LARAMIE -- Sabastian Harsh was walking with a noticeable limp Monday afternoon.

The bag of ice strapped to his surgically-repaired left knee cap was initially concerning. Craig Bohl quickly calmed fears from behind the podium, saying he's going to be "OK."

Those were Harsh's words, not his.

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"It's genuine soreness," the Cowboys' 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive end said, accompanied by that wide trademark smile.

Those types of things will happen when you haven't played in an actual football game in 620 days. You can also tack on a 78-minute lightning delay.

Nothing was putting a damper on this moment.

Before the Cowboys' 35-33 upset over Texas Tech in double overtime last Saturday night, Harsh said he stopped to take it all in. He watched more than 26,000 cram into War Memorial Stadium. Section by section, his eyes wandered. The Scottsbluff, Neb., product walked up and down the home sideline.

He shared a special moment with his parents behind the bench, hugs coming over the railing.

"I was just feeling so blessed. Like, even just the run out and all that stuff," Harsh said. "I was like, 'holy cow, I'm finally here.'"

The sophomore suffered a gruesome injury just days before the 2022 opener at Illinois. His knee cap split in half, horizontally. That was rare, painful and sent Harsh into a depression. He was penciled in as the Cowboys' starting edge rusher in Champagne. After a special offseason that had his coaches raving, the rug was yanked from underneath him at the zero hour.

Harsh needed minor surgery during training camp to remove wire from that knee. He missed a few weeks. He wasn't missing this.

"It's finally here," he said. "I waited two years for this."

 

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Nerves, yeah, they played a role.

Harsh woke up at 7 a.m. Saturday morning. An alarm had nothing to do with that. Getting back to sleep wasn't an option, though game time was still more than 10 hours away. He asked fellow end and roommate DeVonne Harris if he had any advice for him.

He did -- "You're going to mess up."

"I was like, 'really, man? That's the best advice you have you've got?'" Harsh joked.

The message was blunt, but it hit home. It was another way of saying, it won't be perfect, so don't expect it to be.

"It taught me that I can only control what I can control: my effort and to do what I can to make sure everything does go smooth."

It did, by and large.

Harsh tallied four tackles. He even batted down a Tyler Shough pass late in the fourth quarter. He also stopped Tech's 6-foot-5 signal caller for no gain on a designed run in the first overtime.

"He's been waiting a long time and he played really well," Bohl said on Monday. "... It was great to see him out there. Those defensive ends were going to be tested and Sabastian rose to that challenge."

"I'm obviously very happy with how I played and I know I put everything out there," Harsh added. "If I wasn't sore today, then it'd be kind of a disappointment.

"It was crazy. It was awesome."

The emotions pregame were only matched by the elation of the final score along with the UW student section flooding the field after the final whistle.

"Just to see so many people cheering and so many people who care about our team, it was amazing," Harsh said. "To see my teammates embracing each other at the end and coming together in the fourth quarter  and all the way through OT -- it was special. Shoot, it was 17-0 in the first quarter and everybody on the sideline was telling each other 'don't flinch.'

"They might have hit us first, but, all right, let's go hit them back and get five punches on them. Those intense feelings, I just couldn't keep them in anymore. All that bottled up stuff was finally out. It was, man ... man."

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