The Wyoming football team rolled into a cloudy Iowa City, Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes of the Big 10 Conference to open the 2017 college football season. The hopes of the Cowboy fan base were high for this game in the first meeting between the two schools since the 1987 Holiday Bowl, with junior quarterback Josh Allen back under center. Those hopes did not come true though with an uneven offensive performance that scuffled along to a 24-3 defeat.
A revamped Wyoming defense which looked more prepared and physical than in years past got off to a solid start forcing two punts and turnovers (one interception and one fumble recovery) in Iowa’s first four possessions. The offense, on the other hand, looks to be a work in progress with the losses of Brian Hill, Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt and Jacob Hollister. The offense sputtered on their first three drives but Wyoming took the lead on their fourth possession when Cooper Rothe kicked a career long 49-yard field goal. This 3-0 lead would be the only lead Wyoming had on the day.
Josh Allen looked sharp early with improved foot work and accuracy but tried to do too much as the game progressed to the detriment of the team. Allen finished the contest 23 of 40 for 174 yards with no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It was his lowest passing output since the game at Nevada last season where he threw for just 145 yards in a win over the Wolfpack. The running game truly never got going with three running backs (Hall, Overstreet and Evans) running the ball a combined 19 times for just 65 yards. “(We) couldn’t really get a running game established,” coach Craig Bohl said. “We tried. We knew their front seven would be very formidable, as they were.”
A critical point in the game came late in the second quarter. Wyoming had the ball at the Iowa 43 with 50 seconds left in the first half and the score was 7 to 3 in favor of Iowa. Josh Allen escaped pressure looking for a pass downfield but couldn’t turn his body in time to hit an open wide receiver. Allen was forced to throw the ball away but was called for intentional grounding when the pass didn’t go beyond the line of scrimmage. This resulted in a 19-yard loss that backed Wyoming up to their own 38. Wyoming then took a timeout to stop a ten-second clock run-off and lost one yard on the next two plays. On fourth down punting from their own 37, true freshman Tim Zaleski whiffed on his punt attempt completely missing the ball with Iowa recovering on the Wyoming 32 with 27 seconds left in the half.
Iowa cashed in on this mistake with a Nate Stanley to Noah Fant pass that made the score 14-3 Iowa at half time. The situation from there did not improve for Wyoming with the defense conceding another 10 points in the second half while the Wyoming offense scored no points for the 24 to 3 final scoreline. Wyoming did have a chance to make the score 14-10 when Josh Allen hit an open C.J. Johnson in the end zone but the sophomore wide receiver juggled the catch and was out of bounce.
While the game was a disappointing way to open the season. There is still a lot to be optimistic about for Wyoming football this season. Josh Allen and the offense will continue to grow as the running backs and wide receivers look to find their feet in a retooled offense. The offensive line will surely improve too when not facing a front seven the caliber of Iowa’s. Wyoming surprised everyone with a last minute offensive line shuffle they have been prepping all fall camp with senior Ryan Cummings at left guard and true freshman Alonzo Velazquez at right tackle. This group should be able to open up run lanes to keep the Wyoming offense balanced in future games.
On the defensive side of the ball, there is much to be happy about as the Pokes held Iowa to just 3.4 yards per carry and forced four turnovers on one interception and three fumble recoveries. Additionally, Wyoming has 2 sacks and 6 tackles for loss while Curtis Granderson, Andrew Wingard, Jalen Ortiz and Tyler Hall stood out individually.
Next up: The Cowboys will host Gardner-Webb of the Big South Conference in the home opener next Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. Kickoff is set for 2pm MT and the game will be broadcasted on AT&T Sportsnet (formerly Root Sports).