HONOLULU, Hawai'i -
Senior wide receiver Jalen Claiborne had a career-best 121 receiving yards and a touchdown, but the University of Wyoming football team dropped a 38-28 road contest Saturday to Hawai'i.
Wyoming (3-3 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) held a 28-17 lead with 2:02 left in the third quarter, but allowed Hawai'i to reel off 21-unanswered points. With the loss, UW gave up possession of the Paniolo, the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of the game.
The Pokes posted a season high in points and forced three turnovers, leading to 14 points. But the UW defense surrendered 513 yards and four second-half touchdowns.
Cowboy senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard threw for two scores and 221 yards, but tossed two second-half interceptions. Junior running back Shaun Wick ran for 121 yards and a score. Defensively, senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha led the charge with 12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Early fireworks were provided by the UW offense and defense. The Pokes forced a quick three-and-out on the game's first possession, and after a UH punt, assumed control at the UW 29. Wick tallied runs of 2, 29 and 20 yards on the UW opening drive, capping the five-play, 71-yard march with a 20-yard score in which he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and rumbled in for the 7-0 lead. Later in the first quarter, Hawai'i drove to the UW 16, but Nzeocha forced a fumble after sacking UH quarterback Taylor Graham at the 22. Senior linebacker Devyn Harris scooped up the loose ball and ran 78 yards for the 14-0 lead.
The Rainbow Warriors tacked on a field goal in the first quarter, but UW left the first stanza leading 14-3. The second quarter began with a Hawai'i 16-yard TD pass, and the Pokes clung to a 14-10 margin with 12:33 left in the half. The Cowboys went into halftime leading 21-10 after Kirkegaard found Claiborne open in the middle of the field for a 42-yard TD with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
But Hawai'i stormed back in the second half, starting with a six-play, 81-yard scoring effort to cut the deficit to 21-17. Shortly after, Hawai'i was driving with 7:28 to go in the third quarter, but freshman cornerback Robert Priester stymied the threat when he forced a fumble that Nzeocha recovered at the UH 43.
The third fumble recovery of the evening for the UW defense came at the 7:28 mark in the third quarter, and Wyoming capitalized. On the ensuing drive, redshirt sophomore D.J. May caught a screen pass and strolled in from 17 yards out, making the score 28-17 Wyoming with 2:02 left in the third quarter.
The Rainbow Warriors stormed back with a 53-yard toss to end the third quarter to make it 28-24. With 13:27 left in the game, Kirkegaard was picked off at midfield by Hawai'i. UH tacked on a 40-yard TD pass with 11:36 left in the game to lead 31-28, and scored once more to seal it.