The islands have long become a place where the landlocked Cowboys struggle to play when they visit, however, on Saturday night, the Pokes rewrote the script.
The Wyoming Cowboys defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors by a score of 27-20 late on Saturday night, keeping themselves right in the thick of things in the Mountain West race while also becoming bowl-eligible for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. The Cowboys improved their record to 6-3 (4-1 in conference play), while Hawaii dropped to 2-7 (1-3 in conference play). The Pokes have now won three in a row and will look to collect their third trophy of the year when they face off in the Border War against long-time rival Colorado State.
When the game kicked off, it didn’t immediately seem like things were going to turn out the way they did.
After punts on each team’s first possession, the Rainbow Warriors began the scoring. A four minute, 13-play drive was capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass from QB Brayden Schrager to Dedrick Parson for six, making it 7-0 after the extra-point.
That score would prove to be the only one of the first quarter after Hawaii missed a field goal try and Wyoming failed to get their offense going early.
The second quarter seemed like it’d be much of the same for the Pokes as their drive started with a string of penalties and was abruptly ended by a Hawaii interception around the Wyoming 30. The great field position gave the Rainbow Warriors another shot at a field goal as the Cowboy defense was stout and didn’t allow them to reach inside the 10-yard line. This time, the field goal was good, giving Hawaii a 10-0 lead at the 11:37 mark of the 2nd quarter.
But the Pokes came storming back.
It only took the Cowboy offense four plays to find the endzone and get themselves into an offensive rhythm in the ground and pound. D.Q. James’s 21-yard run on first down positioned the Pokes near midfield and enabled Andrew Peasley’s 35-yard run to the endzone a few plays later, making it 7-10.
After another defensive stop and another untimely Peasley interception, the Pokes eventually added a field goal courtesy of John Hoyland, concluding the first half scoring.
There were a little bit more fireworks in the second half. The two teams traded field goals in their opening possessions after long drives that took up the entire third quarter (Wyoming 11 plays, 7:26 / Hawaii 13 plays, 5:21), but this time it was the Cowboys who scored the first touchdown.
That score didn’t come until Dawaiian McNeely broke a huge 61-yard run from the Wyoming 39 at the very beginning of the fourth quarter to put his team on top for the first time, 20-13.
On the ensuing Hawaii drive, they opted out of going for a field goal on fourth down and seven and only netted three yards on the failed conversion. After the turnover on downs, the Pokes returned the favor with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a short 4-yard run by Andrew Peasley into the endzone.
The Rainbow Warriors finally found the endzone on their last drive of the game, but it was too little too late as the Cowboys walked away with their first island-victory since 1997.
The victory was fueled by a very potent rush-attack and an opportunistic defensive effort. On offense, D.Q. James led UW with 179 rush yards after filling in for Titus Swen who went down early in the first quarter. RB Dawaiian Mcneely added 81 yards in large part due to the huge 61-yard touchdown run he had in the first half. Redshirt freshman Joey Braasch also got some snaps, contributing with 18 yards on five carries. 365 of the 441 total yards in the game were on the ground for the Pokes.
Meanwhile, the defense played relatively well, capitalizing on key moments in the effort. S Came Stone broke up three pass attempts while Wyatt Ekeler did so on two separate occasions. LBs Shae Suiaunoa and Easton Gibbs also added 8 and 7 tackles, respectively.
And of course the scoring wouldn’t have been what it was without the MWC Special Teams Player of the Week John Hoyland adding his 18th (34 yards) and 19th (38 yards) field goals of the season.
So what’s coming up?
After the critical victory against Hawaii, Wyoming will rest up as they enter their second and final bye week of the season. After that, the Pokes will take on Colorado State in Fort Collins for the 114th edition of the Border War on November 12th.