Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
TUCSON, Ariz., -- John Hoyland said he is not a fan of being hoisted up on teammates' shoulders after a game-winning kick.
The junior drilled a 22-yard field goal as time expired to lift Wyoming to yet another improbable victory in a year filled with last-second drama. The Cowboys, on the back of three successful Hoyland kicks, eked past Toledo 16-15 in Saturday's Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl.
"We kind of finish it off," Hoyland said with his trademark sheepish grin. "I mean, there's a whole lot of work, a whole bunch of big guys hitting people, to get me into that spot. So, honestly, it's all down to them."
This dream walk-off scenario seemed like a pipedream just an hour or so earlier. That all started with a punt near midfield on a 4th-and-1.
Conservative until the very end, Craig Bohl played the field-position game.
None of that mattered one snap later when the Rockets' back-up running back Jacquez Stuart hit the jets and dusted the Wyoming secondary for an 80-yard touchdown gallop. Toledo finally took its first lead with 5:19 remaining in the first half. They would add to it, too, tacking on a safety and the second Luke Pawlak field goal of the afternoon.
That decision to punt appeared to be the turning point in this one.
Wyoming's offense, struggling mightily without its coordinator Tim Polasek, who accepted the head coaching job at North Dakota State, looked lost. Andrew Peasley took hit after hit. Twice the senior signal caller required assistance to leave the field. The running game was stymied. Pass catchers weren't getting open.
This one was over. Or so it seemed.
Trailing 15-6 and in desperate need of a spark, this downtrodden unit trotted onto the field with 12:40 remaining in regulation. Harrison Waylee busted an 18-yard run on the opening play of the drive. Peasley connected on throws of 10 and 19 before gashing the Toledo defense for a 12-yard gain, violently meeting the turf -- and the defensive duo of Dallas Gant and Emmanuel McNeil-Warren.
Wyoming was in business. Peasley was in pain.
The nearby fans rose to their collective feet. His last name began to ring out inside Arizona Stadium.
"That was probably one of the coolest moments I've ever experienced," Peasley said. "I could hear that and I got a lot of adrenaline and I said 'please get me up.'"
Evan Svoboda, the man who very well could be the future of this offense under center, blasted his way into the end zone moments later to cut the Rockets' lead to just two.
Still, there was work to be done.
The defense did its part, edge rusher Sabastian Harsh dragging down Toledo quarterback Tucker Gleason behind the line for a three-yard loss on third-and-long.
Could the offense pull its weight?
Peasley, who Bohl likes to boast is "tough as boot leather," lived up to the billing on what would eventually become the final drive of the night and the last play of his college career.
The Oregon product, heels near his own goal line, took the snap, glanced downfield and fired a strike down the seam right into the awaiting hands of wideout Ayir Asante. The senior was eventually brought down after the 26-yard grab. Peasley laid flat on his back a few yards behind the original line of scrimmage.
He stood in the pocket and delivered. That's nothing new.
"You know, he's a Cowboy through and through," Bohl said of Peasley, who capped his UW career, completing 20-of-25 passes for 168 yards and adding 16 more on the ground. "He's got ice running through his veins. That was a really resilient performance by him tonight."
Svoboda, with the aid of seven rushing attempts, led Wyoming on an 11-play, 61-yard game-winning drive. Hoyland, the game's eventual MVP, was ambushed by gold jerseys and eventually came out of the pile above all.
"I love all of these guys, man," Hoyland said from the celebratory podium. "They're everything to me."
Wyoming 16, Toledo 15
This honor goes to fate.
Stick with me here.
This team wasn't going to lose Bohl's final game. That just wasn't happening. Peasley, as always, laid it all on the line. Hoyland, a much-maligned All-American placekicker, was in a funk. Like, missed 7-of-his-last-8 attempts kind of funk. Waylee battled injuries all season long, including missing the first two games of the season -- and a crucial meeting with Air Force -- with various lower-body ailments.
The list gets longer.
This team has gone through too much to drop this one.
The double-overtime thriller over Texas Tech in the season opener. The miracle finish against Appalachian State that took a blocked field-goal attempt and a scoop and score to secure. Three quarters of going toe-to-toe with a Texas team, in its house, that will later this week appear in the College Football Playoff. Svoboda, you might recall, was forced into duty in Austin.
The list gets longer.
Game balls to all of the men who slide that jersey over their pads and the men who lead them.
"It's great to come up with a win," Bohl said. "It's great to close out my career with this football team. They truly have been special."
“I do want you to know, I will take credit, John, when the ball was hitting the goalposts, I went (Bohl makes blowing motion). That was a good omen."
-- Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl joking postgame about a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter that bounced off the crossbar and eventually went through the uprights to give the Cowboys an early 6-0 lead.
"They put me in the tent and I was trying to peek through the thing to see what the hell was going on. But you know what, it comes down to just getting the W and that's all I can ask for, especially for coach Bohl's last game."
-- Wyoming QB Andrew Peasley talking about being in the medical tent during the Cowboys' game-winning drive.
"I remember sitting in (Bohl's) office, and he looked at me in the eyes and said he was going to be here until I was done. I remember that was like a big, big factor for me. I mean, it's not like I had a lot of options, but I trusted him. It's kind of cool."
-- Wyoming linebacker Easton Gibbs on his emotions after completing the final game of his collegiate career.
The offseason is officially underway. So is the Jay Sawvel era in Laramie. Well, that begins Monday. Technically, according to his contract, Wyoming's defensive coordinator won't take the reins until Jan. 1. That means tomorrow, the Cowboys won't have a head coach. Interesting, nonetheless. NFL Pro-Day workouts are around the corner. So is the closing of the NCAA Transfer Portal. That slams shut on Tuesday. Sawvel, who says recruiting is not over despite inking 26 players on early signing day, is now tasked with finding a new offensive coordinator and a safeties coach. That announcement, he said, could come early next month.