Wyoming took the opening kickoff and marched down the field. However, it was a very costly opening drive. Just a few plays into the game, Nico Evans, the MWC leading rusher, was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury. Later in the drive, Sean Chambers would suffer a broken fibula on a short run. These two players have been the 1-2 punch for the Wyoming offense for the last three weeks. It looked like the Cowboys were in major trouble. However, Tyler Vander Waal stepped in and threw a 11 yard TD pass to Raghib Ismail Jr on the very next play, giving Wyoming the early lead.
Air Force got the ball and marched down the field for a matching TD. However, Wyoming quickly responded with another TD drive that was setup by a 60 yd pass to Cowboys TE, Tyree Mayfield. Vander Waal capped off the drive with a 3 yd run on a keeper from the Cowboy QB.
The Falcons again responded with another matching TD drive. Wyoming stalled with a three-and-out. Following the Cowboys punt, Air Force again marched down the field. However, Wyoming forced an Air Force field goal this time. Wyoming had a little drive going before a fumble on a completed pass ended that drive.
Air Force led Wyoming at the half, 17-14.
Air Force took the 2nd half kickoff down the field for another TD. A couple of punts later, Wyoming had another little drive stall at the Air Force 41 when the Cowboys failed to convert on 4th and 1. Air Force took the ball and marched down the field before adding on another field goal.
Air Force now led, 27-14. Things were looking bleak for Wyoming. The starting QB and RB were out for the game. Wyoming trailed by 13 points. Even worse, Wyoming had just lost their 2nd-string RB, Jevon Bigelow, to injury on the previous drive that had stalled on the 4th and 1 attempt. With 8:44 remaining in the game, Wyoming was attempting a 13 point comeback in the snow and cold with their 2nd-string QB and 3rd-string RB.
While highly improbable that the Cowboys could comeback under these circumstances, Wyoming somehow did. Tyler Vander Waal led Wyoming down the field on a drive that he capped off with a 5 yd keeper to close the score to 27-21 with just 4:32 remaining.
An Air Force offense that had repeatedly drove down the field against the Wyoming defense earlier in the day took the field to run out the clock. The Cowboys defense immediately responded by forcing a three-and-out to get the ball back.
With 2:55 now left in the game, Vander Waal again drove Wyoming down the field. This time a 22 yd TD pass to Austin Conway capped off the drive and gave Wyoming the lead, 28-27.
With 1:09 left in the game, Air Force took the ball after a touchback on the kickoff and threw an interception on their first play. After a couple of Wyoming runs forced Air Force to use their remaining timeouts to stop the clock. 3rd-string Wyoming RB, Xazavian Valladay ran the ball 27 yds for a TD, giving Wyoming a 35-27 lead.
After the ensuing kickoff, Air Force threw another interception on their 2nd play of that drive. Wyoming took over and took a knee to get the win. Air Force 27, Wyoming 35.
For the video highlights of the Wyoming comeback, see below:
This game proved to be very unconventional.
Air Force proved to be up to the task in stopping the Wyoming running game. Meanwhile, the Wyoming defense struggled to stop the Air Force rushing offense. Through three and a half quarters, that was the story of this game.
Then the Wyoming offense and defense both found new life. An offense led by a 2nd-string QB and a 3rd-string RB managed to score 3 TD’s on three consecutive drives. On a day where Air Force ran for 362 yards and 3 TD’s, the Wyoming defense suddenly forced stops and turnovers at the end of the game.
It was a completely shocking comeback victory for Wyoming.
Going forward, Wyoming suffered some major setbacks. Sean Chambers is out for the year with a broken fibula. The true freshman QB had been on a roll coming into this game with three consecutive games with 100 yards rushing, and the Wyoming offense had found an identity with Chambers at QB. The MWC leading rusher, Nico Evans, is banged up with an ankle and is currently listed as day-to-day. Hopefully, Evans will be healthy enough to play against New Mexico this weekend in the regular season finale. Wyoming needs Evans to keep the running game going in their offense. Also, I’d really like to see Evans finish the season as the MWC rushing leader and not be passed in the final weeks because he was out with an injury.
Wyoming is 5-6 and can become bowl eligible with a win at New Mexico. While I’m not sure that a bowl invite will be available, Wyoming still has some hope that next weekend won’t be the last game of the season. That’s quite the accomplishment for a team that was 2-6 almost a month ago.