Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
LARAMIE -- The giant finally woke up.
Early in the fourth quarter, Haaziq Daniels and the Air Force offense looked like the team that, through two weeks, led the nation in rushing, averaging better than 508 yards per game.
John Eldridge III picked up 18 yards on two carries. Brad Roberts, the fifth-leading rusher in the country, pounded away at the middle of the Cowboys' defensive front and Daniels hooked up with wide receiver Kyle Patterson for 11 on a crucial 3rd-and-9.
Trailing 10-7, the Falcons' senior quarterback faked the handoff to his left and rolled to the right on the bootleg. Streaking across the middle of the field, Daniels fired a strike right into the awaiting arms of Cade Harris, who had beaten Wyoming cornerback Deron Harrell on the corner route. It was a 41-yard pitch and catch.
The visitors were finally in front with just 9:58 left on the clock.
How would this young team respond to that eight-play, 80-yard drive?
It nearly matched it.
"Our players didn't panic," Wyoming's ninth-year head coach Craig Bohl said behind the podium postgame. "
Facing a 3rd-and-9 at their own 26, Andrew Peasley connected with wide receiver Wyatt Wieland for a gain of 24 yards. On the previous play, the junior from Colorado Springs couldn't haul in a long ball. It hit his chest and bounced harmlessly to the ground.
His quarterback went right back to him.
Wyoming's rushing attack chewed up the next 16 yards and Parker Christensen nearly took care of the rest, hauling in a short screen pass in traffic and turning up field, dodging Air Force defenders all the way to the 5-yard line.
Typically slow and methodical, the offense didn't mess around on the following snap. The play was a simple one -- Titus Swen, up the gut. His teammates gave him the final shove that eventually pushed the ball past the white stripe.
That eight-play, 75-yard answer gave the home team a three-point lead. One it wouldn't relinquish. More importantly, it took nearly four minutes of precious time off the clock.
"I'm going to say it right now, (offensive coordinator) Tim Polasek dialed up some unbelievable plays. You know, we did a couple plays there that we hadn't shown or anything. So, it mixed and matched and it was at the right time."
Wyoming's defense, which held the Falcons' (2-1, 0-1) potent triple-option attack to just 171 yards on 40 attempts, forced a three-and-out on the visitor's next possession.
That simply doesn't happen to that team in that situation.
With 4:47 remaining, Wyoming (3-1, 1-0) gave Air Force one last taste of its own medicine -- they never gave the ball back.
Bohl shook his head and chuckled.
"To flip the script was rewarding," he said.
The 17-yard cutback run on 3rd-and-13 from Swen didn't hurt things, either.
"I'm going to take it backside, back to high school days," the junior from Fort Worth said, followed by his trademark smile. "... It was pretty fun. It was a great team win. My boys did what they needed to do and we did the job."
Wyoming 17, Air Force 14
Read Sunn figured his friends were just giving him a hard time this morning at breakfast.
"(They were) hyping me up a little bit and I thought they were just messing with me," the redshirt freshman linebacker said postgame. "But about two hours before kickoff, right after we left the hotel, coach Bohl told me, 'you're starting in the game.'"
Easton Gibbs, the Cowboys' starting middle linebacker and leading tackler, came down with an illness on Friday night. First he couldn't hold anything down. Then came the 104-degree temperature.
To make matters even worse, Bohl called Gibbs the team's "bell cow," adding the defensive game plan was centered around him and reliant on his playmaking.
Eventually, Gibbs emerged from the locker room in full pads, but it was Sunn who held down the fort.
"It felt really good to play football again," said Sunn, who spent the 2020 season as UW's long snapper and missed all of last year with an injury.
Sunn tallied four tackles and combined with fellow linebacker Cole DeMarzo on a tackle for loss.
His performance wasn't lost on his head coach, who dished out praise postgame. The guy who eventually replaced him was impressed, too.
"Credit to Read," Gibbs said. "I trust that guy and it makes it a lot easier on me, having a dude I can look at and, you know, trust him to do it. (We) didn't have to rely on just me being out there the whole time. It made a big difference that he stepped up like that."
"I felt like this was Air Force's best football team they've had since I've been our head coach. I told coach (Troy) Calhoun that before the game. Our guys had a great week of practice. It was a short week, but we're an emerging football team. We're a young football team in a lot of spots, but a lot of those guys are growing up fast. I really think our coaching staff -- because you guys know, I don't do a hell of a lot of coaching -- really does a great job composing game plans and players went out and executed. We beat a really good football team tonight."
-- UW head coach Craig Bohl on the performance of his inexperienced squad, which was a 15-point underdog coming into this matchup, according to the experts in Las Vegas.
"They ran the zone and they ran it well, I thought, throughout the night, especially in the first half. They did a really good job. We have to be better with gap control, but they blocked well. Give credit to them with how well they played."
-- Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun on the Cowboys' rushing attack, which rolled up 180 yards on 35 carries in the victory.
Anyone up for another rivalry game? That's exactly what will take place inside LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, next Saturday night. The Cowboys and Cougars will meet for the first time since 2016 and the 79th time in the history of the series, which dates back to 1922. BYU has won eight straight over UW and the Pokes haven't walked out of Provo with a victory since 1987. Game time is slated for 8:15 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN. BYU is currently ranked 12th in the nation after knocking off No. 9 Baylor in overtime last Saturday. The Cougars will travel to Eugene, Ore., Saturday to take on the 25th-ranked Ducks.
Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium
- Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium