Nov. 17, 2012
LAS VEGAS -
Thanks to a record-breaking effort from sophomore quarterback Brett Smith and timely defensive stops, the Wyoming Cowboy football program earned its third-consecutive win Saturday as the Pokes beat UNLV, 28-23.
Smith tossed three scoring passes and racked up 412 yards through the air to power the UW offense. Smith's passing yardage, a career high, was No. 9 in Wyoming single-game history, and it marked just the 11th time a UW quarterback tallied 400-plus yards through the air in a single game.
The Pokes (4-7 overall, 3-4 Mountain West) began the game on a tear, as Smith led UW on an eight-play, 71-yard drive and junior running back Brandon Miller capped it off with a 1-yard TD plunge to put Wyoming up 7-0 with 11 minutes to go in the first quarter.
But the Rebels (2-10 overall, 2-5 MW) turned the momentum quickly after Wyoming had driven to the UNLV 23 on its next possession. A 40-yard UW field goal attempt was blocked and the Rebels returned it 53 yards for the score to make it 7-7 with 6:18 to go in the first quarter. It was the first time an opponent has returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown since 1999.
UW shook off that mistake to drive 73 yards in nine plays and Smith found junior H-back J.J. Quinlan from five yards out for the score. Quinlan's first career catch and TD made it 14-7 Wyoming with 2:10 to go in the first period.
The Rebels wouldn't go away, however, and added a 36-yard field goal to make it 14-10 with 6:28 to go in the half.
But the ever-efficient Smith once again led the Pokes on a nice drive, aided by a career-long 43-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Trey Norman. Smith capped it off with a 33-yard toss to a wide-open Chris McNeill, and the senior wide receiver did the rest for the score to make it 21-10 Wyoming. UNLV answered with a 3-yard TD pass to cut the margin to 21-17 with just one minute remaining in the half.
But the McNeill-Smith duo struck again at the end of the second quarter, as the Cowboys drove 75 yards in just 42 seconds and Smith executed a 4-yard jump pass to McNeill for the TD. UW headed into the locker room with a 28-17 lead.
UNLV threatened halfway through the third quarter, but an apparent Rebel TD was overturned by the officials when they determined UW junior cornerback Marqueston Huff stripped the Rebel runner at the Wyoming 1-yard line before he crossed the goal line. The fumble went out of the back of the endzone for a touchback, and Wyoming took over possession at their 20.
The teams traded punts for much of the third quarter and to begin the fourth. But UNLV made it interesting when they scored a touchdown with 5:38 remaining in the quarter. The Rebels failed on the ensuing two-point conversion, and after a Wyoming punt, drove to the Wyoming 32 before the Poke defense stopped them on a 4th-and-11. A 66-yard scamper to the UNLV 2 from Miller ended the game as Wyoming was able to kneel out the clock.
Wyoming will end the season Saturday when the Pokes host San Diego State (8-3 overall, 6-1 MW) at War Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. MT.