BREAKING: Wyoming will face Ohio in Arizona Bowl
LARAMIE -- For the fifth time in the Craig Bohl era, Wyoming is heading to the postseason.
For the second time in four seasons, the Cowboys will travel to the desert where they will take on the Ohio Bobcats in the Arizona Bowl. The game will take place Dec. 30 in Tucson and kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
The contest is not televised but will be streamed on the platforms of game sponsor, Barstool Sports.
"You know what, a bowl, first of all, is a reward for a really successful season," Bohl said during his postgame press conference after the season finale in Fresno. "So we need to be mindful that this is a reward for our players so you have a mix of moving the football team forward. You can have some experienced players get some repetition, but a lot of younger players gain a lot of practice time. And then, to play well. But we need to take advantage of the opportunities."
These two programs have met twice before with the Cowboys holding a 2-0 advantage in the series. The last meeting came in 2008 when UW escaped with a 21-20 victory over Frank Solich's Bobcats in Laramie. A year prior, the Pokes pulled off another one-point win in Athens.
Wyoming (7-5, 5-3) exceeded expectations in 2022 after being selected fifth in the Mountain Division of the conference during the preseason. Featuring the third-youngest roster in the FBS -- and losing double-digit players in the offseason to the NCAA Transfer Portal -- the Cowboys bounced back from a lopsided zero-week loss at Illinois, winning three straight in Laramie, including a 17-14 victory over Front Range foe, Air Force.
Relying on a power running game and a stingy defense, the program's trademark throughout Bohl's nine seasons on the high plains, UW rattled off a four-game winning streak down the stretch that included three road victories over New Mexico, Hawaii and Border War rival, Colorado State.
The young Cowboys stumbled in the final two weeks of the season, dropping a 20-17 heartbreaker to Boise State inside War Memorial Stadium. A win would've vaulted UW to the top of the division standings with one game remaining on the schedule. A last-second interception in the end zone dashed those title hopes.
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The Cowboys closed out the season with a 30-0 blanking at the hands of Fresno State, the eventual Mountain West champions.
"I'm excited for this bowl game," UW's junior quarterback Andrew Peasley said after the loss to the Bulldogs. "I think we need to finish strong on the season. Winning a bowl game is very important for momentum, as a team."
Bohl announced last week that the team's leading rusher, Titus Swen, has been dismissed from the program. The junior from Fort Worth eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in that loss to the Bulldogs. He capped the season with eight touchdowns.
Ohio (9-4, 7-1) did play in its conference title game Saturday in Detroit, falling to Toledo 17-7 in the MAC Championship game inside Ford Field.
Tim Albin's squad lost three of its first four games after an opening day win over Florida Atlantic. That included a pair of lopsided setbacks against Power-5 foes Penn State and Iowa State. The Bobcats also dropped their conference opener at Kent State.
The losing halted right there. Ohio reeled off seven straight victories to close out the regular season.
Led by Kurtis Rourke, the 'Cats offense averaged nearly 38 points per game during that streak. The junior quarterback led the MAC with 3,256 yards this fall to go along with 25 touchdowns. Rourke was picked off just four times.
Freshman running back Sieh Bangura rushed for 940 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and the Bobcats feature four wideouts with at least 500 receiving yards to their credit, led by senior Sam Wiglusz, who snagged a team-best 69 passes for 850 yards and 11 scores.
Wyoming is 9-8 all-time in the postseason and has won three straight bowls, dating back to the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Bohl has a 3-1 record in bowl games, his lone loss coming against rival BYU in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl. The Cowboys are 2-0 in the postseason against MAC programs, both wins coming in Boise against Central Michigan (2017) and Kent State (2021).
The other victory came against Georgia State in the 2019 Arizona Bowl.
Levi Williams, making his first-career start under center, tossed three touchdowns and running back Xazavian Valladay gashed the Panthers for 204 yards and a score in a 38-17 rout inside Arizona Stadium. Valladay was named the Offensive MVP. Safety Alijah Halliburton, the game's Defensive MVP, racked up a team-high 11 tackles, including one for loss, and picked off a pass in the win.
There are currently 26 players who were on the roster in 2019.
UW Athletics Director Tom Burman, Bohl and select players will meet with the media Monday to discuss the Cowboys' 18th bowl invite in program history.