Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- Air Force finally Air Forced.
After tacking on a 24-yard field goal at the final whistle of the second quarter, cutting the Wyoming lead to 21-17, the Falcons received the second-half kickoff and did what they've always done -- play keep away.
Led by quarterback Zac Larrier and fullback Emmanuel Michel, the home team put on a clinic only an option team can, driving 75 yards on 17 straight running plays.
It was the classic case of a slow death brought on by a thousand papercuts, no gain longer than 12 yards. The possession, which culminated with a 1-yard Larrier plunge into the end zone, took 10:13 off the game clock.
It also gave the Falcons their first lead of the night.
"They were a physical team," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said after the 34-27 setback that dropped his Cowboys to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in Mountain West play. "They came off the football and they knocked us off the ball. We oozed, but we hung in there."
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This appeared to be one of those demoralizing drives, one that made you wonder if Air Force would ever give the ball back if the Cowboys were unable to keep up on the scoreboard. That possession also erased what was arguably Wyoming's most efficient first half of the season. One where the visitors took a quick 14-0 lead and converted on 9-of-10 third-down attempts.
To add some additional anguish, it appeared Michel might have lost control of the ball on the 16th play.
Easton Gibbs made the initial hit. Fellow linebacker Cole DeMarzo rode the senior to the ground, jarring the ball loose near the goal line. Cole Godbout scooped it up for a clean recovery in the end zone.
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"We don't have an opportunity to take a look at it," Bohl said when asked if he talked to officials about the potential fumble. "They review every play, I know that. I don't know what the TV people saw, but I do know there's like all kinds of cameras. We've got a collaborative replay, they're looking at it in Dallas, too. So, it must not have been."
Wyoming would have plenty of chances to win this game.
A pair of John Hoyland missed field goals didn't help. Neither did a blocked point-after attempt that would've given the Cowboys a 28-27 advantage with 6:14 remaining. Michel, who said earlier in the week that the only way Air Force loses this game is "if we beat ourselves," coughed up a fumble deep in Falcons' territory, setting up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Peasley to tight end Treyton Welch.
Backup quarterback Jensen Jones was stripped by Gibbs on the very next drive, once again setting Wyoming up deep in the Air Force end.
Conservative play calling, coupled with yet another missed field goal, axed that gift.
"Obviously, they're a really good football team," Bohl said of the now 6-0 Falcons, who Sunday cracked the Top 25. "You know, it's my job as a head football coach to lick our wounds. I mean, those guys are hurting in the locker room. I'm hurting, too."
This one hurt.
"We're going to be hungry," added Peasley, who threw three touchdown passes on the night and added another on the ground. "I know this football team, and I know everyone in there right now is thinking about how do we, you know, bounce back from this? Ain't no pity in there, So, I'm happy for that."
AIR FORCE 34, WYOMING 27
Sam Scott had some big shoes to fill in this one.
The sophomore running back was forced into duty after starter Harrison Waylee suffered a lower-body injury in last week's win over Fresno State. He's still listed as day-to-day and watched this one from the sidelines in street clothes.
While Scott didn't rack up Waylee-type numbers or break and long ones, he was effective between the tackles, rolling up 43 yards on 14 attempts. Where the Nebraska native really made a difference was in the passing game, hauling in three catches for an additional 43 yards.
That led all receivers.
Scott's biggest play of the night came on a short pass over the middle on a 3rd-and-17. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker-turned-running back, immediately took that second-quarter heave and headed north, hammering a defender to pick up the improbable first down. Ayir Asante would haul in a 14-yard scoring strike a handful of snaps later to give the visitors a 21-14 lead.
“I thought they were absolutely on fire, offensively. I can’t imagine what it would do to a goose if you gave it Ex-Lax, but they were running right through us. “We had to find a way to hang in the game.”
-- Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun on the Cowboys' early offensive success Saturday night in Colorado Springs.
"There's certainly things that we can do better. What we have to do is make some corrections and take advantage of this bye week. We're a beat up football team. Coming into this game, I was scared to death that we're going to have to play a physical game -- and we certainly did. But, we'll lick our wounds and we'll all bounce back."
-- Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl when asked how hard this loss is to swallow.
"Absolutely. You know, playing in this league, it's all over the place. You know, in my past, when I was on a different team, Wyoming actually put the beating on us. That team bounced back and we had success. So, that's why I'm saying one game doesn't define us as Wyoming football. We have a lot of improvements to make and luckily we have a bye week coming up to really regroup and get better."
-- Wyoming QB Andrew Peasley, referring to a 44-17 loss to the Cowboys in 2021 while he was at Utah State. The Aggies went on to beat New Mexico before taking down No. 19 San Diego State in the Mountain West Championship game. Peasley and Co. capped that season with a 24-13 victory over Oregon State in the LA Bowl.
"I mean, we know John. I mean, I can't even count how many I've seen him miss. We all have full faith in that guy. You know, he's one of the best kickers in the country. We know that ... He's a very even-keeled guy, too. He doesn't get too high or too low, and I think that's what you want in a kicker. So, it's great to have him as a weapon on our team and we just have to keep trusting and rolling with him."
-- Wyoming linebacker Easton Gibbs when asked if he will speak with All-American kicker John Hoyland, who has missed three straight field-goal attempts.
A well-deserved break. The Cowboys enter the bye week after playing seven straight games, four of which were against teams either in or just outside the Top 25. Wyoming is 5-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play. If they hope to stay in the title hunt, the Cowboys will need to do something they have never done in program history -- beat Boise State on the road. The Broncos (3-4, 2-1) are also on a bye this week after blowing a 21-point lead Saturday night in Fort Collins with just 4:01 remaining in regulation.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
Gallery Credit: 7220Sports.com
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players