Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
LOGAN, Utah -- We were all waiting for the comeback, right?
Utah State, a team with eight wins and a shot at clinching a berth in the Mountain West title game with a win and a little help from New Mexico at Boise State, had outscored its last three opponents 49-18 in the third quarter.
The Aggies get even better in the fourth.
Not to mention the home team has come back from a double-digit deficit six times already this season. Surely the other shoe was going to drop at some point.
Wyoming scored 24 points in the first half, thanks to a balanced attack on offense and a 99-yard kick return from freshman Cameron Stone. Trading touchdowns hasn't been the Cowboys' strength under eighth-year head coach Craig Bohl.
No way this team could keep up in that department.
Trailing by seven, Logan Bonner and the Aggies offense began their march toward tying this one up on their opening drive of the second half. With Wyoming surely on borrowed time, it was just a matter of minutes until this quick-strike offense got going and lit a fire under a senior day crowd inside a chilly Maverik Stadium.
On a 3rd and 7, Bonner hit Brandon Bowling for eight yards to extend the drive. Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. took the next handoff on a 34-yard dash to the Wyoming 25-yard line.
That's when Chad Muma and his buddies stepped up.
Bonner tossed a pair of incompletions and Tyler was dropped for no gain. The Aggies weren't going to tie it right now, but the chipping away was underway.
With Connor Coles lining up for a 43-yard field-goal attempt, the snap was too hot to handle and bounced back to the Cowboys' 44 where CJ Coldon jumped on the loose change.
"That drive out of halftime, I feel like it can make you or break you," Coldon said. "I feel like that drive is the most important when the game is close ... I just feel like it was meant to be. We went out there and just made plays when they came."
The visitors kept the Aggies off the scoreboard -- for the time being -- but the real question was: Could the Cowboys keep scoring?
It took just two plays to get an answer to that.
After a 13-yard run by Xazavian Valladay on first down, quarterback Levi Williams once again lined up under center, took the snap, turned and put the ball in the belly of a running back. This time it was Titus Swen and he had a hole on the right side -- a big one.
The redshirt sophomore from Fort Worth followed a trio of blocks, compliments of Logan Harris, Frank Crum and tight end Colin O'Brien, and broke two tackles en route to a 43-yard touchdown run.
The Cowboys had a 31-17 lead.
They would tack on a 24-yard field goal off the right foot of John Hoyland on the next drive. Following that possession, Swen, once again, took advantage of a seal block from Keegan Cryder and Zach Watts and went right up the middle for a school record 98-yard touchdown run.
"To be honest, I was just thinking, I can't let the people of Wyoming down," Swen said with his infectious smile. "I already told them, if I ever broke out like that again, I was going to score. That's what I had to do."
To think, Swen went down with an injury late in the first half. It was the non-contact type that sends your mind to all kinds of horrible places. He needed assistance to get off the field.
Apparently he was just fine.
Wyoming 44, Utah State 17
This honor is going to a player who didn't catch one ball or even get targeted by Williams tonight.
That guy is Colin O'Brien, who took on the selfless task of becoming basically a third offensive tackle throughout the upset win over the Aggies.
O'Brien, a transfer from Saddleback College in his native California, got a Utah State defender in his grasp during that 43-yard touchdown run by Swen and pushed him back at least 10 yards.
It was total domination:
Look at Big No. 88 on the right side of the screen flat out bully his man. As Wyoming head basketball coach Jeff Linder would say, that's making a winning play.
The 6-foot-6, 238-pound sophomore has just two catches to his credit this fall, both of which came in a 45-12 blowout win over Ball State in Week 3. O'Brien might not always show up on the stats sheet, but that's just part of what makes him the perfect selection for unsung hero in this one.
"I think it was really big. It helped me a lot with just my confidence. I'm thankful that they opened up that hole for me. That was great. They named me the starter on this a week ago, and I'm grateful for the opportunity, as you can see. I just think those guys did a great job for me, allowing me to make that happen. I mean, I don't know what hole was bigger -- parting the sea or that one. What can I say, they let me walk in there, basically."
-- Wyoming freshman kick returner, Cameron Stone, on returning a first-quarter kick 99 yards for a touchdown and giving the Cowboys an early 14-7 lead in Logan
Wyoming (6-5, 2-5) will wrap up the regular season next Saturday in Laramie against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT. These two programs, which geographically couldn't be more different, battle for the Paniolo Trophy. Wyoming knocked off the 'Bows 31-7 last October inside a frosty War Memorial Stadium. The Cowboys lead the all-time series, 15-10. Hawaii (5-7, 2-5) held on for a 50-45 victory over CSU Saturday night on the islands.
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