The Wyoming Cowboys came into their season opening game against the No. 19 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers as a 30-point underdog. In the end Nebraska fans can take a sigh of relief as they outlasted, yes that is right outlasted, Wyoming to win 37-34.
Wyoming has played top teams close for at least a half, just look back at recent games against Texas as well as the 2011 game against Nebraska. The second half is what did in the Cowboys, but not on Saturday night.
The Cowboys forced two turnovers and forced Nebraska to punt with just over a minute left to make this a great finish on the first Saturday of college football. Earlier in the game, Wyoming looked to give the game away as they trailed 37-21 with just under 12 minutes left in the game.
Wyoming did not give up as Blair Burns picked off Taylor Martinez and returned it 33 yards to the Cowboys 48-yard line, and that gave Wyoming hope. Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith completed two passes to Jalen Claiborne, one was for 23 yards the other was a 29-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion was no good and that put Wyoming down 37-27 with just over six minutes left.
The Cowboys eventually forced a Nebraska fumble a few players later, and took over the ball at their own 38-yard line with 2:01 left in the game. Brett Smith found wide receiver Robert Herron three plays later on a 47-yard touchdown to make it a three-point game with over a minute left.
The onside kick failed but Wyoming was able to hold Nebraska to punt the ball, and it really helped when Imani Cross took the ball to the outside and was tackled out of bounds which stopped the clock. Wyoming had one last chance and only needed a field goal to send the game into overtime, but the drive started at their own six-yard line.
The Cowboys moved the ball near midfield, but there was a holding penalty on a 4th-and-1 which brought the play back. Wyoming did convert on the longer fourth down but it killed the drive. The game ended when Smith had to go with a hail mary at their own 37 and the pass was incomplete.
The Cowboys proved Saturday night that they are a team to reckon with in the Mountain West. The offense was a known factor and while the defense did give up 375 yards on the ground they made plays by forcing turnovers, and also mixed in a few big hits.
The offense for Wyoming was simply much better than expected. Smith looked extremely sharp by completing 29 of 43 for 383 yards, four touchdown, and one interception, plus he also ran for another 91. The running game was to thought to be a weakness but Shaun Wick came up big with 101 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per carry.
The receiving corp had a huge game for the Cowboys. Their receivers are experienced and they did not disappoint and were led by Dominic Rufran who had 11 receptions for 120 yards, Robert Herron had just four catches for 91 yards with a touchdown and Jalen Claiborne had seven receptions for 88 yards and two scores.
The one issue on the Wyoming offense was their ineffectiveness on third down where the Cowboys converted 1 of 8, but overall the offense was better than expected.
Despite this close loss, Wyoming should be happy with this performance and they should be considered a threat in the Mountain Division.