Pokes Pounce in Paradise
* University of Wyoming press release
HONOLULU, Hawaii -- The Wyoming Cowboys earned their sixth win of the 2022 season on Saturday with a 27-20 road victory over the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors, and with that sixth win earned bowl eligibility for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
Wyoming improved its 2022 record to 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West Conference. Hawai’i is now 2-7 overall and 1-3 in the Mountain West.
Wyoming Wins Third Consecutive Game
Saturday’s win was the Cowboys’ third consecutive victory, following wins at New Mexico (27-14) on Oct. 8 and at home vs. Utah State (28-14) on Oct. 22. It is the second time this season that Wyoming has won three consecutive games. The Pokes defeated Tulsa (40-37 in 2OTs), Northern Colorado (33-10) and Air Force (17-14) in three straight home games earlier this season.
The Cowboys’ victory on Saturday night was fueled by an outstanding rushing attack and a defense that made numerous key plays at critical moments in the game.
UW rushed for 365 yards, which was a season high and marked the second consecutive week the Pokes rushed for over 300 yards. UW rushed for 330 against Utah State a week ago. Wyoming added 76 passing yards for 441 yards of total offense, and the Pokes averaged 7.5 yards per play on 59 total offensive plays.
Against Hawai’i, four different Cowboy running backs contributed. Junior starter Titus Swen carried five times for 14 yards before he was forced out of the game at the end of the first quarter due to injury.
Redshirt freshman D.Q. James came in to lead UW with a career high 179 rushing yards. It was the second consecutive week that James rushed for over 100 yards. He had 120 a week ago against Utah State. Sophomore Dawaiian McNeely added a career best 81 yards on only four carries, including a 61-yard TD dash in the fourth quarter that gave Wyoming a lead that it would never relinquish.
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Junior quarterback Andrew Peasley carried 14 times for 71 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns of 35 and four yards, and redshirt freshman Joey Braasch contributed 18 yards on five carries.
While the Rainbow Warrior offense generated 350 yards of total offense, 145 rushing and 205 passing, the Cowboy defense held Hawai’i to only 4.7 yards per play on 75 offensive plays for UH.
UW’s defense also stiffened in the red zone multiple times, forcing the Rainbow Warriors into three field-goal attempts -- one of 36 yards that was missed, one of 29 yards that was successful and another one that was good from 20 yards out. The Cowboys were able to break up several pass plays at critical times.
Sophomore cornerback Cameron Stone broke up three Hawai’i pass attempts. Sophomore safety Wyett Ekeler added two pass breakups, and redshirt freshman defensive end Braden Siders tipped another pass at the line of scrimmage. Sophomore linebackers Shae Suiaunoa and Easton Gibbs led the Cowboys in tackles with eight and seven tackles, respectively. Ekeler also added seven tackles.
Sophomore place-kicker John Hoyland successfully converted his 18th and 19th field goals of the season from 34 and 38 yards out.
Wyoming’s First Win in Hawai’i Since 1997
The last time Wyoming had won in Honolulu was in 1997 by a score of 35-6.
Between 1998 and 2012 the two teams did not play due to Wyoming moving to the Mountain West Conference, while Hawai’i remained in the Western Athletic Conference. The series was renewed in 2013 when Hawai’i joined the Mountain West Conference. Hawai’i had won the previous two meetings played on Oahu -- 38-28 in 2014 and 17-13 in 2018.
Another Comeback Win
Saturday’s win over Hawai’i marked the fourth time this season that Wyoming came from behind to win a game.
The Cowboys trailed Hawai’i 7-0 in the first quarter and 10-0 in the second quarter before scoring 10 points of their own in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime. Wyoming’s first lead of 13-10 didn’t come until midway through the third quarter and UW didn’t take the lead for good until early in the fourth quarter.
The Pokes other come-from-behind wins this season came against Tulsa (40-37 in 2 overtimes), versus Air Force (17-14) and at New Mexico (27-14).
This week’s trip was the Cowboys longest road trip of the season as they flew over 3,300 miles to Honolulu, to face the Rainbow Warriors.
Cowboys Take a 16-11 Lead in the Series vs. Hawai’i
The Wyoming Cowboys and Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors played for the 27th time in the two schools’ histories. The two teams competed for the Paniolo Trophy for the 26th time.
Wyoming now leads the Paniolo Trophy portion of the series with 16 wins to Hawai’i’s 10 victories. The overall series is led by Wyoming 16-11.
Wyoming and Hawai’i first played each other in football back on Nov. 18, 1978, with Hawai’i winning that first meeting in Honolulu by a score of 27-22. The Paniolo Trophy has been a part of the series since 1979. In the second year of the series, a group of Hawai’ian residents, with roots in Wyoming, donated a statuette of a Cowboy preparing to toss a lariat.
At the time the traveling trophy was introduced to the rivalry both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference, as Hawai’i joined the WAC in 1979.
The traveling trophy was named the Paniolo Trophy. Paniolo is the Hawai’ian word for Cowboy. For the next 19 years, from 1979 to 1997, the two teams competed for the Paniolo Trophy.
After Wyoming’s 35-6 win in the 1997 meeting in Honolulu, the series between the two schools ended. Due to the rotating schedule of the then 16-team WAC, Wyoming and Hawai’i weren’t scheduled to play in 1998. In 1999, Wyoming joined the Mountain West Conference, which interrupted the series for 15 years.
When Hawai’i was invited to join the Mountain West Conference, beginning in 2012, the two schools began discussion of a renewal of the Paniolo Trophy competition. But over that 15-year timespan the Paniolo Trophy was lost, which became a story in itself. Each school searched for it, but it was not to be found.
Enter a new group of Hawai’i fans to continue the tradition.
The Paniolo Preservation Society, a group dedicated to preserving Hawai’i’s rich Cowboy heritage, proposed a new trophy. Led by the Society’s President, Mrs. Patricia C. Bergin, a bronze maquette, featuring Hawai’ian native Ikua Purdy roping a wild stag bull, was donated to the two schools in 2013 to mark renewal of the series. Purdy became the first Hawaiian inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999. The bronze is a reproduction of a larger work by noted western sculptor Fred Fellows. The reproduction measures approximately 20” long and 12” high.
The series was renewed in 2013, when Hawai’i joined the Mountain West as a football playing member. Since the series was renewed in 2013, the two teams have played seven times, with Wyoming winning four times and Hawai’i winning three.
After traveling to Hawai’i, Wyoming will enjoy its second and final Bye Week of the season on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Cowboys will then travel to Fort Collins, Colo., on Saturday Nov. 12 to face Colorado State in the 114th Border War.