‘Dynamic’ Tory Horton Poses Problems for Wyoming Secondary
LARAMIE -- Clay Millen put some oomph into that throw.
Colorado State's quarterback, with just a handful of ticks remaining in the second quarter, took the shotgun snap and stepped into a 20-plus yard strike, hitting wide receiver Tory Horton in the soft spot, right between Wyoming's cornerback and safety.
No. 14 took care of the rest.
The then-junior dodged a would-be tackle by Wyett Ekeler. Cam Stone, the man tasked with blanketing Horton, got both arms around his waist before slipping off and rolling completely out of the frame. Easton Gibbs, the Cowboys' starting middle linebacker, did a drive by, too. Horton's shifty cutback rendered him helpless.
The play began on the right side of the field. It quickly shifted to the left as the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Fresno product kicked it into another gear.
Wyoming's entire secondary began to give chase as the clock struck triple zeros. Horton, it appeared, was going to scamper into the end zone on the final play of the first half, giving the Rams a commanding 17-7 lead at the break.
Speed, they say, kills.
It also puts terrifying plays like that to rest, just like Jakorey Hawkins did right inside Wyoming's 3-yard line.
Better late than never.
"Not with me on the field," Hawkins said with a smile when asked if he thought Horton was going to score. "That can't happen. That's the last thing that can happen, especially in that time in the game and how close that game was.
"It's a game of inches and I laid it out for my team. Luckily I was in the right position at the right time."
Hawkins, a transfer from Ole Miss, was clocked running 23 mph during a game during his time in Oxford. The speedy cornerback needed every bit of that burst to haul down Horton.
"I didn't even check what my fast time was," he said. "Coach said I ran a couple of 22's or something. I still got good speed."
Wyoming would eke out a 14-13 victory that November night inside Canvas Stadium. Jayden Clemons, who was playing in place of an injured Andrew Peasley, hit the edge himself for a 14-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. He connected with wideout Alex Brown from 32 yards out in the fourth.
It was just enough.
The Cowboys, for a second consecutive season, hoisted the Bronze Boot. That was the 10th Border War win in the last 14 tries.
A visibly upset Horton was seen shouting toward the visiting bench during the postgame handshakes. Teammates had to hold him back from getting to someone. If there was a guess as to why tempers flared, it was likely a costly fumble Horton coughed up in the fourth, just before that Clemons-to-Brown connection gave the Cowboys a lead they would never relinquish.
That muff came on a punt. Wyoming safety Miles Williams gobbled up the loose change at the CSU 18-yard line.
Despite that miscue, there was little doubt who the most dynamic player was on the field in Fort Collins.
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Horton took the opening punt of the game 72 yards to the house.
Read Sunn missed the initial tackle. Ekeler again whiffed. John Michael Gylleborg was left in the dust and linebacker Connor Shay couldn't keep up. Clayton Stewart was the Cowboys last hope.
He's the punter.
Horton cruised into the end zone, giving the Rams an early 6-0 advantage.
That's not all.
The Nevada transfer hauled in a game-high eight passes for 168 yards, including that 48-yard jaunt just before the half. That's an average of 21 yards per grab.
He might be even better this year.
Four times this fall Horton finished with double-digit grabs, including a 16-catch night in a 43-35 road loss at Colorado. Three times he's eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark. His biggest night came against Utah Tech. He rolled up 227 yards and snagged three touchdowns.
Horton already has 70 catches this season for 790 yards and six scores.
Wyoming cornerbacks, beware.
Craig Bohl said don't limit it to just that position group. The entire defense and kick coverage teams need to be on high alert.
"They place him at different places. I mean, they have moved him around. He's even been in the backfield," Wyoming's head coach said of Horton. "So beyond the matchup against the corners, he's a dynamic player. Obviously, you saw how he returned a punt against us last year."
Horton suffered an unspecified injury in last week's matchup against Air Force. He appeared to "have some discomfort in his side in warmups and immediately left field after getting hit on that first catch of the game," according to Kevin Lytle of The Coloradoan.
Still, Horton hauled in five catches for 52 yards in that 30-13 loss to the Falcons.
"I don't know his status. I know he didn't finish the Air Force game," Bohl added. "... I would be shocked if he doesn't play against us. I think he'll muster up whatever ails him and be ready to go. So, we need to be ready to go."
Coming off an outing in which Wyoming gave up 216 yards through the air, including 160 on seven catches for Boise State wide receiver Eric McAlister, there is good news on the injury front for the Cowboys. Junior transfer Tyrecus Davis said Monday he has been cleared to play after suffering a partially torn MCL against Appalachian State.
They'll need him, too.
CSU has five pass catchers who have already hauled in at least 200 yards worth of passes. BYU transfer Dallin Holker sits just behind Horton on the stat sheet. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end has 48 grabs for 620 yards and six touchdowns. Justus Ross-Simmons has 32 catches for 505 yards and three scores. Louis Brown (35 catches, 334 yards, 2 TDs) and Dylan Goffney (16 catches, 210 yards, TD) also land on this list.
Luckily for Wyoming defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel, he said he doesn't sleep very well anyway.
"They've got guys that catch the ball well, can operate in space pretty well, can break tackles and can do certain things," he said. "I think the tight end has really, really good hands and has really, really good ball skills. Horton obviously is very explosive and can be used a lot of different ways, offensively. So that's a challenge from that standpoint. They've got a lot of different ways that they can spread the ball around."
Orchestrating this entire offense is a redshirt freshman, Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi. CSU's young signal caller has plenty of options down field, but it's clear his top target is still Horton.
"He's a good player, but we have something for him," Davis said with a grin. "He's a good player. He's just one of those players. He's fast. He's got sneaky speed."
Wyoming and CSU will kickoff Friday night at 6 p.m. from inside Laramie' War Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.