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Pokes avoid upset in East Hartford

“Cardiac” Cowboys sneak out a victory in East Hartford, head into Conference play undefeated

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

While it wasn’t always pretty for the Wyoming Cowboys in their first 2,000 mile trip out to East Hartford on Saturday, they were still able to muster up enough of a last-ditch effort to beat the UConn Huskies and head into their bye week with an undefeated record of 4-0.

The late-stage come from behind Cowboy victory on Saturday was yet another display of how gutsy this team has been at crucial times this season. The victory was capped off by a 4th Quarter Touchdown run from RB Titus Swen, followed by a huge stand from the reliable Poke Defense on the UConn 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, inside it’s last five seconds.

A slow start put the Cowboys in a tight spot

When the Cowboys first hit the field this weekend, they came out pretty flat-footed. They were unable to generate any kind of offensive momentum in the first half, reluctantly punting on every drive minus the missed field goal and interception thrown by Chambers. UConn didn’t necessarily do anything that would blow your socks off either, however they did limit their mistakes more so than Wyoming in the first half. The Cowboys’ rough start saw plenty of penalties mixed in with some uncharacteristic mistakes on both sides of the ball that furthered the Huskies’ momentum heading into the break. The Huskie trick play and made field goal on their opening drive resulted in an unanticipated 13-3 score at half, UConn’s first halftime lead since November of 2019.

And then there were signs of life

The Pokes refused to travel all the way to East Hartford and not at the very least make their fans watching from home sweat it out. They kicked off their second half effort with a beautiful drive downfield capped off by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Sean Chambers to Isaiah Neyor, to shorten the Huskie advantage to three; but it wasn’t gonna be an easy road to 4-0. Despite the quick response on their first drive of the 2nd half, they were still unable to develop any type of an offensive groove. The defense on the other hand was what really kept the Cowboys from completely imploding. They held the Huskies scoreless for the entirety of the 3rd Quarter, creating pressure and forcing punts that kept their boys in the game all day long.

But the “Cardiac” Cowboys would survive another nail-biter

As the 4th Quarter began, it seemed that once again the Pokes were gonna find themselves gutting out another late victory on the road. Backed by a great dual running effort from Valladay and Swen, along with a fantastic jumping grab by Ayden Eberhardt inside the 5-yard line, the Cowboys answered a Huskie field goal with a touchdown on a ten play, 76-yard drive that would put them up for the first time in the game. On the ensuing Huskie possession and with just about 6:20 remaining, the Pokes were finally able to intercept Huskie Freshman QB Tyler Phommachanh in their own territory. The turnover then turned into points with a touchdown run from RB Titus Swen, putting the Cowboys up eight.

Then, with under 3:30 remaining in the contest, the Huskies would come close to forcing overtime. Thanks to a few uncharacteristic pass interference penalties by Wyoming, two of them coming on 4th downs, the Huskies were gifted with opportunities that eventually led them into the end-zone with under four seconds left on the game clock. But the Cowboys would hold. Thanks to a great play by Senior S Esaias Gandy on the conversion attempt, the Cowboys avoided yet another upset scare on the road, this time in East Hartford.

So who stood out?

This week offered some new faces to shed light on this season for the defense. Here’s who made the biggest impact for the Cowboys:

S Esaias Gandy - Gandy came up in two extremely critical moments for the Cowboys down the stretch, intercepting the Huskies in the fourth quarter late which led to a score, and swatting down the 2-point conversion attempt, sealing Saturday’s victory.

DE Solomon Byrd - Byrd was a force all day up front for the Pokes. He had 6 TOT, 5 solo with 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hurries. His presence did not go unnoticed.

Xazavian Valladay & Titus Swen - I’m going to choose to include both RBs for this week because it really was a combined effort on the ground. Valladay had 22 carries for 101 yards and 1 touchdown. Swen on the other hand racked up 84 yards on 15 carries, adding 1 touchdown as well. They accounted for most of the Cowboy offense on Saturday and it wouldn’t feel right to leave one of them out this week.

What’s next?

Wyoming heads into their Bye Week with an undefeated record, but the question that remains is, will their soft out of conference schedule at the beginning of this season hurt their chances at the Mountain West? Or will starting 4-0 this season be the confidence boost this team needs heading into conference play? We’ll find out in two weeks when they face Air Force.