Turning Point, Unsung Hero and What’s Next for UW Football
LARAMIE -- The turning point in this one seems pretty obvious, huh?
It's not every day the opposing team is simply trying to run out the clock and literally hands over a fumble in the final minute of a game, especially one with championship implications.
That's exactly what George Holani did Saturday night in frosty Laramie.
Boise State's tailback even appeared to flip the ball right into the awaiting arms of Wyoming's defensive end DeVonne Harris, who tucked the ball under his arm and began to head north.
When the dust settled -- 44 yards later -- the Cowboys' offense was planted at the 21-yard line with 45 ticks remaining. A win would vault them to the top of the Mountain Division standings with one week remaining in the regular season. A loss would punch the Broncos' ticket to the conference title game for the sixth time in a decade.
The latter happened after UW quarterback Jayden Clemons heaved a pass into the corner of the end zone. Awaiting that throw was double coverage. Boise State safety JL Skinner, for the second time in as many Clemons' throws, snagged the game-sealing interception.
That's the low-hanging fruit when it comes to a sudden shift. That sequence was more like a jolt to the system, a crude turn of events that made a sub-zero night even that much colder for the 17,000-plus inside War Memorial Stadium.
Football can be a cruel game.
There was another moment in this one, however, where the tide began to turn. And it started with the "middle eight," an unofficial stat Craig Bohl doesn't put much weight into.
How do I know that?
Wyoming's head coach said as much last November when his Cowboys were outscored 6-0 over the final four minutes of the first half and the opening four of the third quarter in a 23-13 setback inside Albertsons Stadium.
It happened again Saturday night.
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With Wyoming out to an early 10-0 lead, Taylen Green and the Broncos marched 80 yards on 13 plays. That drive was capped with a 22-yard field goal off the right foot of Jonah Dalmas.
In reality, the Cowboys dodged a bullet on that possession -- two of them.
The visitors took five snaps inside the 5-yard line. Holani even walked into the end zone at one point, only to see that touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty. A false start also derailed the Broncos' best drive of the night.
Wyoming would get the ball back with 2:33 remaining in the half. Titus Swen rolled up nine yards on the ground on the first two snaps. Facing a 3rd-and-1 from their own 33, Boise State brought the house.
It paid off.
UW's running back, who rushed for a career-high 212 yards in the loss, was dropped for a one-yard loss. The Pokes were forced to punt with 1:04 to go.
For that offense, it was an eternity.
Green and Co. moved the ball from the 27 to Wyoming's 30-yard line in seven plays. The eighth, a 47-yard field goal from Dalmas at the buzzer to inch the Broncos even closer.
Talk about deja vu.
Bohl blew back-to-back timeouts to "ice" the Lou Groza semifinalist. He did the same thing in 2021. Then, an emotional Dalmas turned toward the Wyoming bench and celebrated his 43-yarder. Saturday, he instead faced his own teammates while pumping his fists.
A sign of things to come? You bet.
Boise State picked off a Clemons' pass on the Cowboys' first possession of the third quarter. UW drove 43 yards on eight plays. The redshirt sophomore tried threading a throw into the end zone to Alex Brown. Rodney Robinson stepped in the way.
On the ensuing 80-yard drive, the Broncos racked up at least eight yards on five of their nine plays. Green, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback, finished things off himself, gliding in from five yards out to give Boise State 13 unanswered points and its first lead of the night.
While Bohl might not think the middle eight is a legit stat, Saturday night it cost his team the lead, and more importantly, momentum.
FINAL: Boise State 20, Wyoming 17
Green has been sacked just five times all season.
Zero of those came on Saturday night.
The elusive signal caller, who Bohl compared to a 'young Josh Allen,' looks more like former national champion, Vince Young, especially when he tucks the ball and takes off. Against Wyoming, Green rushed for 47 yards on nine attempts. He added 211 through the air while connecting on 20-of-34 throws.
Two of those incompletions came courtesy of Oluwaseyi Omotosho, the Cowboys' redshirt freshman edge rusher, who was credited with a team-high three quarterback hurries in this one. Twice the Houston product dropped Green for a minimal gain.
Though Green did get the ball to Holani on a 3rd-and-5 late in the fourth quarter, Omotosho's pressure caused a delay in the route. It also allowed his teammates time to gang tackle the Broncos' tailback and force a punt.
Omotosho finished his night with four tackles. The 6-foot-2, 246-pound defensive end now has 38 of those on the season to go along with 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
"I’m a firm believer that when you live a certain way and you have a certain purpose and you live in grace, you’re going to make mistakes, but eventually good things will happen for you."
-- Boise State coach Andy Avalos said, referring to the wild finish that was capped by a Skinner interception in the end zone, sending the Broncos to the Mountain West championship game for the sixth time in 10 seasons
"A little bit. As soon as I saw the quarterback put his head down, I was like, 'OK, this is where I'm going down right here.'"
-- UW defensive end DeVonne Harris on whether or not he thought he could score on that last-minute fumble return. He was eventually tackled by Boise State QB Taylen Green
"You know, it's tough, but I would never question our coaches. I believe in our coaches with everything that I have and I feel like they put us in the best position to win that game. We just have to execute a little bit better. I wouldn't put this on the coaches, like I said before, there's many times within this game where we could have made a difference and not let it get to that position."
-- UW fullback Parker Christensen on the final play that was picked off in the end zone
"It's more what we think about ourselves. People are like, 'Oh, you guys are going to get blown out' and this and that. You know, you look at the spreads or the win percentages on ESPN and things like that. None of our guys bought into anything like that. We're all so bonded to each other and we all believe in one another. We go into every game believing we're going to win every game. I think that's a really special thing because you don't have that in a lot of units. You know, some guys might roll over but, I think as a group and as a unit, we all stuck together. I think we're going to continue doing that."
-- UW linebacker Easton Gibbs on whether he takes any pride on closing the gap with Boise State
The season finale lost a whole lot of luster after this loss. The Mountain West title game is all set. Boise State will host Fresno State Dec. 3 inside Albertsons Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the game will be televised on FOX. Wyoming (7-4, 5-2) will cap its 2022 campaign with a trip to central California to take on the Bulldogs (7-4, 6-1), who are currently on a six-game winning streak. Fresno State leads the all-time series, 8-5. Last October, Jake Haener and the Bulldogs pulled off a 17-0 victory in Laramie. This upcoming meeting is set for 8 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be broadcast on FS1.
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