Nov. 5, 2011
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The University of Wyoming football team held a 20-17 lead over TCU midway through the third quarter, but the Horned Frogs scored the final 14 points of the game to earn a hard-fought 31-20 win over the Cowboys on Saturday afternoon. Some 17,673 fans at War Memorial Stadium saw the two squads battle atop the Mountain West standings, as both entered undefeated in conference play.
"I always try to look for the positive, particularly when you have a football team that cares as much as these kids do," UW head coach Dave Christensen said. "They showed up, came out and played extremely hard. A little disappointed with our run defense, but when you play great players you need to do a better job at tackling. Certainly not disappointed in the effort by the team and how important this game was to them.
The Cowboys (5-3, 2-1 MW) hung tough with TCU (7-2, 4-0 MW) in a game that featured four lead changes and two ties. The Horned Frog offense rolled up 617 yards, but the Wyoming defense forced five turnovers, including three inside its own 10-yard line, to keep the Cowboys in the game. The UW offense took advantage of the turnovers, but freshman quarterback Brett Smith was knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter and the offense sputtered down the stretch.
"It was difficult at the end when we lost our quarterback," Christensen said. "When Brett (Smith) left the game, I thought it may have knocked some wind out of our sails. The kids still came out and competed with five takeaways. We moved the ball and scored some points."
Smith went 17-of-26 for 210 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while adding four rushes for 69 yards on the ground. Sophomore Colby Kirkegaard went 5-of-10 for 37 yards in replacement. Junior wide receiver Chris McNeill had five catches for 99 yards, while junior running back Alvester Alexander added 41 rushing yards. Freshman Josh Doctson and senior Mazi Ogbonna caught Smith's two touchdown passes.
Junior safeties Luke Anderson and Luke Ruff paced the Cowboy defense with 11 tackles apiece, while senior Tashaun Gipson had 10 stops, including a tackle for loss. Senior linebacker Brian Hendricks forced two fumbles that senior defensive tackle Gabe Knapton recovered, while Anderson forced a fumble that sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff recoverd and junior defensive tackle Ben Durbin recovered a fumble as well. Freshman cornerback Blair Burns collected his third interception of the season.
On special teams, freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan went 4-of-4 on kicks on the day, including a career-long 48-yard field goal in the third quarter.
It was a tight contest through the first half with several momentum swings. TCU got on the board first with a five-yard touchdown plunge to go up 7-0 three minutes into the game. Wyoming's first drive made it into Horned Frog territory, but the Cowboys were forced to punt.
Durbin swung the momentum back UW's way, when he jumped on a Horned Frog fumble at the TCU 31-yard line. Six plays later Doctson made his first career touchdown catch, as Smith connected with him from seven yards out to tie the contest at 7-7 with 3:54 to go in the quarter.
Hendricks notched a sack and pass break-up to force a TCU punt on the ensuing drive, and UW responded with a field goal to take a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. The six-play, 74-yard drive included a career-long 61-yard rush by Smith that took UW deep into TCU territory. Sullivan's 33-yard field goal tied his career long.
TCU responded with a touchdown of its own early in the second quarter to retake the lead at 14-10, and added a 35-yard field goal midway through the period to extend the advantage to a touchdown.
Smith went to the air on UW's next drive to tie the game again at 17-17. Smith was 6-of-8 on the 10-play, 80-yard drive, including a 30-yard strike to McNeill that brought the Cowboys to the TCU 21. Three plays later Ogbonna snagged an 18-yard pass over two TCU defenders for his second touchdown catch of the season.
TCU had 2:24 to work with and drove to UW's one-yard line, but Burns made his third pick of the season at the goalline to end the threat.
Smith went 11-of-17 for 94 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the first half, while adding two rushes for 69 yards. McNeill had four catches for 41 yards. TCU had a 280-206 advantage in total yards.
Wyoming opened the scoring for the second half, with a career-long field goal from Sullivan. He connected from 48 yards out, a full 15 yards further than his previous career high, to put UW up 20-17 three minutes into the second half.
Once again, TCU drove deep into UW territory, but couldn't finish its drive. Hendricks forced a fumble at the six yard-line and Knapton recovered it in the endzone for a touchback. UW advanced to the TCU 45, but was forced to punt and couldn't capitalize on the turnover.
The Horned Frog offense finished its next two drives to score 14 unanswered points. TCU notched a touchdown with 2:21 to go in the third for a 24-20 advantage and quickly added another with 13:20 left in the fourth to go up 31-20.
The Cowboy defense forced turnovers on the next two TCU drives. Anderson forced a fumble that Huff recovered at the UW 45, before Hendricks forced a fumble and Knapton recovered it at the UW seven. The two turnovers brought TCU's total to five on the day, including three inside the UW 10-yard line. The UW offense couldn't convert either turnover to points, though.
Wyoming returns to the field at Air Force on Saturday, Nov. 12. The game will kickoff at noon MT and will be televised by The Mtn.