By Tim Harkins, UW
In one of the most exciting finishes of the college bowl season, the Wyoming Cowboys took a 24-21 lead with 2:08 remaining in regulation, but the Ohio Bobcats came back to send the game to overtime with a 56-yard field goal with only four seconds remaining.
In overtime, Wyoming place-kicker John Hoyland gave the Cowboys a 27-21 lead in the first OT, but on a third and eight on Ohio’s first overtime possession the Bobcats completed a 10-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to capture a 30-27 win in the 2022 Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” said head coach Craig Bohl following the game. “We came in as an underdog and we had tons of adversity. It was a tough game, but I’m really proud of how we battled back from behind. There are a bunch of guys hurting in that locker room.”
When asked how important it was that Ohio won the coin flip and chose to go on defense first in overtime, Bohl said, “Probably not as important as it is in the NFL, but typically you know what you have to do when you get the ball second. We of course kicked the field goal on our first possession, and then Ohio knew that if they scored a touchdown they would win and their guy made a heckuva a play.”
The head coach was asked what words he shared with his team after the game.
“I told them not only how proud we were of them, but how much we loved them,” said Bohl. “In life, sometimes you give everything you have and sometimes the result is not always what you want it to be. We knew it was going to come down to a play here and there. In this game, there were a lots of plays that we made and lots of plays that Ohio made. I told them to hold their heads high, thank the seniors who aren’t going to be back next year and that next season starts as soon as the plane lands back in Laramie.”
The game began with the Cowboys scoring on their first possession of the game, exploding for a nine-play, 70-yard drive that took 4:42 off the clock. Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive for 42 yards. He completed those passes to five different receivers — wide receivers Alex Brown, Ryan Marquez and Wyatt Wieland, tight end Treyton Welch and fullback Caleb Driskill. The scoring drive was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Jordon Vaughn, who was playing in his first game as a Cowboy, giving Wyoming a 7-0 lead following an extra point by Hoyland.
Ohio replied by scoring on its first offensive possession of the game. Ohio’s Keegan Wilburn took the ensuing kickoff from Wyoming at his own goal line and returned it 42 yards to give the Bobcats excellent field position on their first possession.
Ohio gained a first down on its first play of the drive on a 10-yard pass, but then it appeared that Wyoming’s defense would force the Bobcats into a punt when Ohio’s pass attempt fell incomplete on a third and 11 play. However at the end of the play, Cowboy cornerback Kolbey Taylor was called for a 15-yard targeting penalty, giving Ohio a first down at the Wyoming 34-yard line. Taylor was ejected from the game on the targeting call.
On the very next play, Bobcat quarterback CJ Harris connected with wide receiver Jacoby Jones on a pass play at the Wyoming two-yard line and Jones carried the ball into the end zone. Ohio then pulled out a surprise play on the extra point attempt, snapping the ball to holder Jonah Wieland, who threw a pass to long snapper Justin Holloway for the successful two-point conversion to give the Bobcats an 8-7 lead.
After gaining two first downs on its second drive of the game, Wyoming faced a fourth and nine at the Ohio 44. Cowboy punter Clayton Stewart punted the ball down to the Ohio 14-yard line where Ohio’s Sam Wiglusz muffed the punt and UW linebacker Cole DeMarzo recovered the ball at the Ohio 17.
The Pokes wasted no time in capitalizing off the turnover as Peasley threw to tight end Welch at the front right corner of the end zone and Welch came down with the contested catch for his fifth TD reception of the season. Hoyland’s extra point extended UW’s lead to 14-8. That is how the first quarter would end.
Ohio moved their first possession of the second quarter down to the Wyoming 26-yard line where the Pokes forced a fourth and seven. Bobcat place-kicker Nathanial Vakos came in the game to attempt a 43-yard field goal and successfully made the kick to cut Wyoming’s lead to 14-11.
Neither team could move the ball on each of their next two possessions. Wyoming took possession of the ball for its final drive of the first half with 1:11 remaining and the ball on the Wyoming 35. Peasley completed a nine-yard pass to Welch on first down. Following an incomplete pass, Vaughn gained six yards on third and one to the 50-yard line.
The Cowboys called timeout with 43 seconds remaining. Coming out of the timeout, Peasley escaped the rush by Ohio’s defense and scrambled out of the pocket for 22 yards to the Ohio 28. After an incompletion, Peasley would be sacked for a loss of seven yards back to the 35-yard line, and UW was forced to call its last timeout with 16 seconds on the clock. The Pokes tried to complete one more pass, but following an incompletion and with only three seconds remaining, Cowboy kicker Hoyland trotted on the field to attempt a 53-yard field goal.
Hoyland’s kick was good, but Ohio had called a timeout prior to the kick to try and ice Hoyland. The sophomore lined up for a second attempt and once again the kick was good, extending UW’s lead to six points at 17-11. Wyoming would take that six-point lead into halftime.
For Hoyland it was his 21st field goal of the season, setting a new Wyoming single-season record and breaking a tie he held with former Cowboy place-kickers Cory Wedel, who made 20 field goals in 1996, and JD Wallum, who made 20 in 2001.
In the third quarter, the defensive units took over for both teams. There would be only one score in the third quarter. Ohio began a drive with excellent field position at its own 44-yard line at 7:21 remaining in the quarter following a Wyoming punt.
The Ohio scoring drive would be fueled by redshirt freshman running back Sieh Bangura, who would carry the ball on four successive plays with runs of five, eight, 40 and three yards to account for all 56 yards on the drive and put Ohio ahead 18-17 with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter. That score would remain as the two teams headed into the fourth quarter.
The next score for either team wouldn’t come until the 4:17 mark of the fourth quarter. Ohio mounted a seven-play, 38-yard drive deep into Wyoming territory, but the Cowboy defense tackled Bangura for only a one-yard gain on a third and four at the UW 28-yard line. Ohio place-kicker Vakos, came in for a 45-yard field-goal attempt, which he made to put the Bobcats up 21-17.
While the Cowboys hadn’t been able to put together a scoring drive since the end of the first half, they only trailed by four points with 4:17 remaining. It was then that the Pokes, led by Peasley, would generate another clutch drive like they had done so many times during the 2022 season. Peasley completed a five-yard pass to Wieland.
He then threw a pass intended for Brown, and Ohio was called for pass interference on the play, moving the ball to the Wyoming 45-yard line. A 13-yard pass to Welch down to the Ohio 42-yard line followed.
Peasley then threw a perfectly placed 31-yard pass down the middle of the field in between defenders and into the arms of Welch at the Ohio 11-yard line. An incompletion and a false start penalty against the Pokes moved the ball back to the Ohio 16-yard line.
On second and 15, Peasley connected with Marquez in the flat and after a move by Marquez helped him allude a Bobcat defender the ball was at the five-yard line, bringing up a third and four. Peasley then handed the ball to Vaughn, and the running back scored his second rushing TD of the game to put the Cowboys back in front at 24-21 with 2:08 remaining.
Ohio wasn’t finished. The Bobcats drove all the way down to the Wyoming 40-yard line, but on a third and 10 pass play, Cowboy linebacker Easton Gibbs knocked the pass attempt away from the Bobcat receiver.
Unfortunately, this time interference was called on the Cowboys and placed the ball at the UW 32-yard line. Ohio completed one more pass of four yards with only eight seconds remaining in regulation. Bobcat place-kicker Vakos came in to attempt a 56-yard field goal. Right before he was to kick, Wyoming called a timeout to try and ice Vakos.
He went through with his motion and missed the field goal to the right as the timeout was granted by the game officials. Vakos lined up again, and the second time he kicked the ball through the uprights to tie the game at 24-24. Wyoming ran one offensive play after the kickoff and it was time for overtime.
For the Cowboys, it was their second overtime time game in a bowl. Back in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl, Wyoming defeated Fresno State by a score of 35-28 in double overtime.
As the designated visiting team, Ohio got to call the coin flip, which they won. The Bobcats chose to go on defense first. Wyoming started the overtime aggressive, with Peasley completing a 13-yard pass to Marquez down to the Ohio 12-yard line. An incomplete pass followed. Peasley attempted a quarterback draw on the next play, but was tripped up for no gain.
On third and 10, Peasley was tackled for a gain of only one yard. Hoyland came in the game and knocked through a 29-yard field — his second field goal of the day to put the Pokes back on top 27-24.
Now it was Ohio’s turn in overtime. Bobcat running back Bangura gained nine yards on first down to the Wyoming 16-yard line. Quarterback Harris gained four on second down to give Ohio a first down at the 12-yard line. Bangura gained three yards on the next play to the nine-yard line, but Wyoming’s defense stepped up on second down to tackle Bangura for a one-yard loss at the 10.
Facing a third down and eight at the 10-yard line, quarterback Harris found tight end Tyler Foster in the back of the end zone for the winning 10-yard TD pass, and the Bobcats had won the 2022 Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl title.
For the Cowboys, it broke a three-game winning streak in bowl games. But the Cowboys ended the season with many accomplishments for a team that began the season picked to finish fifth in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference.
Wyoming ended the season with a 7-6 record, finished second in the MW Mountain Division and won seven games for the fifth time in the past seven seasons (2016, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022).
UW also appeared in its fifth bowl game in the past seven seasons (2016 Poinsettia Bowl, 2017 and 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowls and 2019 and 2022 Arizona Bowls), which is the most successful period in the 126-year history of Cowboy Football.
Head coach Bohl has set a new standard for Cowboy football, becoming the first head coach in Wyoming Football history to take five Cowboy teams to bowl games. Bohl and his coaching staff are also the only coaching staff in school history to win three bowl games (2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, 2019 Arizona Bowl and 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl).
Another bright spot entering the offseason is the Cowboys will return the vast majority of a team that began the 2022 season as the fourth youngest squad in the country.
Among the individual highlights for the Cowboys on the night:
•Sophomore place-kicker John Hoyland kicked his 21st and 22nd field goals of the 2022 season, setting a new Wyoming single-season school record.
•Sophomore linebacker Easton Gibbs recorded 10 tackles in the Arizona Bowl to improve his season total to 121. That ties him for the 18th best single-season tackle total in school history, tying him with former Cowboy linebackers Bruce Mowry (1983 season) and Jim Talich (1997 season).
•Junior tight end Treyton Welch caught a single-game best five passes for a career best 91 yards vs. Ohio.
•Redshirt freshman running back Jordon Vaughn, playing in his first game for Wyoming, carried the ball 16 times for 67 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns.
•Junior wide receiver Ryan Marquez caught a career high three passes for a career best 38 yards.
•Sophomore wide receiver Alex Brown caught a career best three passes.