Three Stars of the Game: Pokes vs. Longhorns
AUSTIN, Texas -- Two of the top stars on this list don't land here without the five guys on Wyoming's mostly unproven offensive line.
There have been great moments for that unit. There have been rough series, too.
Good: allowing just two sacks against an aggressive Texas Tech defense in Week 1.
Bad: Rolling up just eight yards of total offense, allowing five tackles from loss and not finishing off an FCS opponent at home in the fourth quarter the following week.
"They're explosive and disruptive," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said when asked about the task at hand for his front five. "We need to make sure that we can establish some semblance of a running game and protect the quarterback."
Easier said than done.
Fourth-ranked Texas entered Saturday night with seven sacks under its collective belt, including five in a 34-24 road upset of then No. 3 Alabama a week prior. Running against the 'Horns appeared nearly impossible. Through two games, opponents averaged just 67 yards per game on the ground. You can also tack on 14 tackles for loss and just three touchdowns allowed.
MORE UW FOOTBALL NEWS VIA 7220SPORTS:
Wyoming's front gave up just a single sack in that 31-10 setback in Austin. In a game that was tied 10-10 after three quarters, Texas finished with just two tackles behind the UW line of scrimmage. Steve Sarkisian's defense didn't record a single QB pressure, either.
The visitors amassed more than 100 yards on the ground through the first three quarters. A big chunk of that came on one play. We'll get to that in a minute. As a team, the Cowboys rolled up 155 rushing yards on 38 carries. That's an average of 4.1 an attempt.
"I'd say for facing a Top-5 team, our O-line did amazing," running back Harrison Waylee said. "They were pushing them back, there were holes everywhere. You know, we just missed some of them. Our O-line was great."
1st star: Evan Svoboda - Quarterback
Nerves? You bet there were nerves.
Evan Svoboda said last Monday he was approached by his coaches. They had a message for him: Looks like you're starting against Texas.
Andrew Peasley, Wyoming's super senior signal caller, reportedly suffered a right shoulder injury in last Saturday's victory over Portland State. That "zip" never quite returned to his throwing arm throughout the week. Though Svoboda was under center during the entire fourth quarter in that 31-17 win over the Vikings, he never attempted a single pass.
That changed in Austin.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Arizona native connected on 17-of-28 throws to five different receivers for 136 yards. He was poised. He was confident. Eventually, he joked, he was calm.
"(I'm) definitely really proud of Evan," Wyoming's starting left tackle Frank Crum said postgame. "He's a guy the guys can get behind. So, I'm proud of him for going out there, he wasn't hesitant at all, and he didn't seem shaken at all, which is good to see from your signal caller. I think he has a lot to build on."
Svoboda did throw a costly interception in the fourth quarter that was returned 27 yards for a touchdown, courtesy of Texas defensive back Terrin Thomspon. That was the lone blemish on an otherwise impressive debut in front of more than 100,000 fans inside Darrell K. Royal Stadium.
"You know, I get a little nervous before every game," Svoboda said with a smile. "But once I get that big hit or that big play, you know, that's when it kind of all just goes away and you go out there and have fun."
2nd star: Harrison Waylee - Running Back
Harrison Waylee joked that he felt fast Saturday night in Austin.
He looked fast, too.
On the fifth snap of the game, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior took the handoff, swerved to his right and blew through a big gap in the UT front. The linebackers didn't have a chance. Turns out, neither did the five-star filled secondary.
Waylee raced 62 yards down the sideline to stun the crowd and put the Cowboys on the board, 7-0.
"He was pretty excellent," Bohl said. "I think we saw, anybody that can run away from Texas's secondary, that's not just an explosive play, that's an exponentially explosive play. That's an element that we have not had for a while. It was good to get him out there"
Waylee rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries. That's an average of 6.1 per attempt. That was also the ninth 100-yard rushing game of his career.
"I know I'm fast, but it was pretty cool," he said with a smile. "I see that hole and I hit it, thinking someone is going to chase me down. They're (defensive backs) and typically DB's are fast, but they didn't catch me. I felt fast."
3rd star: Sabastian Harsh - Defensive End
We've all heard about his explosiveness off the edge. Sabastian Harsh, over the last two offseasons, has been one of the MVP's of training camp, fall and spring.
Saturday night, deep in the heart of Texas, we all finally got a glimpse of what the 6-foot-2, 235-pound can do in primetime.
Facing a 3rd-and-9 from the Wyoming 28-yard line, Quinn Ewers took the snap, rolled back and began his search downfield for an open target. One might have been there, but he didn't have much time to survey.
Harsh blew through the Texas front in a hurry, wrapping up the sophomore signal caller and dumping him at the 38 for a 10-yard loss. That play not only put a halt to a 9-play, 30-yard drive out of the halftime locker room. It kept this a three-point game, knocking the 'Horns out of field-goal range.
Harsh, the Scottsbluff, Neb., native tallied seven total tackles, six of which were of the solo variety. He also finished with two tackles for loss.
Wyoming's defensive end with the big personality and the even bigger smile, appears to be fully healthy after missing the entire 2022 campaign with a broken left knee cap.
That's bad news for the Mountain West Conference.