Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
LARAMIE -- "He's been making big plays for us all year."
That's Easton Gibbs' assessment of Wrook Brown, who snagged his third interception of the season with 10:15 remaining in the third quarter and the Cowboys clinging to a modest 15-9 lead over visiting New Mexico.
Last week Wyoming's sophomore nickelback picked off Joey Aguilar with 18 seconds left to thwart an Appalachian State comeback. He also sparked the home team in the season opener, stepping in front of a Tyler Shough heave in an upset over Texas Tech.
Dylan Hopkins is Brown's latest victim.
The Lobos' senior signal caller took the shotgun snap, looked to his right and fired. His receiver, Jeremiah Hixon, was running a curl route.
Brown ran it better.
The Salado, Texas product returned it nine yards to the New Mexico 46-yard line.
John Hoyland, who connected on a season-high four field goals in this one, capped a 10-play, 58-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half. Brown's interception followed.
The big bang came on the very next snap:
Harrison Waylee appeared to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Instead, the junior shucked that and broke to the outside, turned the corner and raced down the visiting sideline. Not one, but two safeties, looked like they would knock the Northern Illinois transfer out of bounds.
"We had bad tackling today, which led to opportunities," New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales said postgame.
The Lobos aren't the first team to see Waylee's taillights this season.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound back has appeared in three games for the Cowboys since returning to the lineup after offseason knee surgery. He has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each, becoming the first UW rusher to accomplish that since 2019.
Xazavian Valladay cracked the century mark in five straight.
"Harrison is a special running back," UW quarterback Andrew Peasley said. "I've been around some good running backs. You know Jaylen Warren? He plays for the Steelers now. He was at Utah State when I was there. He was really special, but you watch Harrison, his motor is just go, go, go. He makes good reads. I'm super happy to have him back and healthy."
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Waylee rushed for 110 yards and broke a 62-yarder for a score against No. 4 Texas. Last Saturday against App State, he had a 75-yard touchdown run in an improbable 22-19 victory over App State. Waylee rushed for 156 yards on just 18 carries.
He would've piled up 200 on the ground Saturday afternoon if it wasn't for the speed of Tavian Combs, who hauled Waylee down around the 11-yard line after a 66-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter.
"That was the first time," Waylee said with a chuckle, referring to being caught from behind. "I'm definitely taking the 'L' on that one, but I promise that's not going to happen again."
Waylee finished with 191 yards on 18 attempts.
"You guys are seeing the difference that he makes," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. "He did get caught today. I'm going to look at that one. He is an explosive weapon ... We just haven't had that. I mean, we've had, OK, you get it going and it's a 12-yard gain. Well, now you've got somebody, if you don't block everything right and he gets to the second level, he can go."
This 10-point swing gave Wyoming a 22-9 lead with just 7:56 left in the third.
Wyoming 35, New Mexico 26
This honor is going to a true underdog -- Gunner Gentry.
Wyoming's senior wideout caught just one pass in the win over the Lobos. It went for only five yards.
Why was this so significant?
Gentry missed the previous two seasons due to devastating knee injuries. Two complete ruptures of the patellar tendon in his left knee left the Colorado product sidelined. To make matters worse, he was playing his best football, according to wide receivers coach Mike Grant, before the first setback.
It's been a long road back for the 6-foot-3, 205-pound younger brother of former Wyoming star Tanner Gentry.
"I was happy for him," Peasley said postgame. "You know, he's been working really hard. He's been through it, I'll tell you that, with his injuries and just kind of keeping his motivation to keep playing football. To see him out on the field and making catches is really special to me, and for him and for this team, too."
Gentry last caught a ball in the 2020 season opener at Nevada. That was a 22-yard touchdown strike from Levi Williams.
“It changed the momentum and had us chasing points. That killed momentum and those plays change scenarios of a game. I think it was a low kick and we will watch tape. You go from a great drive with all the momentum and they get two points and the sideline changes and the crowd got back into it."
-- New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales on the blocked point-after attempt that was returned for two points after the Lobos scored on their opening possession of the game.
“When Asante cut back, I wasn’t crazy about that. I thought to myself, ‘he’s cutting back too much, I don’t want him doing that,’ and then when he broke free I said, 'oh, yeah, I do want him doing that.’ And then he scored the touchdown.”
-- Wyoming head coach talking about a wild 66-yard touchdown reception from wideout Ayir Asante on the final play of the third quarter.
"Yeah, we've just been saving it for this next one."
-- Wyoming linebacker Easton Gibbs when asked about the Cowboys' 11-quarter scoreless streak against upcoming opponent Fresno State.
"John, he bails out our offense a lot. Honestly, he's probably one of the best kickers in the country. I've gotten so used to him making field goals, I probably should get up and like cheer and like high five him. But you know, I'm more frustrated that we aren't scoring in the red zone. So, I get to the sideline, I'm talking to coach (Tim Polasek) on the headset, and I look up and it's like, 'oh, yeah, we got the three points. I need to start being more of a leader with him, but he is automatic. He's a great kicker and a great kid."
-- Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley joking about placekicker John Hoyland, who booted through four field goals in the win over New Mexico.
This one could be a preview of the Mountain West Championship. Fresno State, the No. 25 team in the nation, comes to Laramie next Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Mountain Time. The game will be televised on Fox or FS2. The Bulldogs (5-0) and Cowboys (4-1) have met 14 times. Fresno State holds a 9-5 advantage and has won four straight over UW. Bohl's squad hasn't scored a single point against the 'Dogs over the last 11 quarters, including back-to-back shutouts in 2021 and '22. The Pokes have been outscored 87-10 during this current skid.