CHEYENNE -- Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming football jersey and think of all the great players to wear it? Yeah, me too. In this daily series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ football player was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?

No. 11 – Randy Welniak

Quarterback, 1984-88, Ord, Neb.

Résumé in Laramie
Randy Welniak passed for 3,819 yards in his career at UW and rushed for 17 scores from the quarterback position. He also threw 27 touchdowns during the 36 games he played in. In 1988, Welniak tossed 21 touchdown passes and racked up 2,791 yards through the air. He was named Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. In a come-from-behind win over Air Force that season -- we’ll get to that in a minute – Welniak became only the third quarterback in NCAA history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 more in a single game. That game helped cement him as an All-American that season.

Why Welniak?
This wasn’t as easy of a decision as you might have guessed.

Plus, I gained a whole new appreciation for the guy we’re naming our honorable mention. I hope you do, too, because he’s very underrated.

Why Welniak? Well, the simple answer is that unbelievable 1988 season. The one mentioned above. But the reason he earned the title of best No. 11 ever is because of one word – championship.

Welniak led the Pokes to an 11-2 record that season, which culminated in a WAC title. That is still the most wins in school history. Wyoming clinched a berth in the Holiday Bowl where they played Barry Sanders and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

That game didn't turn out so great for Wyoming, but Welniak did score twice on the ground. Here's the second one:

This was all after offseason shoulder surgery. Doctors told Welniak he may never be able to go under center again.

The “Wizard of Ord” earned his stripes in one game that season, a 48-45 win over Air Force in Colorado Springs. It elevated him into Wyoming lore forever.

Trailing by 21 entering the fourth quarter, the Welniak-led Cowboys outscored the Falcons 31-7 in the final frame to complete one of the biggest comebacks in college football history. Sean Fleming sealed the deal with a 27-yard field goal as the clock struck triple zeroes. Welniak finished the day with 357 yards passing and 108 rushing. He tossed three touchdown passes and ran for another.

Wyoming moved to 4-0 after the win. They’d win five straight after that miraculous comeback in The Springs, before falling to Houston, 34-10, in the Astrodome. Future Heisman Trophy winner, Andre Ware, was the quarterback for the Cougars. That was the Cowboys lone loss in the regular season.

Welniak was enshrined in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. He currently serves as the Senior Associate Athletics Director at UW with a focus on development and revenue enhancement.

Honorable mention
Or 1B, as I’m calling him.

Jay Stoner. No, seriously.

Stoner is fourth all-time in career yards at UW with 7,674 during his four-year career. He is third in pass attempts and completions, 1,112 and 638, respectively. He is also seventh overall in career touchdown passes with 37.

Welniak is not in the Top 10 in any offensive category anymore. He has been overtaken by names like Brett Smith, Casey Bramlet and Josh Allen, among others.

The main reason Stoner wasn’t my top choice is the fact that he never led his team to the title. He came close in 1998, but close doesn’t cut it. If the No. 25 Cowboys could’ve taken care of business against the 23rd ranked Falcons at War Memorial Stadium that November day, they would’ve won a WAC title. Instead, the offense sputtered – to say the least – and lost to Air Force, 10-3.

Even with the loss, the Pokes could still earn a bowl bid with a win over lowly Tulsa the following Saturday. Instead, Wyoming got hammered, 35-0. They finished 8-3 that season and spent the holidays at home.

That’s not all Stoner’s fault, of course, but he needed a Welniak-type performance. That didn’t happen. He still had a great career, for the most part, finishing 22-13 over his first three seasons as a starter. In 2000, the wheels fell off. Stoner and the Pokes went 1-10.

Who else wore No. 11
Marc Cousins (QB), Nick Szpor (QB), Chandler Garrett (QB), Eric Nzeocha (LB), Malkaam Muhammad (LB), Colby Kirkegaard (QB), Dylan McElveen (S), Emory Miller (QB), Greg Gagne (QB), John Watts (RB), Devon Moore (RB-also wore No. 5), Brian Bowker (S), Jeremy Dombek (QB), JJ Raterink (QB), Travis Burkhalter (WR), Eric Benson (S), Robert Benjamin (QB)

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