Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
FORT COLLINS, Colo., -- Wyoming trailed by just 10 at the half.
That was a miracle in itself.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Levi Williams tossed an interception on the Cowboys' third play from scrimmage. Marshaun Cameron took a 30-yard jaunt into the end zone to give the home team an early 7-0 advantage.
The next drive ended much like the first one.
Five plays into that, Williams fumbled the football after taking a huge hit in the pocket. It was Cameron once again.
This time though Dequan Jackson scooped up the loose change. It took the Rams' offense just seven seconds to get on the board again. This time it was a 29-yard touchdown connection from Patrick O'Brien to a wide open Trey McBride.
CSU would tack on a field goal and bust open a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Game over, right?
On the first drive of the second half, Williams hit Isaiah Neyor on an out route. The gain was 37 yards. The Pokes were in business inside the Rams' 20-yard line.
The redshirt freshman receiver took the ball and spun it on the ground after the big grab.
The refs didn't like that.
With the Pokes on the move, Neyor was nailed with an unsportsmanlike penalty. The ball was moved back to the CSU 33.
Not all was lost. Wyoming had the first down and the momentum. Trey Smith gashed the defense for 11 yards on the very next play. Neyor was nearly out of hot water.
That is until Williams took back-to-back sacks.
Mohamed Kamara and Scott Patchan sandwiched him first. Patchan, this time joined by buddy Manny Jones, tossed Williams to the turf. Those were just two of the six sacks Wyoming allowed with a makeshift line Thursday night that didn't include starters Logan Harris or Rudy Stofer.
Wyoming was in no man's land. It was too far to attempt a John Hoyland field goal. On came punter Nick Null. The goal: land a pooch punt deep inside Rams' territory. Instead, the snap never made it. It hit a UW defender on the way to Null.
It was that kind of night.
Williams and Co. were looking at a first down inside the Rams' 20. A penalty, one of eight on the night, all but derailed the Cowboys comeback.
That wasn't the last time the Pokes threatened in this one, but no matter how close the visitors got, the guys in green had an answer.
For the first time since 2015, the Bronze Boot now resides in Fort Collins.
Colorado State 34, Wyoming 24
Last November, it was Alijah Halliburton racking up big numbers from the safety position in a 17-7 home win over the Rams. The Cowboys' safety made a living in CSU's backfield, tallying 13 tackles. Tonight, it was Halliburton's backup who was breathing down the neck of O'Brien all night long. The man is Esaias Gandy. The senior finished with nine tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in Fort Collins. There were times when Gandy blew off the edge and was untouched. Not only did he stop CSU's ball carriers, he showed up in a foul mood, unceremoniously dumping O'Brien and Rams' running back A'Jon Vivens.
“It pissed me off, frankly. We should've won this game. We shot ourselves in the foot way too many times: stupid penalties, not finishing in the red zone, miscommunication with personnel. You name it, we did it in this game. We've got to clean it up. It was a short week but that's no excuse for the performance we put out there. That was not good. It was poor.”
— Wyoming redshirt quarterback Levi Williams on watching CSU's bench explode and run to the UW sideline to grab the Bronze Boot.
The Air Force Academy is slated to play in Laramie Saturday. Will that happen? Stand by. The Colorado Springs military institution is under quarantine and the Falcons' football team was forced to cancel its game with rival Army. You know the school didn't take that decision lightly. If Troy Calhoun's guys make it to the high plains, the game will kickoff at 8 p.m. MST. It will be the 56th all-time meeting between the two Front Range rivals. Air Force holds a slight 29-26 advantage in the series.