A second quarter scoring explosion by the Wyoming Cowboys fueled a 45-21 home win over Texas State on Saturday to improve Wyoming’s record to 3-2 this season.
The Wyoming offense scored three touchdowns on TD passes by junior quarterback Josh Allen. The Cowboy defense scored twice on a 37-yard interception return by senior cornerback Rico Gafford and an 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Logan Wilson. And the Wyoming special teams scored on a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore cornerback Tyler Hall.
Hall became the first Cowboy in the 121 seasons of Cowboy Football to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in a single season and in a career. There have been seven other Cowboys who returned one kickoff return for a touchdown during their careers.
Wyoming’s offense generated 333 yards of total offense -- 249 passing yards and 84 rushing. The Cowboy defense held Texas State to 262 yards -- 127 passing and 135 rushing.
Saturday’s win marked the continued home success for UW, as it was the 10th home win in the last 12 games the Pokes have played in War Memorial Stadium.
Wyoming also continued its string of games winning the turnover battle. UW forced two Texas State turnovers on the day, while committing only one turnover itself. The Cowboys have won the turnover battle in all five games this season.
Allen threw two of his three TD passes to sophomore wide receiver C.J. Johnson, who led the Cowboys with 57 receiving yards on the day. The third touchdown pass for the Pokes was caught by sophomore wide receiver Austin Conway. Allen moved up three career charts at Wyoming on Saturday. His three touchdown passes improved his career total to 34, and tied him for eighth place with Craig Burnett (1986-87). Allen’s 219 passing yards increased his career numbers to 4,131, moving him into 10th place past Phil Davis’ 4,123 from 1978-81, and Allen’ 231 yards of total offense vs. Texas State gives him 4,738, passing Randy Welniak for 10th place. Welniak had 4,559 yards of total offense from 1985-88.
Gafford’s pick six was the first touchdown of his Wyoming career. Wilson’s fumble return for a touchdown was his first this season and third of his career. Wilson ended the day with a team high 12 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1.0 tackle for a loss, one forced fumble and his fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The other Cowboy defender who had an outstanding day was sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan. Ghaifan recorded a career best nine tackles and a career best 4.0 tackles for loss and tied a career high with 2.0 sacks on the day. He also forced a fumble
“This was quite a decisive win for us,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl. “We’ve had a lot of games that have been close, but it was great to be able to get some back-up players in when the game was in hand.
“We did have an explosion in the second quarter where we scored in all phases of the game, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been a coach that we’ve had a player (Tyler Hall) return a kick-off for a touchdown two games in a row. That is a really hard feat in college football. Really pleased with that but moreover happy with the win.”
The game began as a defensive battle as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. The only scoring threat of the first quarter was a 37-yard missed field-goal attempt by Texas State.
But the Cowboys would explode in the second quarter, scoring 31 points, with the offense, defense and special teams units all generating points in the second quarter. Texas State put the first points on the board with a 21-yard field goal by Foster Hilborn to take a 3-0 lead.
Wyoming responded with its first scoring drive on its next possession. Junior quarterback Allen completed 3 of 4 passes on the drive for 38 yards. His junior teammate at quarterback, Nick Smith, also was 1 of 1 passing on the drive for 30 yards as he completed a screen pass to redshirt sophomore running back Kellen Overstreet. Smith came in the game for one play following a play where Allen lost his helmet. Allen capped off the drive with a 22-yard TD pass to Johnson at the 9:46 mark of the second quarter.
It would be just 11 seconds later that the Cowboys would score their second touchdown of the game as Gafford intercepted his third pass of the season and took it back for a 37-yard touchdown on Texas State’s first play from scrimmage. It was Gafford’s first touchdown of his Wyoming career, and gave the Pokes a 14-3 lead.
Wyoming’s defense would force the Bobcats to punt on their next possession. Texas State pinned the Cowboys back on their own 15-yard line on a 52-yard punt by Marcus Ripley. Wyoming was unable to move the ball and freshman Tim Zaleski came in to punt. The Bobcats’ Anthony Taylor would penetrate Wyoming’s punt team and get a hand on Zaleski’s punt, resulting in only a 20-yard kick to the Wyoming 35-yard line.
Texas State would proceed to drive 35 yards in eight plays, with qu
arterback Damian Williams connecting on a touchdown pass to Elijah King from five yards out to make the score 14-10 in favor of Wyoming.
After that it was all Cowboys. On the ensuing kickoff, Wyoming’s Hall would take the kick back 95 yards for a touchdown, marking his second kickoff return for a TD in the last two games for the Cowboys. He returned a kick 97 yards for a touchdown last week versus Hawai’i. Hall’s record-setting kickoff return gave the Cowboys a 21-10 lead.
Wyoming’s defense would force the Bobcats into a three-and-out on the following series, and take over at its own 40-yard line following a Texas State punt. Allen would begin Wyoming’s drive with a six-yard run followed by a 39-yard pass to true freshman wide receiver Avante’ Cox and a 15-yard TD pass to Johnson to build the lead to 28-10.
After giving up only one first down to the Bobcats on the following series, Wyoming got the ball back at its own 35-yard line following an 18-yard punt return from Conway. With only 53 seconds remaining in the half, the Wyoming offense did an outstanding job managing the clock. It would take the Pokes only seven plays to drive 53 yards and put sophomore place-kicker Cooper Rothe in position to kick a 28-yard field goal. The key play in that drive was a 40-yard pass from Allen to junior wide receiver James Price. Rothe’s field goal capped off the 31-point explosion by the Cowboys and the halftime score was 31-10 in favor of Wyoming.
The second half would see the Pokes add two third-quarter touchdowns -- one on Wilson’s 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown and the other on Allen’s eight-yard TD pass to Conway. Wyoming led 45-10 entering the fourth quarter, and that is how the game would end with the Cowboy defense shutting out Texas State in the second half.
The Cowboys enter this upcoming bye week with a 3-2 overall record and a 1-0 record in Mountain West Conference play. Their next game will be on Oct. 14 in Logan, Utah, versus the Utah State Aggies. Utah State is also currently 3-2, and 1-0 in the Mountain West. The Aggies will host Colorado State on Saturday, Oct. 7 before facing the Cowboys the following Saturday.