A fast start by the Wyoming Cowboys gave UW a 14-0 lead with only six minutes gone in the first quarter on way to a 45-22 home win over UC Davis as the Cowboys captured their third consecutive home victory. The Cowboy offensive attack featured a physical running game, accounting for 274 yards, while the UW defense held the Aggies to only 74 rushing yards and only 263 yards of total offense.
The 45 points scored by the Cowboys tied for the most in the Craig Bohl era. UC Davis’ 22 points were the fewest by a Cowboy opponent since Nevada scored 21 in a 28-21 Cowboy victory last season. Wyoming led UC Davis 35-9 at halftime. That was the most points the Pokes had scored in a half since scoring 35 in the first half of a 59-56, double-overtime victory over Hawai’i in 2013.
“We certainly got off to a good start which was important,” said Bohl. “I thought the keys to the game were our ability to control and maintain the line of scrimmage and to get our running game going. I don’t know what UC Davis’ rushing yardage was, but we had them in second down and long a lot. We knew their quarterback was a good player, but felt we could be disruptive enough on the defensive side. They have some good athletes so it was a good win for us.”
Wyoming won the opening toss and chose to receive. With their opening possession, the Pokes drove 75 yards in 10 plays, including 33 yards rushing by Brian Hill and 16 by Shaun Wick. The Cowboys scored their first touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Josh Allen to Tanner Gentry to cap off the drive.
The Cowboy defense then came up with a big turnover on UC Davis’ first possession of the game. Cornerback Rico Gafford picked off UC Davis quarterback Ben Scott and returned the interception 32 yards to the Aggies’ three-yard line. One play later, Hill scored on a three-yard run and the Cowboys had a 14-0 lead.
“Defensively, I thought we did a good job today,” said Bohl. “You don’t like to give up any points but we seemed to answer back when they did score. We’ve got more maturity up front, still young, but we’re playing with good technique. The linebackers did a nice job in the system today.”
After both teams went three-and-out on their next possessions, the Aggies put together a 13-play, 57-yard drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by Matt Blair to make the score 14-3 in favor of the Cowboys at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with UC Davis defensive end Zak Pettit knocking the ball loose from Wyoming’s Allen at UW’s 21-yard line. Aggie free safety Keleen Culberson picked up the fumble and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was missed by Blair and the score had been narrowed to 14-9.
It didn’t take long for the Pokes to answer. Hill had carries of four and 16 yards on the first two plays of UW’s next possession before breaking a 59-yard TD run on the fourth play of the drive, putting Wyoming up 21-9 following the successful PAT by place-kicker Cooper Rothe.
Hill would end the day with 207 yards rushing and two TD runs. It was the sixth 200-yard rushing game of his career, and his 13th 100-yard game. Hill began the day fifth on Wyoming’s career rushing list and ended the day third. He now has 2,808 career rushing yards. Hill passed former Cowboys Marques Brigham (2,605 yards from 1995-98) and Wynel Seldon (2,672 yards from 2005-08).
“Brian (Hill) is effective on the perimeter as a runner,” said Bohl. “The offensive line did a great job with the three down front of UC Davis and got matched up, got good movement and opened lanes to run.”
Wyoming’s final two scores of the first half came on big pass plays by Allen. He connected with wide receiver Jake Maulhardt on a 39-yard TD with 6:56 remaining in the second quarter. Then with only 25 seconds remaining in the half, Allen hit freshman C.J. Johnson on a 37-yard touchdown pass. It was Johnson’s first career touchdown reception.
Allen would end the day completing 11 of 15 pass attempts (73.3 percent) for 198 yards, three TD passes and no interceptions. He also had a three-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.
“It was big for Josh (Allen) to bounce back after fumbling the ball early,” said Bohl. “What was encouraging was I didn’t see panic with our group. I saw resolve and focus to get more points on the scoreboard. I felt like we needed to get more points because we knew UC Davis had an effective offense.”
The Cowboy defense was led by cornerback Antonio Hull, who had eight tackles and 1.0 tackle for a loss. He was joined by strong safety Marcus Epps, who had seven tackles and forced a fumble, and free safety Andrew Wingard, who was credited with six tackles. Linebacker Logan Wilson added five tackles, and defensive end Carl Granderson had four tackles, including one forced fumble and 1.0 sack. Granderson has recorded one sack in each of Wyoming’s first three games this season, making him the first Cowboy to accomplish that since linebacker Brian Brown back in 1997 and the first Cowboy defensive lineman since Jeff Knapton back in 1986.
A key to Wyoming’s victory on Saturday was limiting big plays by the Aggies. Wyoming’s defense allowed a total of only six plays of 10 or more yards in the game -- one running play and five pass plays of 10 yards or more. Meanwhile, the Cowboy offense recorded 16 plays of 10 or more yards -- 10 running plays and six pass plays.
The Aggies scored their second-half points on two touchdown passes. The first one was thrown by starting quarterback Scott, who hit wide receiver Keelan Doss on a 25-yard TD pass in the front corner of the end zone in the third quarter to narrow the score to 35-15.
Cowboy quarterback Allen’s three-yard TD run in the third quarter combined with a Wyoming field goal from Rothe extended the Pokes’ lead to 45-15 at the end of the third quarter.
Then with 4:12 remaining in the fourth quarter Aggie back-up quarterback Brock Dale, who came into the game for an injured Scott, connected with wide receiver Luke Williams on a three-yard touchdown toss to make the final score 45-22 in favor of Wyoming.
Wyoming will have a short week this coming week, as they will travel to Ypsilanti, Mich., to face Eastern Michigan on Friday, Sept. 23. That game is scheduled to kick off at 5:30 p.m., Mountain Time ( 6:30 p.m., Central Time). That game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.