LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Cowboys were unable to slow down a potent Boise State passing attack, and the Cowboys were only able to find the end zone twice themselves as the No. 25 ranked Broncos captured the Mountain West Conference opener for both schools by a score of 34-14 on Saturday.
“We knew we had to accomplish certain things in order to win,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl. “I want to acknowledge that Boise State is a really good football team. Brett Rypien played about as good as I’ve seen over the last four years.
“There are certain things that we did that need to be cleaned up, undisciplined mistakes that have reared their ugly heads the last couple of games. We got off kilter. We needed to win the kicking game and we had one punt blocked and one muffed snap on a punt. That compounded some things.
“I did think our players in the second half went out, competed and had an attitude to win the football game. Our guys stayed in the fight and we need to build on that.”
The highlights for the Cowboys were a 75-yard touchdown run by senior running back Nico Evans on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and a 72-yard TD pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal to senior wide receiver James Price on Wyoming’s final possession of the game. It was the longest run of Evans career and the longest pass completion and longest reception of Vander Waal’s and Price’s careers. Three Cowboys recorded double-figure tackle games. Junior safety Alijah Halliburton and junior linebacker Logan Wilson led the way with 11 tackles each. Senior strong safety Andrew Wingard made 10 tackles. It was the first double-figure tackle game of Halliburton’s career, the eighth of Wilson’s and the 22nd of Wingard’s career.
With his 10 tackles, Wingard moved into third place on the Mountain West career tackle list. He improved his career total to 409. He moved past former New Mexico Lobo Dakota Cox (403 career tackles) for third place. He now trails only Adam Seward of UNLV by 24 tackles (433 career tackles) and MW record-holder Carmen Messina by 45 tackles (454 career tackles).
Evans returned to the lineup for the first time since the suffering bruised ribs against Washington State in the second game of the season. He recorded the second 100-yard rushing game of his career with 141 yards on 12 carries and the one TD against the Broncos. Vander Waal completed 15 of 25 passes for 214 yards and one TD. Price had two catches for 77 yards and one touchdown. Junior wide receiver Raghib Ismail Jr. caught six passes for 66 yards. Wyoming ended the day with 295 yards of total offense.
Asked about the return of Evans to the lineup, Bohl said, “He’s worked hard and is a good football player. Anytime you can take off and make a long run like he did on the first play of the second half it is special. He ran away from some fast players and that’s an indication of his athleticism. His presence in the game certainly is helpful.”
Boise State senior quarterback Brett Rypien completed 28 of 42 passes for 342 yards and threw TD passes of 21 and 41 yards. His leading targets were senior wide receiver A.J. Richardson (six receptions for 113 yards and a 21-yard TD reception) and senior receiver Sean Modster (seven catches for 88 yards). The Broncos also rushed for 161 yards, led by junior running back Alexander Mattison, with 57 yards on 20 carries and one rushing TD. Boise State combined for 506 yards of total offense on the night.
In terms of time of possession, the Broncos held the ball for 40 minutes and 13 seconds of the game, while the Cowboys had the ball only 19 minutes and 47 seconds. Boise State ran a total of 89 plays to Wyoming’s 50. The Broncos were particularly effective on third down, converting 11 of 20 third-down opportunities into first downs. Wyoming was able to convert on only 2 of 11 third downs.
On the inability of the Wyoming defense to get off the field on third downs and the inability of the offense to convert third-down opportunities, Bohl said, “That was particularly apparent. We did have an unsportsmanlike conduct, which extended one of their drives. Three and outs hurt us (on offense) and third-down conversions have to improve. On the flip side, we had a tough time getting off the field during critical times.”
The Broncos took a 7-0 lead on the opening possession of the game, driving 75 yards in 11 plays. Mattison finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. After being unable to move the ball on its first possession, the Cowboys played some of their best defense of the game the remainder of the first quarter, forcing Boise State into two consecutive three and outs.
As the first quarter came to an end, Boise State began a 15-play, 87-yard drive that resulted in the a TD pass from Rypien to Richardson from 21 yards out to make the score 14-0. The Broncos would score twice more in the second quarter — a two-yard run by freshman wide receiver Khalil Shakir and a 30-yard field goal by senior place-kicker Haden Hoggarth. The first half ended with the score 24-0 in favor of Boise State.
The Cowboys came out of the halftime locker room determined, and Evans exploded through the line on the first play of the second half. He ran away from the Bronco defenders for his 75-yard touchdown run to narrow the Broncos lead to 24-7.
The only other points in the third quarter were a 33-yard field goal by Hoggarth, and entering the fourth quarter the score stood at 27-7 Broncos.
Rypien threw his second touchdown pass of the game from 41 yards out to junior wide receiver John Hightower with 6:29 remaining in the game, stretching the lead to 34-7. The Cowboys answered on their next possession with the 72-yard TD pass from Vander Waal to Price, making the final score 34-14.
Next up for the Cowboys is a trip to Hawai’i next Saturday to face the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in a game scheduled to kick off at 10 p.m., Mountain Time (6 p.m., Hawai’i Time).