Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., -- Before you even figured out what channel the Big Ten Network is on, Illinois was in the end zone.
It all started with a 43-yard kick return by Peyton Vining. Then, the Chase Brown show began.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior darted through the right side of the Cowboys' defense and down the right sideline for 38 yards. The very next snap, the Illini running back hauled in a perfectly placed pass from Tommy DeVito from 14 yards out to put the Illini in front.
They never looked back.
How bad was the first half for the visitors?
The numbers speak volumes.
Quarterback Andrew Peasley completed just 2-of-10 throws for 14 yards. Josh Cobbs caught both. Wyoming capped the first 30 minutes of the 2022 season with just 118 yards of total offense.
Despite how lousy the offense operated, this one wasn't out of reach until late in the third quarter.
In fact, the Cowboys actually had a chance to tie up the game late in the first frame. Peasley wasn't having a pretty debut in the throwing department, but his legs sparked an eight-play, 70-yard drive thanks to a run of 17 and 38 by the Utah State transfer.
UW was in business, setting up shop with a 1st-and-goal from the Illinois' 10.
Running back Titus Swen picked up a couple on the ensuing snap. Peasley appeared to connect with tight end Treyton Welch on a fade route in the corner of the end zone one play later. The junior couldn't quite pull it in, though he said postgame he wishes the officials would have reviewed it.
What was in store on 3rd-and-goal from the eight? A slant? Post route? Another lob? Heck, the first one nearly worked.
Instead, Tim Polasek and Co. went with what has become a Wyoming classic -- a run. This one, to the short side of the field, no less. No, Swen didn't celebrate in the orange paint with his teammates. He was stopped five yards short. The play never had a snowball's chance in you know where.
Neither did the Cowboys after that head-scratching decision.
Craig Bohl surprisingly didn't really recall what went into that play call, saying the Cowboys had multiple players leaving the field with cramps.
"We did feel like we were running the ... we were moving them off the ball," Wyoming's ninth-year head coach said from behind the podium. "That was part of it. I remember Tim saying, 'you know, we got a shot.'"
How did Peasley feel about that choice?
"You know, I trust coach Polasek and his play calling," said the junior quarterback, who finished the afternoon 5-of-20 for 30 yards and an interception. "You know, we have a really good back, and that's the chance he took."
Peasley was more focused on the throw to Welch before that third-down attempt.
"I think if that fade would have been called complete, it would have been a different game because the momentum would have kind of balanced out a little bit," he said.
John Hoyland, one of the few bright spots on this humid afternoon in Big Ten Country, booted through a 22-yard field goal. Wyoming was on the board. Two possessions later, so was Brown -- again. This time it was an 11-yard dash through the Cowboys' defense.
Brown finished with 151 yards on 19 carries. He scored two touchdowns on the ground. He added another to open the scoring and snagged three passes for 16 yards out of the backfield.
The Illini took a 17-3 lead into the locker room and added three more touchdowns over the next two quarters to complete this Zero-Week rout.
Illinois 38, Wyoming 6
Shae Suiaunoa finally got his shot.
The former three-star, dual-threat quarterback out of the Greater Houston Area has sat behind guys like Cassh Maluia, Charles Hicks and Easton Gibbs during his four years on campus. Now, he's the starting weakside linebacker.
Though the Cowboys' defense gave up 477 yards of total offense, including a whopping 260 on the ground, the sophomore tallied six tackles. Five of those were the solo variety. Suiaunoa also broke up a pass in the loss.
He had just four tackles in 13 games a season ago.
"I think, at the end of the day, I think we defeated ourselves. I think the guys understand that. We just didn't execute. At the end of the day, we didn't execute and, you know, they took us for a ride."
-- UW junior nose tackle Cole Godbout on the confidence in the locker room after the 38-17 loss to the Fighting Illini
"Sadness. This is going to test us, though. You know, I mean, just to say, 'oh, it's no big deal' -- it's a big deal. And a lot of times, you can learn a lot from a loss. They're not fun to go through. Sometimes you can let one team beat you twice. And that's going to be important for us, as coaches, to make sure that doesn't happen. They are close, but a lot of times, everything can be going good when you're winning and you're undefeated, and then all of a sudden you go out there and ... we got took to the woodshed. And that's going to test us."
-- UW head coach Craig Bohl when asked about the reaction in the postgame locker room
Bohl said his inexperienced squad needs to lick its collective wounds and prepare to face a Tulsa team that will open its season next Saturday in Laramie. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time. The Golden Hurricane was picked eighth out of 11 teams in the American Athletic Conference. Only South Florida, Navy and Temple are expected to be worse. The all-time series between these two is tied at 3-3. Tulsa is currently on a three-game winning streak against the Cowboys, including pulling off a 24-21 victory in 2019 inside Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. The game will be televised by FS1.