The Wyoming Cowboys excelled in all three phases of Saturday’s home opener against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Wyoming scored a defensive touchdown, blocked a punt for a touchdown and scored two offensive touchdowns plus place-kicker John Hoyland made a career long 55-yard field goal and tied a career high with four made field goals, including the game winner in the second overtime as Wyoming captued a 40-37 double ovetime thriller.
Offensively, Cowboy quarterback Andrew Peasley had an outstanding day, completing 20 of 30 passes (66.7 percent) for 256 yards, two TD passes and no interceptions.
Peasley also led Wyoming in rushing with 45 yards and accounted for 301 yards of total offense.
He threw a touchdown pass of 48 yards to wide receiver Will Pelissier in the second quarter to give Wyoming a 17-13 lead, and he threw a 51-yard TD to wideout Joshua Cobbs in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 34-34 and force overtime.
Cobbs set a new career high in receiving yards with 77 yards on five catches. Pelissier set career highs in both receptions (3) and receiving yards (67).
Fullback/tight end Parker Christensen added four catches for 45 yards, which were both career highs for him. Eight different Cowboys caught passes from Peasley on the day.
UW running back Titus Swen added 40 yards rushing on Saturday. The Pokes used four different running backs in the game as Dawaiian McNeely, D.Q. James and Joey Braasch all joined Swen in carrying the ball.
Wyoming’s defense got the Cowboys off to a fast start as the game began with a big play by defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole and safety Miles Williams.
The two Cowboys put pressure on Tulsa quarterback Davis Brin on the second play of the game at the Tulsa 28-yard line. Bertagnole punched the ball out of Brin’s hands and the ball bounded into the end zone and was recovered by Cowboy linebacker Easton Gibbs for a touchdown.
Place-kicker John Hoyland added the extra point and Wyoming had a 7-0 lead only 37 seconds into the game. Gibbs would lead the Pokes in tackles on the day with eight. His running mate at linebacker, Shae Suiaunoa was credited with seven tackles and had a huge sack in the second overtime.
Nickel back Keonte Glinton recorded six tackles, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups, including a critical pass breakup on Tulsa’s final possession in the second overtime to force the Golden Hurricane into a field-goal attempt that was unsuccessful and gave Wyoming it’s 40-37 victory.
Saturday’s game marked the first time since a Sept. 30, 2017, Wyoming home win over Texas State (45-10) that Wyoming scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams.
Wyoming’s special teams’ touchdown came in the third quarter when Cowboy wide receiver Ryan Marquez blocked a Tulsa punt and then picked up the blocked punt and returned it nine yards for a TD.
“I want to acknowledge the University of Tulsa. Coach (Philip) Montogomery does a great job,”said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl after the game. “There were so many plays that went back and forth today. They have a good football team. What an exceptional team win for our players.
“Nothing breeds success like success. The situations that come into play, two-minute drives, situations that we created during the game, for our players and coaches to be rewarded for an excellent win that tests us, was great to see.
“All that back and forth, that just makes this victory sweeter.”
Bohl was asked how big he thought the 55-yard field goal from Hoyland in the fourth quarter was to Wyoming’s comeback, Bohl said, “I looked at John (Hoyland), and he said, ‘Coach I got it.’ There was an electricity that spread across the sidelines. A 55-yard field goal is pretty spectacular.”
Peasley credited all his teammates for the hard fought victory after the game.
“For me it feels good, but I’m proud of everyone,” said Peasley. “That game, there were so many changes with adversity and emotions and everyone held their composure and we got a W.
“I never get too high or too low. I try and stay level. When we were down 10, I just thought let’s go score.
“I think our confidence will be boosted this next week, all around as a team. We know we can take some shots and be successful, so now we just have to keep getting better.
“A lot of dudes stepped up today and did what they were supposed to do. All around, people stepped up and did well.”
After Wyoming’s defensive touchdown, Tulsa came back on its second possession and drove 62 yards in 13 plays down to the Wyoming 13-yard line. But the Cowboy defense held and forced a 32-yard field goal by Tulsa’s Zack Long that was successful to cut Wyoming’s lead to 7-3.
With 9:02 remaining in the first quarter, the Wyoming offense got its hands on the ball for the first time in the game.
Quarterback Andrew Peasley rushed the ball twice for 18 yards and completed all four of his pass attempts for 27 yards to guide the Pokes on a 13-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in a 25-yard field goal by Hoyland to extend Wyoming’s lead to 10-7.
Wide receiver Will Pelissier also contributed a big 18-yard run on the drive. The first quarter would end with the Cowboys leading 10-7.
The two teams began the second quarter by exchanging punts. On Tulsa’s second possession of the second period, quarterback Brin completed 5 of 8 passes for 77 yards en route to an 11-play, 77-yard drive that concluded with a one-yard TD run by running back Steven Anderson to tie the game at 10-10. Tulsa overcame a first and 20 early in the drive following an offensive holding penalty.
Tulsa forced Wyoming into a three-and-out on the Cowboys’ next series, but Wyoming punter Clayton Stewart hit a beautiful 52-yard punt that checked up short of the Tulsa goal line and was downed at the Tulsa five-yard line.
The Golden Hurricane would put together their longest scoring drive of the day following that punt, driving down field from their own five-yard line all the way to the Wyoming 10-yard line.
But with a first and goal at the 10, the Cowboy defense stiffened and allowed Tulsa to gain only one yard in three plays and the Golden Hurricane had to settle for a 27-yard field goal to take their first lead of the game at 13-10 with 2:48 remaining in the first half.
Wyoming’s offense would respond on its next possession. Runs of seven yards by McNeely and five yards by James along with pass completions of four and 11 yards by Peasley moved the ball down to the Tulsa 48-yard line.
On first and 10 from the 48, Peasley found Pelissier down the right sideline for 48 yards and the touchdown and Wyoming regained the lead 17-13, with only 57 seconds remaining in the half. It looked like the Pokes might take that lead into halftime.
But Tulsa had other plans. Brin would complete a pass of 33 yards on the first play of the drive.
Following a Wyoming 15-yard pass interference penalty, Brin then completed a 22-yard pass down to the Wyoming five-yard line. He would finally complete a five-yard TD pass to wide receiver Malachai Jones and Tulsa regained the lead at 20-17 with eight seconds left on the clock. After Wyoming took a knee after the ensuing kick off, the half ended with the Golden Hurricane up by three points at half.
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff of the second half but were unable to move the ball. UW punter Stewart hit another strong punt of 41 yards that was downed at the Tulsa 15. UW’s defense forced Tulsa into a three-and-out series.
It was on Tulsa’s punt attempt that Cowboy Marquez came in clean on the punt block. After he blocked the punt, Marquez was able to locate the ball, scoop it up and run it into the end zone for a nine-yard return and give the Pokes a 24-20 lead.
Another lead change was in store on Tulsa’s next possession as they drove 75 yards in nine plays, capping off the scoring drive with a 41-yard TD pass from Brin to wide receiver Juan Carlos Santana that gave them a 27-24 lead with 8:12 left in the third quarter. That would be the end of the scoring in the third.
Tulsa would build its lead to 10 points when they engineered an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive that began on their final possession of the third quarter and ended on the first play of the fourth quarter as Brin threw his third touchdown pass of the day — this one to to wide receiver Keylon Stokes from 19 yards out. The Golden Hurricane had its largest lead of the game at 34-24 with 14:52 remaining in the contest.
Wyoming’s offense mounted their comeback on the next series. Peasley moved the ball down field with pass completions of 14 yards to wideout Wyatt Wieland and 17 yards to fullback/tight end Christensen. UW found itself with a fourth and five at the Tulsa 38-yard line when Wyoming head coach Bohl made the decision to have Hoyland attempt a career long 55-yard field goal. Hoyland made the kick with room to spare, and the Cowboys’ deficit was cut to seven at 34-27.
The Golden Hurricane would miss a 49-yard field goal attempt on its next possession, and Wyoming took over at its own 31-yard line. After runs of six yards by McNeely and 12 yards by Swen, Peasley took the snap in shot-gun formation and tossed a perfect strike to Cobbs for a 51-yard touchdown and with 6:12 remaining in the game the Pokes had tied the game at 34-34.
The Cowboy defense forced Tulsa into a three-and-out and took the ball back at its own 36-yard line. Peasley calmly guided the Cowboys on what looked like might be the game-winning drive. The big plays on the drive being a 23-yard swing pass to running back James and a 10-yard run by Peasley. With the ball at the Tulsa seven-yard line, Tulsa forced a fumble by running back Swen and the potential winning drive was stopped.
Tulsa had 1:45 remaining to see if they could engineer the winning drive. Cowboy cornerback Jakorey Hawkins had a big pass breakup on a pass attempt down the far sideline. Brin came back on the next play to complete a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Stokes to the Tulsa 44-yard line, but as Stokes was running down field Wyoming cornerback Cam Stone put a huge hit on Stokes, jarring the ball loose and nickel back Glinton recovered for Wyoming.
With only 1:20 remaining from the Tulsa 44-yard line, Wyoming had one final opportunity to win the game in regulation. A 12-yard completion from Peasley to Pelissier was followed by runs of two yards by running back Braasch and two yards by Peasley.
The ball now sat at the Tulsa 27-yard line on fourth and five. Hoyland came in for a 44-yard field goal attempt. The kick looked to easily be long enough but the ball hit the right upright and bounced back toward the field of play, sending the game to overtime.
Wyoming won the toss and chose to play defense first in overtime. Tulsa took its first possession of overtime and moved the ball from the 25 down to the seven-yard line where place-kicker Long successfully made a 25-yard field goal on a fourth and three to give Tulsa a 37-34 lead.
The Cowboys also successfully moved the ball from the 25 down to the six-yard line, but facing a fourth and three of their own sent Hoyland in to tie the game at 37-37 with a 25-yard field goal of his own.
The second overtime began with Wyoming now having to go on offense first. The Cowboys moved the ball from the 25 to the 13 this time and were faced with a fourth and 10. Hoyland came in and kicked his fourth field goal of the day from 30 yards to give the Pokes a 40-37 lead and put the pressure back on Tulsa.
Tulsa gained four yards on first down. On second down, Cowboy linebacker Suiaunoa sacked Brin for four yards back to the 25. Brin then tried to find receiver Jones in the middle of the end zone, but nickel back Glinton knocked the ball down. On fourth down and 10 from the 25, Cowboy head coach Bohl took a timeout to ice Tulsa’s kicker. Golden Hurricane place-kicker Long then came in for a 43-yard field goal attempt to try and force a third overtime, but the Cowboy field-goal block team put good pressure on Long and the kick went wide left.
Wyoming had captured a 40-37 win in its 2022 home opener and approved its season record to 1-1.
Wyoming will host Northern Colorado on Saturday, Sept. 10 in a game to kick off at 2 p.m. from Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium.