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CJ Johnson catches a touchdown in a home win over San Diego State in November. Photo Credit: Pete Arnold

The Wyoming Cowboys have earned a bid to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, airing on ESPN December 21st. The name of that bowl game is just about as long as it’s been since the Cowboys have played a bowl game in San Diego. The Cowboys are not unfamiliar with San Diego bowl games, as they’ve been to two Holiday Bowls in the long history of bowls. Wyoming is 6-7 all-time in bowl games.

The Cowboys are 8-5 entering the bowl game. Their last game was a loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game in Laramie. The Cowboys have had some time to heal up and think about what’s next. They will be facing former Mountain West and Western Athletic Conference rival Brigham Young.

The Cougars are coming into the Poinsettia Bowl at 8-4. They are an FBS independent, and have been since their departure from the Mountain West in 2011. BYU decided that independent membership would net them more revenue by playing money games against certain schools, plus the revenue from the BYUTV network.

The storied history between these two schools dates back to 1922. Wyoming only has more games against Utah and Colorado State in the history of the program. BYU and Wyoming first met on November 14, 1922 in Provo. The Cougars escaped with a 7-0 victory. Two weeks later the two schools met again and Wyoming pulled off a 13-0 win in Laramie.

The series has had its share of ebbs and flows, with both schools reeling off long streaks of victories. BYU has won the last seven meetings against the Cowboys. The most recent coming in 2010, a 25-20 loss in Provo. The Cowboys trail the all-time series 30-44-3.

Looking back at the history of Wyoming playing in San Diego Bowl games isn’t a real long list, but full of Wyoming history good and bad.

1987 Holiday Bowl

Wyoming played its first Holiday Bowl in 1987 when they faced the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa came into the game ranked #18, while Wyoming came into the game as a 10-2 team and the reigning WAC champions. The Cowboys were on the board first with a pair of field goals from Greg Worker. Craig Burnett extended that lead later in the game when he hit James Loving on a 15 yard touchdown and the Cowboys went up 12-0. The Hawkeyes would get on the board next after they blocked a Cowboy punt and returned it for a touchdown. Cowboy running back Scott Abraham would punch in a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 19-7 lead heading into halftime.

Iowa’s Anthony Wright began the Hawkeye comeback as he intercepted a Craig Burnett pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown. The Hawkeyes comeback would be completed when Iowa running back David Hudson scored a touchdown to cap off an 86 yard drive. The score would stand 20-19 and Iowa won Wyoming’s first appearance in the Holiday Bowl. Attendance for that game was 61,892.

1988 Holiday Bowl

The second time Wyoming played in a San Diego Bowl game was the following year, 1988. The Cowboys would be facing off with Oklahoma State and Barry Sanders. The match-up featured the 9-2 Oklahoma State Cowboys who were ranked 12th in the polls taking on Paul Roach’s 11-1 Cowboys, the WAC champions. The Pokes came in ranked 15th in the polls.

Barry Sanders got Oklahoma State on the board first with a 33 yard touchdown. Wyoming responded with a touchdown of their own, a quarterback run from Randy Welniak. Sanders scored again in the second quarter and from then on Oklahoma State never looked back. Going into halftime the Pokes were down 17-7. Mike Gundy threw a touchdown pass to start the second half. Randy Welniak responded by throwing a touchdown pass of his own. With the score standing at 24-14 in the third quarter the game became the Barry Sanders show. He scored on three straight drives to run the score up to 45-14 to star the last quarter. OSU would punch in a couple more garbage time touchdowns and Wyoming was beaten 62-14. Most Cowboy fans would love to forget this game ever happened, but unfortunately history has a long-term memory. The attendance for that game was 60,641.

2016 Poinsettia Bowl Notes

Wyoming has played several games in Qualcomm Stadium since those two bowl games, and Wyoming has most recently played there in 2015. This will be BYUs 13th San Diego bowl appearance. The Cougars played in eleven Holiday Bowls and one Poinsettia Bowl. BYU played in the inaugural Holiday Bowl in 1978, defeated by Navy. In fact, BYU played in the first seven Holiday Bowls. The Cougars are 6-6 in the post season in San Diego. Their most recent win was a 23-6 win over San Diego State in 2012’s Poinsettia Bowl.

The current version of Wyoming and BYU in San Diego doesn’t have the name that the Holiday Bowl does, nor does it come with either team being ranked, but it does come with a large dose of rivalry. There are few opportunities that teams will face each other in a bowl game that you can consider a rival. Bowl games often have two random teams paired against each other who may never have met before. This kind of history in a bowl game should be quite fascinating.

Currently BYU is an 8.5 point favorite in the Poinsettia Bowl. BYU will be missing quarterback Taysom Hill who was injured late in the season. Wyoming will be without a number of players on defense. The game is not without stars and should provide an entertaining game.

The game will air on ESPN on December 21st at 7:00pm mountain time.

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