Three stars of the game: Pokes vs. Broncos
LARAMIE -- Lost in the madness of a final two minutes that included three turnovers, including consecutive interceptions by Boise State safety, JL Skinner, was a career night from Wyoming's leading rushers.
The Cowboys also appear to have an emerging safety and yet another middle linebacker who is rolling up massive numbers.
Yes, UW fell to the visiting Broncos 20-17. The chase for an unthinkable Mountain West title is now a not-too-distant memory. Instead, Boise State will play for the conference championship for the sixth time in the 10-year history of the game.
Still, this seven-win Wyoming team can hang its hat on a number of individual performances Saturday night:
1st star: Titus Swen - Running back
Trailing 13-10 with 1:35 remaining in the third quarter, Titus Swen took a handoff, blew through a crease on the right side of the line and was off to the races. Eighty-three yards later, Wyoming's junior running back was standing in the end zone after that untouched jaunt.
The Cowboys previous four possessions went like this: Punt, punt, interception, punt. Boise State, in that timeframe, went on a 13-0 run.
Swen snatched back the lead -- and momentum -- on one burst.
“Titus obviously played very well and, beyond him playing well, the offensive line played well," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. "I thought Titus certainly had one of his better games.”
The Fort Worth, Texas product finished with a career-high 212 rushing yards in the loss. It took just 19 carries to do that damage against a team who was tops in the league at stopping the run, holding opponents to just 107 yards on the ground per outing.
Wyoming amassed more than that in the first quarter, 57 of those yards belonging to Swen, who also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark Saturday night. That was the third time this fall Swen has rushed for at least 100 yards. It was the sixth time in his UW tenure. As special as Swen has been since arriving in Laramie back in 2019, that was the first time he hit 200.
2nd star: Wyett Ekeler - Safety
Boise State's high-powered offense was on the move.
After a rare punt on its opening drive, the visiting Broncos and their star quarterback were starting to find openings in the Cowboys' secondary. Taylen Green connected with Billy Bowens on a 25-yard completion. The next pass landed in the hands of Davis Koetter on a 27-yard crossing route.
Just when it looked like the wide out was going to turn up field, UW safety Wyett Ekeler wrapped up with his right arm and swung his free hand directly into the ball. The 5-foot-11, 201-pound sophomore jarred the ball loose. It bounced forward right into the grasp of cornerback Deron Harrell.
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In fact, the Cowboys would turn that mistake into seven points eight plays and 79 yards later when Wyatt Wieland took a jet sweep around the edge and into the end zone from two yards out.
Ekeler capped his night with a team-high 12 tackles, including eight solo stops. He was also credited with a quarterback hurry. The Windsor, Colorado, product now has 60 tackles on the season to go along with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.
The tradition of stellar safety play in Laramie is strong. Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and Tashaun Gipson are currently cashing NFL checks.
Can Ekeler be the next great one at UW? He's off to a solid start.
3rd star: Easton Gibbs - Linebacker
It was a meeting of best-on-best.
At the 6:35 mark of the first quarter, Boise State running back George Holani took the hand off and looked for a hole. He found one. No. 28 in brown quickly closed it. Easton Gibbs violently wrapped up the 5-foot-11, 208-pound rusher, dropping him for a one-yard loss.
The California product tallied 11 tackles Saturday night, including six solo stops. That's the fourth time this fall the sophomore has finished in double digits. He now has 99 tackles on the season, 33 more than the next closest teammate, fellow linebacker Shae Suiaunoa.
Gibbs, one of four elected team captains, also has two sacks, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery for a touchdown to his credit.
Speaking of tradition, the middle linebacker spot is also well represented in the NFL. Chad Muma is starting to make plays in his rookie season. Logan Wilson played in last season's Super Bowl and is currently the Bengals second-leading tackler. Gibbs learned behind both of those guys.
"You know, I think we're still hungry," Gibbs said. "Like I said, we have young guys who are hungry and confident. I think going into next week, we've kind of got to preach, get back on the horse and go."
Losing to Boise State doesn't sit well with Gibbs.
He grew up a Broncos fan. His mom, Jennifer Gibbs, went to college there. So did other family members.
He is now 0-3 all-time against the boys in blue, but that's certainly not his fault. In those outings, Gibbs now has 37 tackles and a sack. He registered 13 against the Broncos in his first-career start back in 2020.
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