfield in the second half.
"The great news is that we have a bunch of competitors on our defense," Christensen said. "They were embarrassed about the situation last weekend and everyone was disappointed. We knew they had to get better and they accepted that challenge. They practiced hard all week, came in and executed. We have to continue to get better each week and continue the progress from week to week."
Texas State got on the board first after holding Wyoming to a three-and-out on its first possession. The Bobcats crafted a 10-play, 33-yard drive that cumulated with a 35-yard field goal from Will Johnson to go up 3-0 with 9:04 to go in the first quarter.
That shook the Cowboys awake and the team responded on both sides of the ball. Smith connected with Rufran for a 49-yard gain that drove UW deep into TXST territory, before Miller pounded the ball in from one-yard out for his first career touchdown. The seven-play drive spanned 80 yards in 2:08 and gave UW the lead midway through the quarter.
The defense made plays too, as the Cowboys forced back-to-back turnovers. Senior defensive tackle Gabe Knapton tipped a Shaun Rutherford pass that freshman linebacker Mark Nzeocha snatched out of the air at the TXST 23 for his first career interception. Four plays later junior running back Alvester Alexander dove in from the one-yard line for his 23rd career touchdown and a 14-3 UW lead.
On its ensuing drive, Texas State had just crossed into Wyoming territory when defensive end Sonny Puletasi forced Bobcast quarterback Shaun Rutherford to fumble the ball and Hendricks recovered it. Smith hit junior wide receiver Chris McNeill for a 19-yard strike over the middle to drive to TXST's 15, but the Cowboys failed to convert on a fourth and two.
The Bobcats settled down and cut the gap to 14-10 early in the second quarter with an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive in 5:45 that was capped by an eight-yard touchdown run from Terrence Franks.
It was a defensive battle the rest of the half, with the squads exchanging punts. Jones dominated a Texas State drive that started at 4:45 with three-straight sacks to give UW the ball back with 2:39 to go. Smith ran the two-minute drill to near perfection again, as the Cowboys tacked on a field goal for a 17-10 lead at the break. Miller started the drive with a 34-yard gallop, before freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan capped it with a 20-yard chip shot for his first career field goal.
Smith was 9-of-20 in the half for 132 yards, while Rufran had four receptions for 87 yards. Miller and Alexander both added rushing touchdowns. As a team, UW held the Bobcats to 126 totals yards while racking up 260 themselves.
The third quarter was all Wyoming on both sides of the ball. Texas State started the second half with three-straight three and outs, and didn't cross midfield in the third quarter. Smith had a tipped pass that was intercepted by TXST's Xavier Daniels, but he bounced back through the air and on the ground on the next drive. He hit Herron for a 13-yard gain, rushed for 11 more and put an exclamation point on the drive with a 29-yard burst up the middle for the touchdown. The six-play drive spanned 62 yards in 1:34 and put UW up 24-10 midway through the third.
The Cowboy defense got the ball right back for the offense and another UW touchdown followed. Texas State committed three critical penalties on the drive, including roughing the passer and two pass inference calls. Smith hit Alexander for a 48-yard bomb to put Wyoming in the redzone and four plays later rushed in from two yards out for his second rushing touchdown of the day. The 80-yard march put UW in control, 31-10, to start the final quarter.
The route was on when the Cowboys struck quickly on their next drive to go up 38-10 with over 11 minutes left. Muhammad got the corner for a 56-yard rush and Smith capped the drive with an 18-yard pass to a wide open McNeill for the touchdown. The score was McNeill's first of the 2011 season and put UW over 500 yards of total offense on the day.
Huff added to UW's impressive defensive day with a diving interception midway through the fourth quarter, but Smith returned the favor by throwing a pick on the next play. Texas State couldn't capitalize, though, as Johnson missed a 32-yard field goal to the left.
A 50-yard touchdown scamper by Muhammad on the next drive put the icing on the cake for the Cowboys.
Wyoming returns to the field at Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, Ohio, next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. MT.