It was a typical, hard-fought meeting between the Wyoming Cowboys and Air Force Falcons on Saturday night at Falcon Stadium on the Air Force Academy campus. In the end, Air Force prevailed 24-14 to hand Wyoming its first loss of the season. Wyoming moved to 4-1 and 0-1 in conference play. Air Force improved to 5-1 and 2-1 in the Mountain West.
The first half began with Air Force taking a 14-0 lead, but the Cowboys fought back to score two touchdowns in the final 4:38 of the half to tie that game at 14-14 and grab the momentum heading into halftime.
In the second half, Wyoming began with a promising drive that stalled at the Air Force 36. The Falcons took their opening drive of the third quarter and turned it into their third TD of the game to regain the lead at 21-14. Air Force would engineer its fourth scoring drive of the game on its first possession of the fourth quarter, driving 67 yards in 15 plays and capping it off with a 26-yard field goal to conclude the scoring 24-14.
“We played inconsistently tonight and we got beat by a good football team,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl. “We were going to need to get some turnovers and stay on the field offensively tonight, which we weren’t able to do. To Air Force’s credit, they threw the ball well in the second half and we weren’t able to stop that.”
“I’ll be guarded in my comments until we can evaluate things on tape, but our players are disappointed and our coaches are disappointed. In the end, we will learn from tonight and get back at it tomorrow, Bohl said. “We knew this was going to be a hard-fought game. Our players fought hard, but we weren’t able to make enough plays at critical times, and Air Force did a good job of coming up with plays when they needed them.”
Wyoming won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. Air Force took its opening drive and went 75 yards in 15 plays, taking 8:18 off the clock. The Falcons converted two fourth-down conversions on the drive on a fourth and two at the Wyoming 49 and a fourth and three at the Wyoming 37. Big plays on the drive were an 18-yard run on the first play of the game and a 21-yard run on a first and 10 from the Wyoming 34. Both runs were by fullback Brad Roberts.
The Cowboys made their first big play of the game when defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole recovered a fumble by Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels at the Wyoming 31-yard line. But three plays later, Cowboy quarterback Sean Chambers would scramble out of the backfield and after an eight-yard gain was hit and fumbled the ball back to the Falcons. Air Force took over at the Wyoming 41.
After the Wyoming turnover, Air Force drove down to the Wyoming 19 and faced its third fourth down of the game on a fourth and one at the Wyoming 19. Wide receiver Micah Davis gained four on a pitch play giving Air Force a first and 10 at the 15. Two plays later at the seven-yard line, fullback Emmanuel Michel rushed up the middle for four. Cowboy safety Rome Weber upended Michel and knocked the ball loose, however the ball was recovered by Falcon Omar Fattah at the three. Wide receiver Dane Kinamon would score two plays later on a sweep to the left to give the Falcons a 14-0 lead with 10:43 remaining in the second quarter.
At the 4:38 mark of the first half, the score remained 14-0, but that is when the Cowboys came to life. Wyoming took possession at their own three-yard line after a 43-yard punt by Air Force. On first down, Cowboy running back Xazavian Valladay exploded over the right side of the Wyoming offensive line and burst into the open running down the Wyoming sideline for 74 yards — the longest run of the season for the Pokes and the second longest of Valladay’s career. That run moved the ball to the Air Force 23-yard line.
Running back Titus Swen carried for 13 yards on the next play, giving UW a first and goal at the 10. A four-yard run by Swen was followed by an incomplete pass from Chambers intended for Isaiah Neyor. Then on third and six from the six, Valladay powered his way down to the goal line in what was originally signaled as a touchdown. But after replay, Valladay was ruled down at the one-yard line. Facing a fourth and goal at the one, Chambers forced his way into the end zone to give Wyoming its first score of the day and cut Air Force’s lead to 14-7 with 2:39 remaining in the first half.
The Cowboy defense rose to the occasion for a second straight series, holding the Falcons to only one first down on its next possession. Cowboy head coach Craig Bohl called two timeouts to preserve time and Air Force punted the ball back to Wyoming with 1:07 remaining.
Starting from its own 27-yard line, Chamber’s first pass of the drive was incomplete. He scrambled for 13 yards and a first down on the second play out to the Wyoming 40. The Cowboy QB then connected on a completion of 13 yards to Ayden Eberhardt to the Air Force 47-yard line. On the next play, Chambers found Neyor on a 37-yard completion to the Air Force 10. Neyor got out of bounds to stop the clock. Chambers went right back to Neyor on first and goal from the 10, finding him in the front corner of the end zone for UW’s second touchdown with only 15 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 14-14. The half would end with Wyoming holding the momentum.
Wyoming took the opening kickoff of the second half and put together a promising drive, moving the ball down to the Air Force 36-yard line before being forced to punt.
Air Force would drive 85 yards in eight plays on its first third quarter possession, mixing in four big pass plays to regain the lead at 21-14 with 4:09 remaining in the third.
The Falcons followed that up with their fourth and final scoring drive in the fourth to build the lead to 24-14 on a 26-yard field goal with 7:18 to go in the game.
The Cowboys mounted their final scoring threat moving the ball from their own 37-yard line down to the Air Force 25, but facing a fourth and 10 at the 25, Chambers was sacked and the ball came loose. Air Force recovered the fumble at the Falcon 48, and that was essentially the last opportunity for the Pokes.
Wyoming will return to action on Saturday, Oct. 16 when it will host Fresno State in War Memorial Stadium.