It’s an overused cliche, but it truly was a gritty effort from the Cowboys to pull off the victory in front of their home crowd at War Memorial.
The keys to the victory started with the incredible showing from the defense. The Wyoming D had been somewhat inconsistent in their first three games coming into Friday night’s victory, but they did exactly what they needed to do and have done in years past against the Falcons, which was put a halt to the Air Force triple option ground attack. The Cowboys held Air Force to just 171 yards rushing on 40 attempts and forced the Falcons to do the majority of their damage through the air. If that stat doesn’t stand out to you, let me put it into context. Coming into Friday night, Air Force had been averaging a total of 508.5 rushing yards per game. The Pokes held them to about three times less than their average. The Cowboys' offense was also able to come up with some huge plays in some big moments. The tough running of RB Titus Swen and the poise and composure of QB Andrew Peasley sealed the victory in the game’s final moments for Wyoming, as the final seconds ticked off and the Cowboys left the War with a win.
As for another interesting anecdote, Air Force had previously won the last two matchups in the series versus Wyoming, but they’ve now dropped the past four matchups with the Pokes when the game’s been played in Laramie, dating back to 2012.
The game began with a solid deliverance of the national anthem by none other than Joel Allen, the father of former Wyoming quarterback and current Buffalo Bills signal caller, Josh Allen.
After the festivities concluded, Wyoming started out with the football. The Poke offense quickly took control of the tempo as QB Andrew Peasley got off to a good start. The Pokes QB pieced up a quality seven-minute drive and converted two passes on third downs that set up a chip shot 20-yard field goal for K John Hoyland to open the scoring for the Cowboys.
Air Force responded by nearly doing the same on their first possession. The Falcons knocked another six and a half minutes of the clock as they marched downfield from their own 25-yard line following the kickoff. Their staunch run attack set up a 53-yard field goal try from K Matthew Dapore that missed, giving the ball back to Wyoming with just under 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter after just two possessions. Yes, that’s right. TWO possessions.
The second quarter started with a turnover on offense for Wyoming. QB Andrew Peasley was picked off by Falcons S Trey Taylor on the first play of the quarter, giving the Falcons the ball back on their own 36-yard line. However, the Cowboys' defense would hold and stop Air Force on that series. The three and out forced the Falcons to punt as Wyoming got the ball back at their own 11.
The two teams exchanged one more punt each on some short-lived drives before scoring would resume.
Air Force shanked their second punt of the game, which was just their 5th punt of the season, giving the Cowboys possession in their own territory near midfield. Three plays later, QB Andrew Peasley would find Mr. Reliable, TE Treyton Welch, up the left sideline at the goal line as he fell into the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown pass, giving the Pokes the two-possession advantage. That brought the score to 10-0 following an extra point from Hoyland.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the half, both teams’ defenses remained stout, as they were for the majority of the game. The remaining seven and a half minutes resulted in two more punts as the Cowboys headed into the locker room at halftime with the score still 10-0, looking to keep it that way.
But the Falcons received the kick to start the third quarter looking to change the tide. The Air Force RB crew found success on third downs, converting three of them on their first drive of the half before Wyoming looked to have stopped them on 4th and 1 at the Wyoming 41-yard line. As the play-clock wound down it looked as if there was some confusion on the Air Force side of the ball. The Falcons almost didn’t get a play off until Haaziq Daniels got the snap off at the last second and pitched the ball out to John Eldridge who escaped for a huge 35-yard run to set up a 1st and Goal for the Falcons. The Wyoming defense would only yield three yards on the first two plays after that, but Daniels pulled off a surprising pass on 3rd down to a cutting David Cormier in the endzone for their first score, making it 10-7 following the extra point.
Scoring would resume after a few more defensive stops from both sides. The teams swapped three and outs and Wyoming had one more drive that was short-lived, rounding out the third quarter and punting the ball back for a touchback for Air Force to start the fourth and final quarter.
Air Force’s next possession was a good one. They picked up chunk yardage on their first four runs and converted once again on third down with a pass play from Daniels to TE Kyle Patterson, keeping their drive alive. Then, on the very next play, Daniels would again do damage with his arm. He threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to WR Cade Harris on 1st and 10, giving the Falcons their first lead 14-10 with just under ten minutes remaining.
But the Pokes didn’t crack. In front of a packed War Memorial home crowd, Peasley and the offense delivered a massive 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive that included two huge pass plays from Peasley and one big 2nd down run from RB Dawaiian Mcneely. The nearly four-minute drive was finished off by a 5-yard touchdown run from Titus Swen, who was a workhorse all day and helped Wyoming regain the lead 17-14 with just over six minutes left in the contest.
The Wyoming defense came up huge again on the next Air Force possession, leaving it up to the Cowboys offense to control the team’s destiny. With Air Force down to their last two timeouts, the Pokes converted two 3rd and longs, gaining them the ability to kneel it down and the students the opportunity to celebrate their victory with them on the field (whether it was really warranted or not.)
So who Shined?
Plenty of Cowboys assisted in pulling off this in-conference upset, but these are my top three:
- QB Andrew Peasley - Peasley was efficient enough and was integral to the team’s success in the game’s biggest moments. He spread the ball out well and finished with a line of 18/23 for 162 yards and 1 TD/1 INT. Though it may not be the flashiest line, numbers don’t always tell the tape with his leadership also playing a huge role in the victory.
- NT Cole Godbout - Godbout led the team in tackles on Friday night and was one of the biggest reasons Air Force didn’t see much success on the ground. His mere presence in the middle for Wyoming gave the Cowboys an edge. He finished the game with 9 TOT, 4 SOLO, 1 TFL, and 2 QB hurries.
- RB Titus Swen - The reason I’m not giving credit to another defensive player is in part due to the fact that the individual success was so well spread out. That’s a good thing. The other reason is that Titus was a workhorse. He finished with 102 yards on just 19 carries and came up big for the Pokes in the game’s final minutes with a big 17-yard run on 3rd and long to ice it for the Pokes.
The Pokes will play @ BYU next Saturday 9/24 at 8:15 p.m. MT
What stood out/surprised you about this Wyoming team on Friday night? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts.