Three Stars of the Game: Pokes vs. Rams
LARAMIE -- You may have noticed this feature wasn't written last week.
I think the answer is pretty obvious: stars weren't readily available in that 32-7 debacle in Boise. Andrew Johnson did recover a fumble. Wyett Ekeler was credited with forcing one, too.
Those are your highlights.
Wyoming not only turned the page on that nightmare against the Broncos, it flipped the script -- in a short week -- on its most-hated rival last Saturday night in front of 27,000-plus inside War Memorial Stadium.
Now, we have a good problem: Too many stars.
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Andrew Peasley completed 15-of-22 throws for 140 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses in that 24-15 victory over Border War rival Colorado State. Running back Harrison Waylee looked like his old self, gashing the Rams for 128 yards on the ground on 28 attempts.
Edge rusher DeVonne Harris was busy all night in the visiting backfield, and Ekeler made seven solo tackles, including one on a third-and-long that forced a punt in the second quarter.
Heck, Wyoming's entire defense gets a game ball after this win, the seventh in the last eight meetings with CSU. That unit didn't allow a single third-down conversion on 10 attempts. It gave up just two touchdowns on the night, one coming on the heels of a Peasley interception that set the Rams up at the UW 38-yard line.
The other came after a missed field goal from 55 yards out.
All deserving? You bet.
Below are the three I'm going with on this always objective list:
1st star: Easton Gibbs - Linebacker
Easton Gibbs called the feeling "surreal."
He was referring to it being his last Border War. Wyoming's middle linebacker also mentioned the pregame "Cowboy Walk" through tailgate park and there is only one left. The Temecula, Calif., product also talked about leaving it all on the field during his final crack at the hated rivals from Fort Collins.
He did just that.
Gibbs tallied seven tackles -- tied for the team lead -- registered a sack on CSU quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, and put him on his wallet two additional times.
That's not all.
With 8:13 remaining in the third quarter, Gibbs stepped in front of a Fowler-Nicolosi throw down the middle of the field, setting his offense up at the Rams' 38-yard line. Six snaps later, Andrew Peasley connected with wideout Ayir Asante in the corner of the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 17-7 lead.
"I was just flowing with the ball and just saw it go up and made a break on it," he said of the interception, his first of the 2023 season. "I was just kind of reading the eyes and knew we needed a spark, so I was glad I could provide it."
Gibbs leads the Cowboys with 81 tackles this fall, to go along with a pair of forced fumbles and that pick. He also has 1.5 sacks under his belt and four pass breakups.
"There's no doubt about it," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said about Gibbs' pick turning the tide in this one. "It was on their side of the field. It was a great break. Huge momentum changer. Yep, it was big time."
2nd star: Shae Suiaunoa - Linebacker
Gibbs lit the spark. Shae Suiaunoa nearly turned the 115th edition of the Border War into a laugher.
On CSU's ensuing drive, Fowler-Nicolosi, once again got greedy and attempted to squeeze a pass over the middle into the arms of wide receiver Justus Ross-Simmons. It didn't make it that far.
Suiaunoa, a junior from the Greater Houston Area, instead cut off the throw, returning it to the Rams' 46. Peasley and Co. went on an eight-play drive, culminating in a Sam Scott touchdown run from six yards out.
Wyoming was cruising, extending its lead to 24-7 with just 1:08 left in the third.
"We thought turnover margin was really going to be important," Bohl continued. "I think, obviously, those two interceptions had a big, big impact in the game. It certainly changed the point spread."
The Cowboys' head man wasn't the only one who felt that way, either.
"A couple of mistakes early in the third quarter put us in a hole, and we can't make those," CSU head coach Jay Norvell said postgame. "So, I take the responsibility. Brayden got caught with the clock coming down on the shallow and threw the ball into double coverage on the vertical pass.
"It happens sometimes for young guys. We have to find a way to overcome."
Suiaunoa is the Cowboys' second-leading tackler this fall with 71 stops. He also has two sacks and the same number of pass breakups. Like Gibbs, that was also his first interception of the season.
3rd star: Clayton Stewart - Punter
It's been a rollercoaster of a season for senior punter Clayton Stewart.
In a blowout loss at Boise State two weeks ago, the big Texan was forced into action a career-high nine times, including the visitor's last six drives.
It was a nightmare showing for the offense inside Albertsons Stadium. As for Stewart, it was a ho-hum performance that netted him just 41.3 yards per kick with a long of 54. Two of those did land inside the Broncos' 20, however, there was also a 34-yard punt from inside the UW 10. That was returned all the way to the 30. There was also a 32-yarder in the third quarter.
A forgettable, yet busy, day at the office.
Stewart redeemed himself in his final Border War.
This time only utilized three times all night long, he made the most of those kicks, including a career-long 72-yarder that pinned the Rams inside their own 11. That boomer likely kept points off the board with just four minutes remaining in the first half.
"We needed to make big plays, at times, and we certainly did," Bohl said. "So, to have the boot in Laramie for another year is really special. It's great for our program and it's great for the state. It means a lot."
Stewart's most important stat of the night might be zero.
That's the number of times CSU's All-American speedster Tory Horton touched a punt in this win. The senior took the opening punt of last year's contest 72 yards to put the Rams on the board early in Fort Collins.
Stewart is the 41st-ranked punter in the country, averaging 43.4 yards per kick on 44 attempts. That lands him fifth overall in the Mountain West.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
Gallery Credit: 7220Sports.com
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players