Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
TUCSON, Ariz., -- Shawn Elliott smartly called a timeout. Georgia State's head coach had three at his disposal anyway.
Wyoming was facing a fourth and 16 from its own 34. GSU was going to get the ball back with just under a minute to go in the first half, looking to close the gap with the quick-strike offense the Panthers displayed on their first offensive possession of the game -- and the two-play, 75-yard strike that took all of 29 seconds in the third.
Cowboy punter Ryan Galovich received the snap and blasted the punt downfield. Unfortunately for Elliott and the Panthers -- Galovich got blasted, too.
GSU cornerback Evan Jones was the culprit.
"You really want to ask that question? I mean, honestly," a still baffled Elliott said from the podium during his postgame press conference. "That's on me. That's on me. We called for a block -- for whatever reason -- and I should've overridden that call. I really should've. You don't go for the block on 4th and 16, but we did."
Wyoming got the ball back at its own 49-yard line. Levi Williams took care of the rest.
The Cowboys true freshman quarterback, who was making his first-career start at the Arizona Bowl, took the snap on third and 10, surveyed the field and rolled to his right. Just before he got to the GSU sideline -- and right before he got waxed by an oncoming defender -- the Canyon Lake, Texas, product heaved a pass down the sideline.
Ayden Eberhardt was all alone for the easy catch. He broke a tackle and outraced the Panther secondary for the 51-yard touchdown.
"You rough the punter right there and give them that crazy touchdown right there before the half," Elliott said, shaking his head. "I think we had eight guys almost run into each other when they scored on that throw.
"You look at it from a momentum standpoint -- here you are in a seven-point ball game, you feel good going in and you are in striking distance. We felt like we could move the ball and put points on the board, then that happens. That was a crucial moment."
It was the third scoring strike of the first half from Williams, giving the Pokes a 24-10 lead. Instead of potentially making it a one-score game or even tying it before the half, a critical mistake sunk any chances of Georgia State coming back in this one.
"Obviously, it translated into some points," Bohl said. "And one of the things you do whenever you rush a punter, you hold your breath a little bit because if something does go wrong there, it's always been my experience as an old defensive coach, once you stop them, when something like that happens, the number of times that you give up a touchdown right after that is pretty doggone high and that certainly was the case here."
Wyoming 38, Georgia State 17
This one is easy -- it's Tyler Vander Waal. And not because of anything else other than his first-class attitude.
The sophomore quarterback entered the transfer portal last week. His career in Laramie is over. He was on the roster Tuesday. He expected to play. He didn't. But he still made an impact.
Just look at his face as Bohl speaks from the podium about the outing from the true freshman quarterback.
After Williams hit Austin Conway for his first career touchdown pass in the first quarter, no one was more excited than Vander Waal. He was seen running around, jumping into Williams and celebrating. You would've thought it was him who threw the pass.
Vander Waal won't be remembered around here for the things he did on the field, though he has him moments. When his name is mentioned, most will talk about the class he showed to the very end.
“Are you kidding me? You ought to write a book on Dan. I mean, honestly, you talk about courage, you talk about leadership, you talk about heart, you talk about effort, you talk about enthusiasm -- talk about putting a program on your back ... What legacy do they leave? It's amazing.”
— Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott on his senior quarterback, Dan Ellington, who completed 13-of-26 passes for 156 yards and rushed for a team-high 70 yards and a score with a partially torn right ACL.
"Sometimes you hear that some bowl games are somewhat meaningless. Tell that to that guy that this was meaningless."
— Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl on GSU's quarterback.
A long, exciting offseason awaits the Wyoming Cowboys. Barring attrition, Craig Bohl's bunch should be one of the favorites in the Mountain Division next season. They bring back their entire offensive and defensive line, a pair of young quarterbacks with experience, three quality running backs, a plethora of tight ends and some key pieces in the secondary. Lack of depth could be a thing of the past in Laramie. We will have plenty of storylines to follow -- is Sean Chambers healthy? Who will the QB be? Who replaces Logan Wilson, Alijah Halliburton, Cooper Rothe and others? Can the Cowboys find the receivers to be balanced on offense? Big questions loom. It will be fun.