AUSTIN, Texas -- Moral victory.

That's a popular sports phrase coaches and players loathe. Fans, too. It reeks of a loser's mentality.

Aside from cases like this one.

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Consider the uphill battle Wyoming faced tonight inside a raucous Darrell K. Royal Stadium. This Texas team is ranked No. 4 in the AP poll. It's coming off a 34-24 upset road victory over Alabama, snapping the Tide's 20-year streak of perfection against visiting non-conference teams.

Quinn Ewers, the former top high school quarterback prospect in America, is finally starting to play like it. He already had more than 600 yards passing and six touchdowns under his belt to go along with zero interceptions.

Steve Sarkisian said his team entered this game with sore backs. That came from all the coast-to-coast pats the Longhorns have received over last week.

All of that above would lead you to believe the oddsmakers and the 30-point line that accompanied this outing.

That might have been generous, too.

Wyoming played tonight without its starting quarterback.

Andrew Peasley tried to give it a go in warmups, head coach Craig Bohl said, adding "he didn't have the zip on the ball that he needed."

Evan Svoboda, who made his first collegiate start in Austin, said he first got word last Monday this could be his time.

It was.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound sophomore had taken just 14-career snaps entering this game. Zero of those produced a pass attempt.

Svoboda completed 17-of-28 throws on the night for 136 yards. He stood tall in the pocket. He made confident audibles at the line. He threw the ball with precision and even took some chances down field.

Composed. That's the word that perfectly describes Svoboda's debut.

"I thought it was pretty remarkable," Bohl said of Svoboda's first outing, especially in this hostile environment. "... His handling of the huddle, handling of the crowd noise and the silent counts was good. He made some really good throws."



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Svoboda did finish with one blemish. That was a fourth-quarter interception by Jerrin Thompson. The 'Horns defensive back snagged the late throw right in front of Wyoming's bench and raced 27 yards into the end zone untouched.

How did Svoboda feel about his performance?

"It was a lot of emotions and a lot of nerves, but I think tonight, it really, really calmed down," he said. "I just went out there and had fun."

A 62-yard touchdown run by Harrison Waylee certainly helped.

The junior running back, who appeared in his first game in a Cowboys uniform after missing the first two weeks rehabbing offseason knee surgery, took the fifth snap of the game off right tackle, found a seam and outraced the entire Texas secondary.

The Northern Illinois transfer looked anything but rusty, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the ninth time in 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."

He looked fast, too.

Through the first three quarters, Wyoming's defense held this vaunted passing attack to just 87 yards. That's more than 237 under the Longhorns' season average. The secondary did all of that without the services of arguably its best cover corner, Kolbey Taylor, who Bohl said he suspended for one game for a violation of team rules.

Led by the Mountain West's preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Easton Gibbs, the visitors also limited Texas to just 88 yards on the ground. Gibbs capped his night with 10 tackles, a team high.

Texas was also just 2-for-9 on third down. A pair of 4th-and-short conversions, though, hurt the Cowboys on a 17-play, 69-yard drive in the second quarter that led to the 'Horns first touchdown of the night.

Wyoming and Texas were tied at 10-10 after three quarters.

Unfortunately, in football, there are four of those.

The mighty Longhorns eventually flexed their muscles late, scoring 21 unanswered over the final 15 minutes to make this outing seem a little more palatable than it really was. Ewers hit Xavier Worthy on a quick pass to the boundary. The speedy junior took care of the rest, shaking a Tyrecus Davis tackle and beating both safeties, Wyett Ekeler and Isaac White, to the end zone.

Ewers bullied his way past the white stripe just six snaps later. Thompson's pick-six sealed the deal.

"Hats off to Texas," Bohl said. "Our plan was to take them into the fourth quarter and hopefully come up with a couple of plays. We certainly did that, but on the flipside, they came up with the plays. They've got some really good players and there will be some things that we learn from this game."

No one expected the Cowboys to win this one.

Just being competitive, some would say, was a win in itself. While you were discussing point spreads and worrying about big bad Texas beating up on your team, physically and on the scoreboard, these guys prepared to win, even knowing they were without two of the top players on this roster.

With all the eyes of Texas upon them, Wyoming went punch for punch with one of the biggest brands in the sport in its house.

That famed burnt orange. Bevo. Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Vince Young. National Championship dates glistening off the facade of the upper deck and all that Texas-sized pageantry.

None of it mattered.

While the loss column no longer features a goose egg, this team -- and its fans -- should be damn proud of that effort and be excited for what's to come.

"I mean, yeah, it felt good, but it would've been even better if we came out with the win," Waylee said. "Knowing that we can go toe-to-toe with the team that's considered No. 4 in the country -- the way they played today, I really don't think they are No. 4 -- we're going to go into the Mountain West and definitely take over, for sure."

Texas 31, Wyoming 10

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