By Timothy Harkins, University of Wyoming athletics
The Wyoming Cowboys fell for the first time at home this season as the Fresno State Bulldogs captured a 17-0 win on Saturday in Laramie. The Cowboys are now 4-2 on the season and 0-2 in the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State improved to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference.
Wyoming’s defense held Fresno State to 259 yards of total offense. That was half of what the Bulldogs were averaging on the season. Fresno State came into the game averaging 519.8 yards per game. UW’s defense also held FS 22 points under its season scoring average of 39.0 points per game.
But the Pokes turned the ball over five times on four interceptions and one lost fumble. Three of those turnovers led directly to Fresno State’s 17 points. Two of the three turnovers in the second half gave the Bulldogs the ball at the Wyoming six-yard line, leading to a touchdown, and the 27-yard line, setting up a 41-yard field goal. The 17-0 shutout marked the first time Wyoming had been shutout since 2010 when they lost at TCU by a score 45-0.
Wyoming began the game winning the toss and deferring to the second half. The Cowboy defense forced a three-and-out on Fresno State’s first possession of the game and following the Bulldogs’ punt, Wyoming took over at its own 34-yard line. On a second and eight from the 36, Cowboy quarterback Sean Chambers rushed up the middle for five yards but the ball was knocked loose and Fresno State recovered at the Wyoming 41.
The Bulldogs took that turnover and moved the ball down to the Wyoming six-yard line in nine plays. On a third and goal from the six, FS quarterback Jake Haener completed a pass for one yard to the UW five where Cowboy strong safety Rome Weber knocked wide receiver Josh Kelly out of bounds. It appeared that Wyoming had forced Fresno State into a field-goal attempt, but the play was reviewed and Weber was called for a targeting penalty and was ejected for the remainder of the game. The ball was placed at the Wyoming two-yard line after the penalty and on the 10th play of the drive Haener completed a pass in the flat to tight end Juan Rodriguez for a touchdown. The point-after-touchdown kick by Cesar Silva gave Fresno State a 7-0 lead with 6:57 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cowboys began their second possession at their own 25-yard line and would put together a 10-play, 34-yard drive that took 6:18 off the clock, but the drive stalled at the Fresno State 41-yard line. Cowboy punter Ralph Fawaz pinned Fresno State back at its own nine-yard line with a 32-yard punt.
Two plays into the Bulldogs’ ensuing drive, the first quarter ended with Fresno State leading 7-0. FS gained one first down on the possession before the Pokes forced another punt.
Wyoming had one of its most promising drives of the first half, moving the ball 71 yards in nine plays, but for the second time in the half Fresno State came up with a turnover. On a first and 10 at the FS 25-yard line, Chambers targeted running back Xazavian Valladay across the middle, but the ball was intercepted by Bulldog free safety Evan Williams, who returned the ball to the Fresno State 29.
The two teams exchanged punts on their next possessions. Following the Cowboys’ punt, Fresno State took over at its own 39-yard line and in eight plays moved down to the Wyoming 23. Bulldog place-kicker Silva came in for a 40-yard field goal attempt, but the kick went wide left.
Wyoming began its final possession of the half with exactly two minutes remaining on the clock. The Cowboys mounted their second scoring threat of the half. On first down from the Wyoming 23, Chambers took off on a 20-yard scamper moving the ball out to the Wyoming 43-yard line. Valladay would carry for nine yards on the next play to the Fresno State 48. After an incomplete pass, Chambers rushed for two yards for a first down. An incompletion was followed by an interference penalty against Fresno State on a pass attempt to Valladay. That moved the ball to the Fresno State 39. Wyoming gained three more yards on a pass from Chambers to Valladay, and on a fourth and seven from the FS 36, Cowboy place-kicker John Hoyland came in to attempt a 53-yard field goal. Hoyland’s attempt would go wide left with 18 seconds remaining in the half. Fresno State would kneel down and the half would end with the score Fresno State 7, Wyoming 0.
Wyoming concluded the half with 151 yards of total offense on 32 plays. Fresno State had 111 total yards on 33 plays.
The second half began with both teams being forced to punt on each of their first two possessions of the third quarter.
On Wyoming’s third possession of the third quarter, it took over at its own 13-yard line. Following a six-yard fly sweep by wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt, running back Titus Swen was tackled for a two-yard loss. Facing a third and six from the Wyoming 17, Chambers completed an 18-yard pass to Valladay to move the ball to the UW 35-yard line. Chambers tried to find Valladay on a second consecutive play but the ball was tipped by Bulldog linebacker Levelle Bailey and intercepted by linebacker Malachi Langley, who returned it 33 yards to the Wyoming six-yard line.
The Cowboy defense held Fresno State to three yards on a first down rush and on second and goal from the three, UW cornerback C.J. Coldon broke up a pass in the end zone. On third down, Haener found wide receiver Jalen Cropper on a pass completion for the TD. Silva’s extra point extended Fresno State’s lead to 14-0. That is where the score would stand at the end of the third quarter.
Fresno State would come up with its third interception of the game with 11:20 remaining in the game. Free safety Williams picked off Chambers for the second time at the Wyoming 41-yard line and returned it 14 yards down to the UW 27. The Cowboy defense stiffened and held Fresno State to only one three-yard run, forcing a Bulldog field-goal attempt. Silva entered the game and drove the ball through the uprights from 41 yards out to build Fresno State’s lead to 17-0.
Wyoming inserted quarterback Levi Williams into the game with 10:18 remaining. On Williams first series he threw a ball down the sideline for wide receiver Isaiah Neyor that initially looked like a completion, but the officials called the pass incomplete. After replay, the referee announced the call on the field would stand. An incompletion on fourth and two gave the ball back to Fresno State on downs at the Wyoming 31-yard line. Wyoming’s defense would not allow the Bulldogs to gain a first down, holding FS to zero yards on a fourth and one at the Wyoming 22.
Williams completed a 32-yard pass to Eberhardt on Wyoming’s following possession, moving the ball to the Fresno State 46. Swen broke a 20-yard run down to the Fresno State 26. Fresno State was called for pass interference on the next play, giving the Cowboys a first down at the Fresno State 11. But much like the rest of Wyoming’s day, FS strong safety L.J. Early intercepted Williams pass at the seven-yard line, ending Wyoming’s final scoring threat with 5:34 remaining in the game.
Fresno State held the ball for the next 5:30, giving Wyoming the ball back with only four seconds remaining to end the game.
Quotes From Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl
“I thought our guys played hard, but we’ve got to play smarter and we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football.
“Obviously, we have to generate some points. It’s important that I don’t make any broad-based comments right now until we watch the tape, but if you look at productivity you’ve got six (consecutive) quarters without scoring any points, and that’s going to make it hard to beat anybody.
“I want to take a hard look at the tape. We need to cull through that. I need to take some time with Tim (Polasek, offensive coordinator) and see what we are doing, what’s our identity, where are we misfiring.
“I don’t have rose-colored glasses on. We’ve got to do a rework, and I don’t think it’s a little tweak here or there. It’s always dangerous to completely reshuffle everything, but I’ll look at the two quarterbacks, and we’ll make a decision here this next week.
“Our traditional tailback runs, we need to be able to do much better. Whether we are missing some cuts, whether we are not getting movement at the point of attack, some perimeter blocking comes into play, but nonetheless, we are not running the ball nearly as well as what we should.
“I thought our defense did some excellent things out there today. He’s (Jake Haener, Fresno State QB) a really good quarterback, and he’s been productive against pretty much everybody. I thought we did some good things up there. We established the line of scrimmage and forced them into some throwing situations. I thought that there were some positive things, and we need to build off that.”
Wyoming ended the game with 271 yards of total offense (128 rushing and 149 rushing) to out-gain Fresno State. The Bulldogs accounted for 259 yards of total offense (163 rushing and only 96 passing).
Chambers completed 8 of 23 passes for 111 yards, threw three interceptions and lost one fumble. Williams complete 1 of 7 passes fo 32 yards and threw one interception. Fresno State’s Haener completed 15 of 28 passes for only 96 yards, but did throw two TD passes.
Chambers led Wyoming in rushing with 51 yards on 12 carries. Swen added 36 yards on seven carries, and Valladay had 35 rushing yards on nine attempts. Bulldog tailbacks Jordan Mims and Ronnie Rivers rushed for 78 and 73 yards, respectively, for a combined 151 yards.
Valladay moved into fourth place on Wyoming’s career rushing list in Saturday’s game. He now has 2,682 career rushing yards and moved past former Cowboy running back Wynel Seldon, who accounted for 2.672 rushing yards during his career from 2005-08.
Defensively, the Cowboys were led by linebacker Chad Muma and free safety Esaias Gandy, who were credited with 11 tackles each. Wyoming defensive end Solomon Byrd added six tackles and recorded UW’s lone sack on the day. Fresno State free safety Evan Williams recorded seven tackles to go with his two interceptions.
Next Up for the Cowboys
The Cowboys will host New Mexico next Saturday, Oct. 23 for Homecoming. The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised on Stadium.