The Wyoming Cowboys still have control of their own destiny. In a hard-hitting game between two of the best football teams in the Mountain West the game was in doubt until the fourth quarter clock hit 00:00. The cardiac Pokes gave the hometown crowd a show on senior day in War Memorial Stadium.
San Diego State was kick-started by returning the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead in the blink of an eye.
The Wyoming running game was solid against a top ranked Aztec rushing defense. Brian Hill got loose for 131 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Josh Allen added another 56 yards rushing to put the Cowboys over 200 yards rushing for the day.
By contrast the Cowboys held the NCAAs leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey to 76 yards of rushing and no touchdowns. The Aztecs finished with 178 yards rushing on the day. The 76 yards by Pumphrey was his lowest mark since September 2015 when the Aztecs played Penn State.
The Aztecs returned a second kick-off for a touchdown in the third quarter to become the first Mountain West team to return two kickoffs in one game. Even with that the Pokes battled back in typical fashion.
The Pokes kept responding to Aztec scores with scores of their own to keep them within striking distance. After the second kick return that put San Diego State up 24-17 half way through the third quarter the Cowboys responded with a 34 yard Cooper Rothe field goal. The Aztecs started the fourth quarter with a field goal of their own to take a seven point lead with 10:45 left.
The Cowboys weren’t done scoring. Jake Maulhardt grabbed a 30 yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen on a three play, 75 yard drive that lasted one minute to even the score at 27.
The Cowboys followed that up with a defensive stop and took the ball over at their own 15. Using a drive that lasted 6:14 and 15 plays the Pokes would score again, this time a 29 yard pass from Josh Allen to CJ Johnson. The Cowboys converted three third downs and one fourth down on the drive to setup the score.
But this wouldn’t have been a battle between the two top teams in the conference if it didn’t come down to the last play. San Diego State started with the ball at their own one yard line after a muffed kick return by Rashaad Penny. Penny’s knee accidentally hit the ground on the muff and the Aztecs had to 99 yards to go in 1:07.
On the first play of the Aztec drive Pumphrey caught a 27 yard pass to get the Aztecs out of the shadow of their uprights. The Aztecs marched down the field with three timeouts available and got to the Wyoming 23 for the final play. Aztec quarterback Christian Chapman lobbed a pass to the endzone in the face of Wyoming’s defensive line pressure. The pass was swatted in the endzone. However, on the swatted pass the ball awkward tumbled to the ground it appeared to fall into the hands of Quest Truxton. Initially ruled as incomplete by the referee who was standing at the play it went to booth review. The call was eventually overturned and the Aztecs were awarded a touchdown, down 33-34.
Rocky Long decided to roll the dice on the table and go for two and the win. Chapman took the snap and rolled to his left to throw a out route but the pass was swatted away by the Cowboy secondary to fall incomplete.
The Cowboys scored their second win over a ranked team this season, and finished undefeated at home. It was the first time Wyoming had beaten two ranked opponents since 1999. It was also the first time since 1996 they were undefeated at home.
Josh Allen finished with 282 yards passing and two touchdowns for the Pokes. CJ Johnson had a career day for the Cowboys by hauling in five passes for 85 yards and a score. Jake Maulhardt had 84 yards receiving, Tanner Gentry had 58 yards receiving.
Senior Lucas Wacha finished the day with eight tackles. With those eight tackles he moved into ninth place all-time in career tackles at Wyoming with 325. Andrew Wingard finished the day with 11 tackles, which gave him seven double-digit tackle days this season.
San Diego State had an 18 game conference win streak snapped with the loss to the Cowboys. That streak was the longest such streak in the nation until then. The Aztecs will finish their season next weekend versus Colorado State at home.
The Cowboys will face New Mexico next week in Albuquerque. The Cowboys control their own destiny at this point. With a win they will play in the Mountain West title game and will likely host the game in Laramie. If the Cowboys lose and Boise State wins, the Broncos will play San Diego State in the title game. If both Wyoming and Boise State lose next weekend the Cowboys will be the representative from the Mountain division. They would likely travel to San Diego in that scenario.
The game will air on ESPN2 and kickoff at 8:15pm from University Stadium.