By Dave Walsh, Columnist
What a way to finish-up your home schedule. The Wyoming Cowboys have saved one of the most important games in years for their home finale.
The Cowboys will play their last home game of the season tomorrow in one of the great venues in College Football, War Memorial Stadium. And the stage could not be bigger. The scenario is absolutely perfect.
The Mountain Division lead is at stake, with just one more league game to play next week. The winner of tomorrow’s Wyoming-Boise State game will have the inside track to the league title game and a shot at the biggest prize, a Mountain West Conference Championship.
There is a whole lot on the line tomorrow evening in War Memorial Stadium, and the Cowboys will have to defeat the Broncos to take the next step toward all of those lofty goals. The Pokes will have to beat a team they have faced 15 times over the last 20 years. Most of those meetings have been as league rivals.
And I know that the past really has very little to do with the present, but just as a matter of record, Boise State has had the better of it in this series. The Pokes are 1-14 versus Boise State. The Broncos have won the last five meetings.
But again, that was then, this is now. And these Cowboys have put themselves in a great position.
Besides, this match-up – Wyoming against Boise State – brings back memories of a great Cowboy victory of just a few seasons ago. It was a Wyoming win in War Memorial Stadium. This big win was a conference victory, over a nationally-ranked opponent, and it kicked off at 5 p.m., too.
It was actually six seasons ago, late in 2016 season, when this big Cowboy victory took place.
This particular Wyoming victory was a first for the Cowboys, and it remains the only.
This memorable Cowboy victory had everything: comebacks, big plays, a game-clinching safety of all plays, and maybe the most memorable thing of all, the safety dance.
Ah yes, there it is, the dead giveaway, the safety dance.
It was the first Wyoming win over Boise State, and it is still the only Wyoming victory over the Broncos.
The Wyoming-Boise State game in 2016 was played Oct. 29, it was the eighth game of the season for both teams. The Cowboys were 5-2 overall, 3-0 in conference play and riding a three-game winning streak. Boise State was a perfect 7-0 and 3-0 in league games.
And the Broncos came into the game ranked 13th in the country.
Things did not start well for the Cowboys. The Pokes had nothing going offensively, and early in the second quarter Jeremy McNichols scored his second touchdown to give Boise State a 14-0 lead.
But then, with 9 minutes left in the second quarter, the Cowboys’ dynamic quarterback-tight end duo hooked up for a score. Two Wyoming greats, now stars in the NFL, would get things rolling for the Cowboys. Josh Allen hit Jacob Hollister for the score, and the Cowboys had cut the lead in half.
Current NFL player Alex Mattison,would score on a 16-yard run for the Broncos. Wyoming’s Cooper Rothe nailed a 40-yard field goal, and with under a minute remaining in the first half, Allen found Hollister again, this time 28 yards out.
The Cowboys trailed 21-17 at halftime.
The second half turned into a slugfest. Neither team would score in the third quarter.
An amazing fourth quarter started with a 39-yard field goal by Cooper Rothe, and the Pokes were within a point, 21-20. But just two minutes later with 11 minutes to play, Boise State’s Brett Rypien, another current NFL player, threw a touchdown pass and the Broncos led 28-20.
The Cowboy’s thrilling comeback began with just under 7 minutes to play. That’s when Allen hit Tanner Gentry, yet another player who would go on to play in the NFL, in the deep corner for the score. It was an incredible throw and a spectacular catch. Gentry had to fully extend and stretch out to snare the laser-beam throw by Josh.
The Cowboys had pulled to within two points, so here came the 2-point try. And here came another outstanding throw, this time Allen to Jake Maulhardt, for the 2-point conversion, and the game was tied at 28.
Both defenses would stop the others’ offense in the waning moments. And with less than 3 minutes remaining and the score still tied, the Cowboys would punt the ball back to the Broncos. Wyoming’s Ethan Wood stepped into a beauty, and the ball was downed at the Boise State 10 yard line.
And the stage was set for a very unusual, and unthinkable, finish.
On the first play, first down at their own 10 yard line, Rypien dropped back and threw from his own goal line. Incomplete.
On second down, Rypien dropped back to throw again. This time, Wyoming nose tackle Chase Appleby broke free and nailed Rypien in the end zone, causing him to fumble. As I recall it, the football rolled through the end zone and out. The play was officially ruled “fumble recovered by BSU TEAM at BSU-0.”
It was a safety!
The Cowboys had scored a safety with 1:25 showing on the clock and had taken the lead, 30-28. Cowboy defensive end, Josiah Hall, led the end zone celebration. Hall shuffled across the end zone with his hands clasped above his head, signaling safety.
The “safety dance” was born.
And the Cowboys had a very big win, their first and only, over Boise State!