COWBOY TOUGH -- that is what Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl has been striving to build his team into during his three years as head coach of the Cowboys. Never did the words ‘Cowboy Tough’ ring truer than Saturday night when Wyoming defeated #13 ranked Boise State 30-28 in War Memorial Stadium in a come-from-behind win.
A fourth-quarter touchdown drive led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen and a safety forced by senior nose tackle Chase Appleby with 1:25 remaining in the game gave Wyoming its first win over a Top 25 ranked team since 2002 and earned the Cowboys sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division, with a 4-0 conference mark. The Pokes trailed the entire game until that fourth quarter TD and two-point conversion tied the game at 28-28, and the safety gave them their first lead.
“If a win could help define a program this one did,” said Bohl. “We have a lot of respect for Boise State and Coach (Bryan) Harsin. I want to say thanks to our fans and students. A couple of years ago, I had someone take a photo of the crowd and it was bleak, but tonight it was neat to see the students and people around the state rally around the team. A lot of great plays and effort, and coming in we knew it was going to be down to a play here or there. It shows resolve and belief with our coaches and players. A lot of hard work went in to this win and it’s victory number six.”
The Cowboys have now won four straight games to start Mountain West play. UW has also won its last five consecutive home games, and improved its overall record to 6-2 and 4-0 in the Mountain West, earning bowl eligibility.
With 10:50 remaining in the game, Boise State grabbed a 28-20 lead following a five-play, 78-yard TD drive. The Cowboys would take the ball at their own 25-yard line on the ensuing possession and began their drive with two runs of nine and two yards by junior running back Brian Hill. On a first and 10 from the Wyoming 36-yard line, Allen connected with senior tight end Jacob Hollister on a 27-yard pass taking the ball down to the Bronco 37-yard line. A three-yard run by senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry combined with two Allen pass completions of seven and nine yards to senior wideout Jake Maulhardt and sophomore tight end Josh Harshman followed. That set up a third and 13 from the Boise State 27. Allen then dropped back and fired a pass to the back of the end zone and Gentry jumped over the Bronco defender pulling in the TD pass to get the Cowboys to within two points at 28-26 with 6:42 remaining. Allen worked some more magic on the two-point conversion. He was flushed out of the pocket to his right and then threw back across the field to the middle of the end zone, hitting Maulhardt to tie the game at 28-28.
The Wyoming defense forced a three-and-out on the Broncos’ next possession, but the Cowboys were unable to move the ball themselves on their next series. It was then that Cowboy senior punter Ethan Wood hit a 42-yard punt that was downed at the Boise State 10-yard line. For Wood it was the fourth punt of the night he placed inside the Broncos 20-yard line.
Boise State took over with 1:38 remaining in the game. After an incomplete pass on first down, Bronco quarterback Brett Rypien dropped back to pass. Cowboy nose tackle Appleby came free on a defensive line stunt and hit Rypien, knocking the ball out of his hand. The ball bounced out of the back of the end zone for a safety, and Wyoming had its first lead of the game at 30-28.
Boise State would attempt an onside kick following the safety. Wide receiver Gentry recovered at the Boise State 34. Wyoming would call three running plays for Hill, with Boise State calling a time out after each of the first two runs. Hill gained seven yards on first down, two on second down and then on third and one he rushed for two yards, giving Wyoming a first down and securing the win for the Cowboys.
Bohl was asked afterward about the play that Appleby made to give Wyoming the win.
“His heart is as big as the state of Wyoming,” said Bohl. “He adds a great deal and for him to be out there all game certainly had a big impact on the defensive front.”
Earlier in the game on its final drive of the first quarter, the Cowboys failed to convert on a fourth and goal from the Boise State one after driving 74 yards in eight plays when they had an opportunity to tie the game at 7-7. It looked as if that might be a critical lost opportunity as Boise State would proceed to drive 99 yards in five plays to take a 14-0 lead. That drive included a 40-yard run by running back Jeremy McNichols and a 43-yard pass from quarterback Rypien to wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
But the Cowboys came out with a purpose on its following drive picking up first downs on a 13-yard pass from Allen to Gentry on first down followed by an 11-yard run by senior running back Shaun Wick. Following runs of nine and 23 yards by Hill, Allen found tight end Hollister on a pass across the middle for 19 yards and a touchdown to pull to within seven at 14-7.
The Broncos would score another TD in the second quarter, and Wyoming freshman place-kicker Cooper Rothe would make a career long 40-yard field goal to make the score 21-10 with 1:48 remaining in the half. It was then that Cowboy junior cornerback Rico Gafford would intercept Rypien on first down and return the interception 32 yards to the Boise State 35. Two plays later, Allen hit Hollister on a 38-yard TD pass to pull the Pokes to within four at 21-17.
Boise would mount a drive to end the half, but as time was ticking down with Boise at the Wyoming 37-yard line, sophomore defensive end Kevin Prosser sacked Rypien for eight yards. On the final play of the half, senior linebacker Lucas Wacha sacked Rypien for a second straight play and the half would end with Boise State leading 21-17.
The third quarter would see both teams’ defenses step up in a scoreless third period, before the late fourth-quarter fireworks would see the Cowboys prevail.
“We did a couple of things differently tonight,” said Bohl. “We got a couple of stops in the run game, created some long yardage plays for Boise and the interception by Rico (Gafford) was a huge play. I think we came out in the second half and the coaches made some good adjustments.
“In the first half, no one wanted to play defense and the second half both defenses did a good job. The two-point play was huge.”
On the night, Cowboy quarterback Allen posted a career best 274 yards passing. Hollister recorded a career best 144 yards receiving, and Hill rushed for 146 yards for his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Defensively, Appleby ended the night with two forced fumbles, one safety, 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss.
Wyoming will host Utah State next Saturday, Nov. 5. The Wyoming-Utah State game will kick off at 8:15 p.m., M.T., and will be televised on either ESPN2.