By Tim Harkins, University of Wyoming athletics
It was the type of game the Wyoming Cowboys have wanted to play all season long. A game where they got a lead, were able to run the ball successfully and have their defense force turnovers and limit scoring opportunities. In the end, Wyoming came away with a 31-17 home victory over rival Colorado State in the 113th edition of the Border War.
Wyoming’s win improved its record to 5-4 on the season and 1-4 in the Mountain West. Colorado State fell to 3-6 and 2-3 in the conference. It was the 113th overall meeting in the Border War between the two rivals and the 54th time they played for the Bronze Boot traveling trophy. Wyoming now holds a 29-25 advantage in the Battle for the Bronze Boot, while CSU leads in the overall series 59-49-5. The two teams played for the 76th consecutive season since 1946. Over those last 76 meetings, Wyoming leads with 44 wins to Colorado State’s 32.
Saturday’s game was played before a crowd of 24,926.
Colorado State scored first on Saturday to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Wyoming scored its first touchdown two plays later on a 43-yard TD run by quarterback Levi Williams. Wyoming would take its first lead on its first possession of the second quarter when running back Xazavian Valladay ran into the end zone untouched from five yards out to put the Pokes ahead 14-7. Valladay’s touchdown was set up by an 87-yard run by his running mate Titus Swen. The Cowboys would never relinquish the lead again.
UW place-kicker John Hoyland would add a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter to give the Pokes a 17-10 lead at halftime.
Playing with the score in its favor, Wyoming was able to return to its outstanding running game. UW would rush for a season high 385 yards to go with 92 passing yards and a record a season-best 477 yards of total offense. The Cowboy defense held CSU to 357 yards of total offense – 170 rushing and 187 passing.
While Williams and Valladay would score Wyoming’s two rushing touchdowns, it would be sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Neyor, who would pull down two TD passes from Williams. The first touchdown reception came in the third quarter on a 25-yard connection, and the second came on a 15-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Williams completed 9 of 16 passes (.563) for 92 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Neyor caught three passes for 45 yards and two TDs, and Valladay caught three passes out of the backfield for 16 yards.
Two Cowboys recorded career highs in rushing as Swen ended the day with 166 yards on 21 carries. Williams ran for 116 yards on 12 carries. It was Swen’s second career 100-yard game of his career and first of the season. For Williams, it was the first 100-yard rushing game of his career. The Cowboys season leader in rushing yards, Valladay, added 76 yards on the ground to move him from fourth place on the UW career rushing list to second. Valladay now has 2,971 rushing yards as a Cowboy and passed Ryan Christopherson (2,906 yards from 1991-94) and Devin Moore (2,963 from 2005-08). Valladay trails only Brian Hill, who rushed for 4,287 yards from 2014-16.
Wyoming’s defense had two takeaways in the game, intercepting two Ram passes in the fourth quarter. The first interception was made by nickel back Keonte Glinton at the start of the fourth to stop a Colorado State drive at the Wyoming 28-yard line. The other came on CSU’s second possession in the fourth quarter, when linebacker Chad Muma intercepted his third pass of the season and third of his career. Muma’s interception at the CSU 37 helped set up Wyoming’s final touchdown of the day on the 15-yard pass from Williams to Neyor.
The UW defense also registered 2.0 sacks -1.5 from nose tackle Cole Godbout and the other 0.5 sack by defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole. In addition to the two interceptions, five different Cowboys broke up a total of seven other CSU pass attempts. Those five Cowboy defenders who broke up passes included: linebacker Easton Gibbs and defensive end Victor Jones, with two each; Glinton added one to go with his interception; safety Rome Weber had one PBU; and defensive end Garrett Crall added one.
Muma and Gibbs were credited with 11 tackles each to lead UW. Godbout added seven. Glinton, Bertagnole, defensive tackle Caleb Robinson and redshirt freshman free safety Isaac White each had four tackles. White made the first career start of his career.
To start the game, the Cowboy defense forced Colorado State into a three-and-out series on the Rams’ first possession. After gaining one first down and moving the ball from its own 27-yard line out to the CSU 49, the Cowboys decided to go for it on a fourth and one. Valladay took the handoff up the middle, but CSU’s Tavian Brown forced a fumble. Valladay recovered the fumble for no gain and CSU took over on downs at its own 49.
The Rams proceeded to drive 51 yards in nine plays, concluding with a four-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Dante Wright to give Colorado State a 7-0 lead with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cowboys would reply quickly with a score of their own. On first down, Valladay carried for 17 yards to the Wyoming 42. CSU was called for a facemask penalty on the play, which moved the ball to the Colorado State 43. Williams dropped back to pass on the second play of the drive and then stepped up in the pocket and took off on a 43-yard TD scramble for the touchdown. It was Williams’ first rushing touchdown of the season and tied the game at 7-7.
Each team would have two more possessions of the first quarter, but neither would score and the quarter would end with the score tied 7-7.
Wyoming’s final possession of the first quarter would carry into the second period. On the second play of the drive from the Wyoming four-yard line, Cowboy running back Swen exploded over the left side for 87 yards to the Colorado State nine-yard line. It was the longest run of Swen’s career. Valladay would carry for four yards on first down to the CSU five, and on the next play Valladay would go untouched into the endzone to give Wyoming its first lead of the game at 14-7.
The Cowboys were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown, forcing them to kickoff from their own 35-yard line. After a kickoff return of 29 yards by Ram Thomas Pannunzio, CSU began its drive at its own 43-yard line. The Rams would move the ball down to the Wyoming nine-yard line, but on a third and five from the nine the Cowboys forced an incomplete pass. Colorado State place-kicker Cayden Camper came into the game and made a 27-yard field goal to cut the Wyoming lead to 14-10.
The Pokes would commit their only turnover of the day on the very next possession, when the ball was stripped from Valladay’s arm by CSU’s Jack Howell and recovered by Ram Cam’Ron Carter at the CSU 42. But the Wyoming defense rose to the occassion and held Colorado State to only two rushing yards and force a Ram punt.
UW put together one more scoring drive before halftime. Starting at its own 20-yard line, the Cowboys drove 68 yards in seven plays, with the key play of the drive being a 52-yard run by QB Williams. Cowboy place-kicker Hoyland came into the game and made a 29-yard field goal to give the Pokes a 17-10 halftime lead
The only scoring in the third quarter was an 11-play, 80-yard drive by the Cowboys that was capped off by Williams 25-yard TD pass to Neyor that extended the Pokes lead to 24-10.
Wyoming built its lead to 31-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Following Muma’s interception, UW took the ball at CSU’s 37-yard line and took eight plays to find paydirt when Williams and Neyor connected for their second TD pass of the day from 15 yards out.
Colorado State scored its only points of the second half on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Todd Centeio to wide receiver Dante Wright.
Quotes From Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl
“A great win. We have tremendous respect for Colorado State,” said Bohl. “We knew it was going to be a hard fought, physical game, which it was. I thought our guys played really well. From my vantage point on the sidelines, I was really pleased with them in all three phases.
“That is a great rivalry. It’s great to get the Boot back. It means so much to our state and our students.
“Nothing cures a lot of ills better than a win — and just playing better too. We’ve seen emerging signs of it and we felt like this was a week we could capitalize on being really physical.
“A couple of those catches that Isaiah Neyor made were special, and Levi (Williams) made a couple nice throws. Isaiah is a big-time weapon.
“We’ve been sputtering around on offense, trying to find some rhythm and obviously have been through some rough patches. But we saw some emerging signs of us getting some movement (up front on the offensive line) starting back in the New Mexico game. That kept on getting better, and I thought our backs ran hard. Levi had some big plays. When you can get the running game going – and I know a lot of times people don’t think its all that fancy – but boy its effective. That’s our mantra and it was really pleasing to see that come out, particularly in this ball game. I thought our offensive line played great.”
Regarding getting two takeaways by the Wyoming Defense on Saturday
“I can tell you this, as excited as I was when we finally scored a touchdown last week, it was great to see us come up with at couple turnovers today.”
What did it mean to see your seniors get the Boot one last time
“I couldn’t be happier for them. We talked about that — to take this moment in. I talked with the seniors at the pregame meal before we took our Cowboy Walk. This is the end of this series (the Border War series) for them. I told them to embrace it all. I thought they did, and they played really well. This is the type of game they will talk about for 20 years. It’s certainly great to win the Boot and win it at home.”
Next Up for the Cowboys
The Cowboys will travel to Boise State for a night game this coming Friday, Nov. 12. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on FS1.