Pokes’ comeback bid falls short in 20-17 loss to Boise State
* University of Wyoming press release
LARAMIE -- Saturday night’s final home game of the 2022 season for Wyoming saw the Cowboys do what they’ve done throughout the season -- fight to the very end.
But for the first time this year, Wyoming lost a game decided by one score as Boise State held off the Cowboys for a 20-17 road victory in Laramie. Wyoming is now 7-4 overall and 5-2 in Mountain West play. Boise State improved to 8-3 and 7-0 in conference play and clinched the Mountain Division title.
Wyoming had won four games this season decided by seven or fewer points and the Cowboys had recorded five come-from-behind wins, but that was not to be the case on Saturday.
Wyoming jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the game on a first quarter touchdown run by wide receiver Wyatt Wieland and a 53-yard field goal from place-kicker John Hoyland. Boise State narrowed the lead to 10-6 by halftime on two field goals of 22 and 47 yards by kicker Jonah Dalmas.
The Broncos took their first lead of the game at 13-10 at the 4:57 mark of the third quarter on a five-yard TD run by quarterback Taylen Green. Two series later, Wyoming junior running back Titus Swen exploded for an 83-yard touchdown dash to give the Cowboys the lead back at 17-13 with only 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Green connected with wide receiver Billy Bowens from 38 yards out to put the Broncos back in front by three at 20-17.
Wyoming’s offense had two possessions after Boise State regained the lead, but wasn’t able to convert either into a score. It appeared that the Pokes had run out of opportunities as Boise State took possession with 1:48 remaining in the game and drove down to the Wyoming 39-yard line.
But the Cowboys weren’t done yet. On a run up the middle by Bronco running back George Holani, Cowboy nose tackle Gavin Meyer knocked the ball loose and UW defensive end DeVonne Harris picked up the ball and returned the fumble 44 yards down to the Boise State 21-yard line with 45 seconds left on the clock.
On first down, the Cowboys took a shot to win the game as quarterback Jayden Clemons threw the ball toward the back of the end zone for wide receiver Joshua Cobbs. Bronco safety JL Skinner intercepted the pass to seal the win for Boise State.
After the game, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl explained the decision to take one shot at the win and if that didn’t succeed to kick a field goal to force overtime.
“I told Tim (Polasek, offensive coordinator) let’s take one shot to score a touchdown,” said Bohl. “I want to be clear on this -- I gave the green light on that play. Was it executed the way we hoped it would be -- no, obviously not. But I gave Tim the light to take one shot to score a touchdown and if we didn’t have it then we’ll try and kick a field goal. That was the logic.
“I’m disappointed for Jayden (Clemons). I’m going to love him up. He’s hurting. If you want to be critical, be critical of me, don’t be critical of him. There are tons of emotions in our locker room right now. There are guys upset, hurt -- coaches, players and me.”
The Cowboys played without several key players on the night, including quarterback Andrew Peasley, defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole and running back D.Q. James. But the Cowboys responded how they have all season by having other players step in and play well. Bohl applauded his team’s effort after the game.
“I’m proud of the effort our guys played with and we made a lot of plays tonight, but they (Boise State) made one more play than what we did and we lost the game,” Bohl said. “We have an emerging football team. We had guys out there tonight, like some of our defensive tackles, who hadn’t played a lot this year but because of injured players we called on those guys and they played their hearts out. It is a gut punch, but we’ll bounce back. This football team has to hang together and move forward and get ready to play Fresno State.
“A lot of ups and downs in this ball game. I’m proud of our players -- how hard they played. They went out and competed. Hats off to Boise State. They are an excellent football team, and they’re well coached. We knew we’d have an opportunity to win if we played well and a couple things went our way and it about did.”
Cowboy running back Titus Swen had a career best night running behind a Wyoming offensive line who played outstanding, consistently opening up holes.
Swen ended the game with a career high 212 rushing yards, including his 83-yard TD run. The junior averaged 11.2 yards per carry on 19 carries. He also caught one pass for 17 yards to account for 229 all-purpose yards.
For the 2022 season, Swen has 964 yards on the season and will need just 36 yards the rest of this season to record his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
“Titus (Swen) obviously played very well and beyond him playing well the offensive line played well,” said Bohl. “I thought Titus certainly had one of his better games.”
Defensively, Wyoming forced two fumbles, returning them for a total of 55 yards. The first fumble recovery led to UW’s first touchdown of the game. The second ended in the BS interception at the end of the game. Boise State intercepted three Wyoming passes with one leading to a touchdown.
Leading the Wyoming defense were two Cowboys who recorded double figures in tackles. Safety Wyett Ekeler had a career best 12 tackles and forced the fumble that led to Wyoming’s first TD. Middle linebacker Easton Gibbs was credited with 11 tackles. Gibbs now has 99 tackles this season to lead the Cowboys, and needs only one tackle to join the 100-tackle club for the first time in his career.
Hoyland’s 53-yard field goal was his 20th of the season, which ties the Wyoming single-season school record for field goals made. The Wyoming single-season school record was originally set by former Cowboy Cory Wedel in 1996 and later tied by J.D. Wallum in 2001.
Bohl was asked if he had ever seen a game with so many twists and turns.
“We had a similar game in the Tulsa game earlier this season when it looked like we were going to go in and score but fumbled on the two-yard line. But in that game, we were able to force overtime and win the game in overtime.”
Tonight’s game began with both teams having to punt on their first possessions. On its second drive of the game, Boise State moved the ball 55 yards in four plays but on a 27-yard completion from quarterback Green to wide receiver Davis Koetter, Cowboy safety Ekeler put a big hit on Koetter knocking the ball loose at the UW 17-yard line. UW cornerback Deron Harrell picked up the loose ball at the Wyoming 10-yard line and returned it 11 yards to the 21.
Wyoming would proceed to convert that turnover into points, driving 79 yards in six plays to score the first touchdown of the game. The Cowboys gained all 79 yards on the ground. Running back Dawaiian McNeely carried twice for 23 yards.
Quarterback Clemons had one carry for four yards, and then on a first and 10 at the Boise State 44-yard line running back Swen broke loose down the far sideline for 42 yards before he was brought down at the two-yard line. On the next play, wide receiver Wyatt Wieland took the ball on a jet sweep for the last two yards for his second rushing touchdown of the season to give Wyoming a 7-0 lead with 6:41 remaining in the first quarter.
Boise State came back on their next possession and moved the ball 42 yards in eight plays to the Wyoming 23-yard line, but the Pokes held and forced the Broncos into a 41-yard field-goal attempt. Boise State place-kicker Dalmas missed the attempt wide left.
The Cowboys took over at their own 23-yard line with 3:26 remaining in the first quarter. Wyoming engineered a 10-play, 41-yard drive, moving the ball to the Boise State 36-yard line. It was there that place-kicker John Hoyland entered the game for a 53-yard field-goal attempt. Hoyland made the kick, extending Wyoming’s lead to 10-0.
Each team was forced to punt on their next possessions. Boise State would put together its first scoring drive of the game, going 80 yards in 13 plays, but the Pokes would stiffen in the red zone when safety Isaac White would tackle a Bronco receiver for only a four-yard gain at the Wyoming five-yard line on a third and nine play.
Boise State’s Dalmas came in and converted a 22-yard field goal for the Broncos’ first points and cut the Wyoming lead to 10-3.
The Broncos engineered one more scoring drive to end the first half, going 43 yards in eight plays but once again the Pokes would force a Bronco field goal from 47 yards. Dalmas hit the kick as time expired to make the halftime score 10-6 in favor of Wyoming.
The wild second half then followed as described earlier.
Wyoming now will have to prepare for Mountain West Conference West Division Champion Fresno State on a short week as the Cowboys play the Bulldogs on Friday, Nov. 25 in UW’s regular-season finale in Fresno. That game is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m., Mountain Time and will be televised on FS1.
Bohl was asked in his postgame press conference about the potential availability of Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley moving forward after he missed the game vs. Boise State in concussion protocol.
“We think he (Andrew Peasley) will be available,” said Bohl. “He started the concussion protocol this week and had progressed to the point where he was cleared for some activities. He was on the sideline today with a headset on and helping as much as he could.”
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