Tuck’s Takes: What if I told you …
HONOLULU, Hawaii -- What if I told you Andrew Peasley would complete just seven passes tonight and throw a pair of interceptions?
Let's throw in the fact Titus Swen, the reigning conference offensive player of the week, would spend the final three quarters in street clothes in concussion protocol. The Cowboys also lost long snapper Carson York. Offensive linemen Emmanuel Pregnon and Eric Abojei also briefly left the game. So did nose guard Jordan Bertagnole.
While we're taking on bad news, let's add on the fact that Wyoming converted just four third-down conversions on 11 attempts and were penalized six times for 60 yards, including a roughing-the-passer call that took a pick-six off the board late in the first quarter.
Oh, by the way, UW also trailed by double digits early.
How bad did the Cowboys lose this one?
DQ James, for the second consecutive week, averaged 12-plus yards per carry. The redshirt freshman running back sliced right through Hawaii's defense to the tune of 179 yards on 14 attempts in the Pokes' 27-20 victory Saturday night in rainy Honolulu. The Lancaster, Texas, product, who originally committed to play for the Rainbow Warriors out of high school, busted runs of 21, 74, 17, 15 and twice hit 11.
With the score tied at 13-13 early in the fourth quarter, Dawaiian McNeely had a clear lane to the end zone, cruising 61 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. On the ensuing drive, the visitors marched 61 yards on nine plays, culminating with Peasley's second rushing score of the night.
Wyoming rushed for 365 yards on the night. It's the first time in the Craig Bohl era that the Pokes have rolled up more than 300 yards on the ground in back-to-back games.
Hawaii would tack on a late touchdown, but Ryan Marquez, somehow, someway, put this one to bed, coming out of the pile with the ball after a heart-stopping onside kick. James added a nine-yard run, Peasley took a knee.
"We wanted to go to 1-0," Bohl said postgame. "It was the hard way. Every time I've been over here, stuff happens."
Next man up.
It's the epitome of coach speak. It's cliché. For this program, it's appropriate. It's accurate.
When two of the team's top blockers were helped off the field, Zach Watts and Jack Walsh stepped in and didn't skip a beat. Gavin Meyer and Caleb Robinson have helped anchor the defensive interior since Cole Godbout was sidelined before the New Mexico game. Nothing changed tonight when Bertagnole briefly headed to the locker room with an injury.
Swen is special, but so is the depth in that running back room. No Swen, no problem.
Bohl often jokes that snappers are like the fire department, you never know they're around until something goes awry. Well, that happened in Hawaii. Read Sunn, a reserve linebacker, cut the tape off his hands, changed his mindset and was perfect. That's not an easy job.
I asked you a question at the beginning of this column.
I offered this one up to Bohl and Co. during a postgame Zoom call: What if I told you in fall camp that after nine games this team would be 6-3 overall, 4-1 in the Mountain West and playing meaningful football in November?
The answers, mixed.
"I would say that's kind of a stretch," Bohl admitted. "You know, we had so many questions, and even during fall camp, there were some deep concerns I had about our team. But this group, they've taken the coaching and they've continued to get better. You're right, we're playing meaningful games. There's an old saying, 'Remember November.'
"We're going to be in November, playing really important football games."
James, never short on confidence and always sporting that trademark grin, was blunt.
"I'm not shocked. I'm not shocked at all," he said. "Before the season started a lot of people doubted us, saying we'll be 4-8 and stuff like that. But, you know, at the end of the day, we're here to play ball. We're going to grind. Nobody else is putting in that work that we put in. We go out there and do what we have to do. It all pays off and now everyone is like, 'Let's go Cowboys. But at first it was like ...
"We always prove them wrong. We beat the odds."
The job isn't done, though.
"We're not satisfied," Watts added. "You know, it's obviously really cool to be bowl eligible, but we haven't even mentioned what we mentioned last year (winning a conference title). Yeah, as far as the big picture, you know, it's a great goal to hit but it's not what we're looking for."
Cam Stone, another guy who's never afraid to speak his mind, said you may be shocked, he isn't.
"What I'm going to tell you is, we saw this coming all along," said the sophomore cornerback, who capped his night with three pass breakups and a tackle for loss. "We knew we had it in us. We also knew that people had their doubts and people are going to have their opinions. No one knows what goes on in the locker room. We know who we are and what we are capable of and we're going to keep going."
* What about that "roughing-the-passer" call that erased a Wrook Brown interception for a touchdown? I rarely talk about officials on these pages or on social media, but they flat whiffed on that one. Outside linebacker Cole DeMarzo was not only driven into Brayden Schlager's lower body, he barely made contact with Hawaii's sophomore signal caller. "(It was) really important because that was a pick six and it's going to change the whole momentum of the game," Bohl said. "What we were told was our player hit the passer late. I mentioned he was pushed into the passer. They couldn't get clarification on that so we moved on. You know, I thought our team really responded well because that was a big, big swing in momentum. We stayed in the fight."
* There was an extended power outage inside Hawaii's Ching Athletics Complex prior to Saturday night's game. Bohl joked that a Dippin' Dots vendor "ripped" him because his ice cream was melting. "I said, we're just trying to play a game," Bohl laughed.
* How about that app, huh? Hawaii's games are streamed. Most of you found out the hard way you can only view the game on a phone or tablet. Thank goodness that's over with. The game and the constant questions about where to get it. If only there was a website dedicated to Wyoming coverage that could give you info like that. All kidding aside, I'm never cutting the cord. Never.
* Hawaii honored the 1992 WAC Champions during the game tonight. Sure looked like former QB Michael Carter was having a good time, right? (wink, wink). During that 11-2 season, the 'Bows clinched a share of the regular season title with a 42-18 win over the visiting Pokes. That team was really good. Three players -- Jason Elam, Maa Tanuvasa and Darrick Branch -- all heard their names called in the 1992 NFL Draft.
* Wyoming has won its first two "trophy" games of the season. There's one more to go. The Paniolo Trophy is really cool and there's a neat history behind it. Who knew Hawaii had such a rich Cowboy tradition? "It felt good," Stone said. "... Just being a big part of this game and being able to get it back, it felt really good. A lot of emotions there. You know, we want all the trophies." The Cowboys now lead the series, 16-11, and are 8-7 against the Warriors on the islands.
* Peasley threw for just 76 yards, but 50 of those belong to Joshua Cobbs, who hauled in a huge 25-yard pass on 3rd-and-15 late in the fourth. That set the Pokes up at the 4-yard line. Peasley took care of the rest one play later.
* Speaking of that play, you have to feel for Jackson Marcotte a bit. The junior tight end was wide open in the end zone. It would've been an easy pitch and catch for the score. Peasley did the right thing, tucking it and running, but after all the injuries Marcotte has gone through since tearing his ACL at Utah State in 2019, it would've been a cool moment.
* Wyoming has another bye week upcoming. That gives the Cowboys two weeks to prepare for a Colorado State team that has won just two games and Saturday got waxed on The Blue, 49-10. Boise State is the only unbeaten team in conference play. If the Cowboys and Broncos can continue to take care of business, those two meet Nov. 19 inside War Memorial Stadium. An awful lot could be on the line in that one.
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