by staff–6 Nov ’16
The Wyoming Cowboys scored on their first two drives of the game and scored 35 points in the first half on way to a 52-28 home win over the Utah State Aggies on Saturday. It improved Wyoming’s record to 7-2 on the season and 5-0 in the Mountain West Conference.
Saturday’s victory extended the Cowboys’ winning streak to five games, and their home winning streak to six straight. The last time Wyoming won five consecutive games was back in 1998, when UW won seven straight. The 1998 season was also the last time Wyoming started a season this well. Through the first nine games of ‘98, Wyoming was 8-1. Six consecutive home victories has not been accomplished since a stretch from 2006 to 2007.
Wyoming’s 52 points Saturday were the most scored during the three years of the Craig Bohl era, and the 24-point margin of victory was the largest of the season for the Pokes.
Cowboy quarterback Josh Allen had another outstanding night, completing 16 of 26 passes (61.5 percent) for 261 yards. He threw four touchdown passes and one interception. Allen also ran for 66 yards and another TD. The four TD passes were a career high. The 327 yards of total offense matched his career high set a week ago in the Cowboys win over Boise State. Allen came into Saturday’s game leading the Mountain West in points responsible for, averaging 14.5 points per game passing, running and receiving. He was responsible for 30 points against Utah State, with his four TD passes and one rushing touchdown.
“It was a hard fought game and we battled through some adversity,” said Bohl. “I thought Josh (Allen) played a phenomenal game. There were times there wasn’t anything there and he made a lot of plays. When he’s active, we are active on awesome.
“Not surprised that Utah State came back, with it being the same team that put up 58 points on us last season. I thought our defense responded tonight. Logan Wilson came up with a big interception late in the game.
“This gives us another win in the division. Now we are going to get ready for the UNLV game.”
The adversity that Bohl mentioned included losing senior linebacker D.J. May to a targeting penalty in the first half that resulted in May being forced to sit out the second half of the game. The comeback Bohl referred to came in the third quarter when Utah State scored 21 unanswered points to cut the Wyoming lead to 35-28.
Wyoming’s defense did respond well to the challenge Saturday led by senior linebacker Lucas Wacha, junior cornerback Rico Gafford and freshman linebacker Wilson. Wacha was credited with eight tackles on the night, moving him over 300 tackles for his career to 301. He needs 10 tackles to move into the UW career Top 10. Gafford also made eight tackles against the Aggies and forced a fumble that led to Wyoming’s fifth touchdown of the first half. Wilson added seven tackles to go with a 56-yard interception return in the fourth quarter that set up the Cowboys final TD of the game.
For the seventh time in nine games this season and the fifth consecutive game the Cowboys won the turnover battle ending Saturday’s game +1 in the turnover category. Wyoming has now forced a total of 19 turnovers this season (13 interceptions and six fumbles) to lead the Mountain West.
Brian Hill rushed for 142 yards and two TDs for the Cowboys, marking the sixth time this season he has rushed for over 100 yards and the 17th time in his last 26 games. Hill scored rushing touchdowns of 56 and 15 yards on Saturday. He now has 26 career rushing TDs, tying him for fourth in school history with Kevin Lowe (1981-84) and Walt Goffigan (1980-83).
Senior wide receivers Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt each moved up the Wyoming career TD reception list. Gentry caught two touchdown passes versus Utah State to improve his career total to 14, tying him with Malcom Floyd (2000-03), Gene Huey (1965-68) and Dewey McConnell (1948-51). Maulhardt caught one TD pass to increase his career total to 13, tying him for 11th place with Ryan McGuffey (2000-03) and Jalen Claiborne (2012-14). Gentry’s four receptions on the night tied him for eighth place in career catches at UW. He now has 156 career receptions, tying Michael Ford (2004-07).
Wyoming took the opening possession of the game and drove 75 yards in four plays, featuring passes of 18 yards from Allen to Gentry, 16 yards from Allen to Austin Conway followed by a 15-yard facemask penalty against the Aggies and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Gentry.
On the Cowboys’ second possession of the game, Hill took over, carrying the ball three times for 64 yards, including a 56-yard TD run.
At the end of the first quarter, Wyoming had held Utah State to a negative eight yards of total offense, while accounting for 182 yards itself.
Wyoming extended its lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter. After a short 18-yard punt by Utah State, Wyoming took over at the Aggie 39-yard line. A 24-yard completion from Allen to Conway took the ball down to the 15-yard line. Allen then connected with Maulhardt on a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Utah State scored its first points on a nine-play, 75-yard drive on the Aggies’ first possession of the second quarter. USU quarterback Kent Myers was 4 of 5 passing on the drive for 70 yards. Back-up quarterback Damion Hobbs was inserted into the lineup on second and goal from the one-yard line and reached the ball across the goal line for the TD to narrow the margin to 21-7.
The Cowboys came right back on its next possession to drive 65 yards in 14 plays. Hill, Allen and Shaun Wick combined for 39 yards rushing. Allen also completed a screen pass of 20 yards to Wick early in the drive. Allen capped off the drive with a one-yard TD run to give the Pokes a 28-7 lead.
After the two teams exchanged three-and-outs, Cowboy cornerback Rico Gafford would force a fumble following a pass completion by the Aggies. The fumble was recovered by UW’s Wilson at the Utah State 44. Allen was sacked for a two-yard loss on first down, but on the third play of the possession he hit Gentry in the corner of the end zone for a 46-yard TD strike to give the Cowboys a 35-7 halftime lead.
Wyoming accounted for 315 yards of total offense in the first half, while holding Utah State to 98.
The third quarter saw the Aggies fight their way back into the game, scoring 21 consecutive points to cut the lead to 35-28.
On the next possession, Wyoming quickly extended the lead back to 14 points, 42-28, on a three-play 75-yard drive that included a 38-yard run by Allen and a 37-yard TD pass from Allen to senior tight end Jacob Hollister.
The Aggies had one last scoring chance in the third quarter, but a 47-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright and bounced out. From that point on it was all Cowboys. Wyoming drove 67 yards in 10 plays ending with a 20-yard field goal by freshman place-kicker Cooper Rothe that increased the lead to 45-28. Utah State’s next possession took the ball down to the Wyoming 23-yard line, but Cowboy linebacker Wilson picked off USU quarterback Damion Hobbs and returned the interception 56 yards to the Aggie 26. That set up the Pokes final touchdown, ending with a 15-yard TD run by Hill.
Not only were the 52 points by the Cowboys the most during the Bohl era, but it marked the fourth time this season UW had scored 40 or more points. Wyoming entered this week ranked No. 2 in the MW and No. 37 in the nation in scoring offense.
Wyoming will travel to UNLV next Saturday to face the UNLV Rebels. The Wyoming-UNLV game will kick off at 1:30 p.m., M.T.