LARAMIE -- The approach. The swing. The fist pump.

John Hoyland calmly stepped into a chip-shot field goal at the buzzer, sailing the ball through the uprights as time expired in the desert. The 24-yard kick capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive and vaulted Wyoming to a 16-15 victory over Toledo in the Arizona Bowl.

"We still believe in John."

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That was the constant message throughout the season as the former All-American placekicker struggled to find consistency, especially from long distance. His teammates often appeared to take offense to questions about the junior's unexpected woes. Coaches were no different.

The joyous postgame celebration served as a visual validation.

"It was cool," he said with a shy smile. "It was definitely a weird feeling being on my teammates' shoulders. It's the kind of experience every kicker wants to live through one way or another. Sending out coach (Craig) Bohl in that way -- the last play being a game-winning field goal -- was awesome. It was a great moment for our team."



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The Broomfield, Colo., product was named the Most Valuable Player that night in Tucson. He went 3-for-3, including drilling a 52-yarder in the second quarter.

"I love all of these guys, man," Hoyland said from the podium. "They're everything to me."

Fast forward 99 days and those feelings haven't wavered.

Hoyland admitted the disappointment of the regular season weighed on him at times. He missed seven attempts, including 7-of-9 tries. He went 0-2 in a crucial game at Air Force. With first place in the Mountain West on the line, Hoyland failed from 45 and 52 yards out. Trey Taylor broke through the line and batted down an extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter. That could've given the Cowboys a 1-point advantage with just over 11 minutes to go.

Seven points were left on the field that night inside Falcon Stadium. The visitors lost by seven.

Most of Hoyland's misses jetted to the right.

All of them came from at least 40 yards out.

That's just part of the reason Jay Sawvel scoffed when he was asked last week if his kicker's confidence has returned.

"It's unfair to John a little bit, and maybe that would be something that would be a little bit different from me than coach Bohl -- I mean, we trotted John out there for something like six or seven 55-yard field goals," Wyoming's rookie head coach said with a slight shake of the head. "You can say, 'Is he back on track?' Just because he didn't make the 55-yard field goals sometimes we kind of thought he got off track.

"He missed one against Fresno. It hit off the upright, I think, in the fourth quarter that could have put us up eight. That was still like a 48-or-49-yard field goal. I mean, it wasn't like he was missing extra points or things like that. So, those are challenges."

Hoyland was 11-of-17 in his career from 40 yards or further, entering last season. He connected on 8-of-10 from that range in 2022, the same year he was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and broke the program's single-season record with 22 makes.

He was nearly automatic.

Bohl, who also personally coached Hoyland, often referred to him as one of the game's greatest weapons. He used him accordingly.

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"There's probably been a few of those times when it's like 4th-and-2 at the 38 that I'm sitting there going -- go for this," he said. "So, that may be a little bit different that way. We'll kind of see how many times we trot him out there for 55 yarders."

Wyoming attempted just nine fourth-down conversions last fall. Only Alabama also failed to reach double figures in that category.

Sawvel has taken over as Hoyland's coach this spring. He joked that he has enough special teams experience to be "dangerous." He added the senior "self guides" through practice and watches film.

Hoyland said he's dialed back the number of kicks in the offseason. His weight-lifting routine has been altered, too. It's all about staying "fresh" during the dog days of the season, he added.

"I think it will be huge," Hoyland said of his training alterations. "Just how we approach the game will be big. It's been great and he's listening to those things and making adjustments as we go. So, he's given me a lot of control on how I approach the season."



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One thing Hoyland said will remain a constant is the faith that's inside this locker room. Those words of encouragement, both privately and publicly, helped him overcome a rough stretch.

He said that won't soon be forgotten.

"It's very important to have that support system," Hoyland said. "I felt nothing but love throughout the course of the season from my teammates. My own biggest critic is myself and I'm always hard on myself. I want to go out there and make every kick.

"So, when I'm not able to do that, having people come up to me and say, 'Hey, we still got your back and we still trust you to go out there and make the next kick,' that's pretty much everything."

University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

During the summer of 2021, counted down the Top 50 football players in University of Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.

The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.

This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining 7220's Cody Tucker are Robert GagliardiJared NewlandRyan Thorburn, and Kevin McKinney.

We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is fairer.

Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter: @7220sports - #Top50UWFB

Gallery Credit:

- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

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