Oct. 30, 2011
SAN DIEGO - Big plays set the tone for the Cowboys on Saturday in San Diego, as the Pokes moved to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in Mountain West play as the Cowboys outlasted the Aztecs 30-27.
Freshman quarterback Brett Smith showed poise throughout the game, going 25-of-36 for 341 yards and two touchdowns. That was the most passing yards Wyoming has tallied through the air since Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 319 versus Southern Utah on Sept. 4, 2010.
Defensively, the Cowboys got a great effort from defensive end Gabe Knapton, who tallied six tackles and added one sack. Safety Luke Ruff had seven tackles and safety Tashaun Gipson added six tackles and one interception.
"It was just tremendous. I'm just so proud of these kids and the effort they're giving me and buying into the program," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "They're doing the things we're asking them to do and believing in each other and being accountable to each other. It's just a great victory. The bottom line is, good football teams find ways to win games."
The Aztecs struck first as QB Ryan Lindley hit tight end Gavin Escobar on a 44-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 SDSU with 10:24 remaining in the first quarter. But the Cowboys answered immediately, as QB Brett Smith scored a two-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak and evened things up at 7 with 5:10 remaining in the first quarter. The drive consisted of 13 plays and covered 91 yards and took 5 minutes, 14 seconds.
Aztec running back Ronnie Hillman then scored off a 71-yard pass from Lindley, but SDSU missed the extra point to make it 13-7 with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
But again, Wyoming had an answer with an eight-play, 80-yard drive, ending with a 26-yard TD pass from Smith to wide receiver Chris McNeill. That drive gave the Pokes a 14-13 lead.
Smith started the game 12-14 for 209 yards and one touchdown pass, and showed off his running skills again on Wyoming's third drive of the game. His second rushing TD of the day came off a zone-read keeper from 20 yards out, off an eight-play, 79-yard drive. That play made it 20-13 Wyoming with 10:55 left in the second quarter.
The Pokes had their most efficient offensive half of the year in the first half,starting out 8-8 on third- down conversions and racked up 396 yards of offense in the first half, the most yards in a half since they tallied 406 in the first versus Oklahoma State on Sept. 23, 1995. The 30 points was the most points since they put up 31 versus Utah State in the first half of a game played Oct. 11, 2003.
McNeill added more highlights for Wyoming in the first half versus the Aztecs, catching his second TD pass of the night from Smith at the 7:05 mark in the second quarter to make it 27-13 after an eight-play, 60-yard drive.
Placekicker Daniel Sullivan tacked on three more points with a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to push the margin to 30-13 Wyoming. That came after Wyoming put up a seven-play, 64-yard drive with 1:16 left in the quarter.
Wyoming was the first team to score more than 28 points against the Aztecs, achieving that mark in the first half alone. The Cowboys also put up 500 yards, 96 yards than the SDSU season average of allowing 404 per game.
Punter Austin McCoy hit a 42-yard punt and DeAndre Jones downed it at the Aztec 1-yard line, but the Aztecs fought back after Hillman scored on a 99-yard run to make it 30-20 with 13:08 to go in the third quarter.
Senior safety Tashaun Gipson picked off a Lindley pass in the third quarter, giving him seven for his Wyoming career. That is tied for ninth in Cowboy history.
Hillman followed up a Wyoming three-and-out with his third touchdown of the day, punching in from three yards out with 1 minute left on the clock in the third quarter. That score made it 30-27 Wyoming, which proved to be the final margin.
San Diego State kicker Abelardo Perez missed a 27-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining in the game, hitting it wide left. He also missed a 39-yard attempt earlier in the fourth quarter.