On a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a game-time temperature of 73 degrees, the Wyoming Cowboys in front of 24,131 fans fell to the Washington State Cougars 41-19. The first half was a tale of two quarters with the visitors controlling the first quarter and the Cowboys the second. Washington State scored on their first two drives opening the scoring with a 24-yard field goal by Blake Mazza and followed that drive up with a 2-yard touchdown pass from ECU graduate transfer QB Gardner Minshew to WR James Williams to take a 10-0 lead.
Wyoming would capture the momentum late in the first quarter though after forcing the Cougars to take a safety after an errant punt snap cutting the lead to 10-2. Wyoming has now recorded a safety in back to back games and three safeties in their last 10 games. The Wyoming offense with help from the defense (a fumble recovery by Crall and an interception by Hull) would tack on 14 more points in the second quarter and would go into halftime with a 16-13 lead.
Wyoming coaches, players and fans alike were hoping that the second half would be like the second quarter of the game but unfortunately like the first quarter, the second half favored the Cougars. Washington State would score touchdowns on four of their five second-half drives while the Pokes would only muster a single 30-yard field goal from Cooper Rothe.
Nico Evans was having another strong game (89 rushing yards and a touchdown) but left the game midway through Wyoming’s first drive of the second half with a rib injury. The Wyoming offense did not look the same after he left although freshman RB Jevon Bigelow did gradually grow into the game finishing with 42 rushing yards. Without a running game, the Wyoming defensive line eventually wore down and the Cougars were able to find open receivers down the field without the threat of a Cowboy pass rush.
Wyoming has struggled the past 10 years against ‘Power Five’ conference opposition. The last Power Five conference win came in 2008 on the road against Tennessee and the last home win was against Virginia in 2007. The Pokes will hope to buck this trend soon and they will have another opportunity to do that just next week.
With 8:48 left in the third quarter Wyoming was in front of the Cougars 19-13 and the Cougars went on a 13-play 62-yard drive that took six minutes off the clock that end up giving Wazzu the lead for good. This drive featured several trick formations from Mike Leach’s bag of tricks and a gutsy 4th down call. The Cougars were facing a 4th and 1 from the Wyoming 35 yard-line but a false start penalty backed Wazzu up five yards for a 4th and 6 from the Wyoming 40. The Cougar QB would buy enough time from the Cowboy pass rush to complete a 9-yard pass that ended up being a backbreaker for the Cowboys.
“We were not given the latitude to play young today, we need to play well.”
Wyoming Football Coach Craig Bohl
– Wyoming allowed 41 points today, which are the most points the Cowboys have given up since the 49 points they gave up at home last season in a loss to Oregon. That Wyoming defense ended up just fine and there is a good chance this one will too so people should remain calm. This was just one game against one of the top offensive minds in college football.
– Antonio Hull intercepted a pass in the second quarter which was the fourth of his career. Hull sat out most of last year with an injury and won a starting job as a corner and will be a key player for the Pokes as he mentors the young corners on this roster.
– The officials made quite a few head-scratching calls but they were not the reason Wyoming did not win this game. Wyoming was 3 of 13 on third down and the lack of offensive production ultimately lead to the defense getting worn out in the second half. That 23% conversion rate is one to watch for the Pokes, last season they converted 25% or less on third down in two games that were both losses.
– Despite the defeat today, Wyoming has won 13 of their last 16 home openers. The other two losses were against North Dakota in 2015 and Toledo in 2012.
Quick Box Score
Score by Quarters
QB Tyler Vander Waal: 8 / 20 – 67 passing yards
RB Nico Evans : 18 rushes – 89 yards, 1 TD
RB Jevon Bigelow: 11 rushes, 42 yards
WR Rocket Ismail Jr: 2 catches, 21 yards
LB Tyler Hall: 5 tackles, 2 pass breakups
LB Logan Wilson: 12 tackles
CB Antonio Hull: 4 tackles, 1 interception
K Cooper Rothe: 1/1 FG, 30 yards
Wyoming will play their second road game of the season traveling to Columbia to take on the Tigers of Missouri out of the SEC. Kickoff is at 5:00pm MT and the game can be seen on ESPN2 or ESPNU.