A Cowboys Miracle in the Snow at 7220 [VIDEOS]
Down by 13 points with 8:44 left, the Wyoming Cowboys found a way to come back and beat Air Force 35-27 Saturday in Laramie.
Tyler Vander Waal threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Austin Conway with 1:09 left that gave the Cowboys the lead. Xazavian Valladay added a 27-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left that provided the final margin.
Wyoming (5-6, 3-4) won its third straight game to keep its bowl hopes alive.
Head coach Craig Bohl talked about his team’s will to fight and persevere through adversity in the victory.
Vander Waal came in for an injured Sean Chambers on the first drive of the game. He engineered the comeback that included three scores in the final five minutes.
Vander Waal finished with 247 total yards and accounted for four touchdowns. He had two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores. Vander Waal was 14-26 passing for 225 yards. He added eight rushes for 22 yards.
Conway finished with only two catches for 34 yards, which included the go-ahead TD grab. Both of his receptions came in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Wingard led the Cowboys defense with 13 total tackles, including six solo stops, and an interception that sealed the game with 23 seconds left.
Wyoming scored on its opening drive, but lost their two leading rushers, running back Nico Evans and quarterback Sean Chambers, to injury within five plays of each other. Evans went down with an ankle, while Chambers was carted off with a lower leg injury.
On his first play replacing Chambers, Vander Waal found Raghib Ismail Jr. for an 11-yard TD pass. Vander Waal added a three-yard touchdown run on UW’s second possession. That made it 14-7 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
Air Force (4-7, 2-5) scored the first three times they had the ball. They led 17-14 at halftime. Air Force added a touchdown and a field goal on two of its first three opportunities in the second half. The last was a Jake Koehnke 21-yard field goal with 8:44 left.
That’s when the Cowboys finally came back to life. Vander Waal engineered a 13-play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown run by the QB. It included a fourth-down pass interference penalty against the Falcons. Plus, UW had a pair of third-down conversions on passes from Vander Waal to James Price, both were 16 yards. The second one set up the TD run.
After a key defensive stop, Wyoming forced Air Force to punt with three minutes left.
The Cowboys began their game-winning, go-ahead march at their own 42-yard line. Two incomplete passes and a penalty led to third down and 15. Vander Waal scrambled for six yards, which set up fourth down and nine. After UW’s final timeout, Vander Waal dropped to pass, scrambled right toward the sideline, backed away from defenders and then found Valladay for a key 12-yard pass and the first down. Vander Waal was hit right after he let go of his pass.
Five plays later, Vander Waal found Conway for the game-winner. He held on despite a big hit by an Air Force defender, who was ejected for targeting.
Wyoming’s Logan Wilson intercepted a pass on the Falcons’ next possession. After two negative rushing plays and two Air Force timeouts, Valladay burst up the middle for his first career TD. There was a holding penalty, but the Falcons chose to decline it to preserve time on the clock.
The Falcons tried an across-the-field lateral on the kick-off, but the ball went out-of-bounds at the Air Force 13-yard line. Their first play was a 13-yard pass, but their second was intercepted by Wingard, and the Cowboys clinched the victory. Senior Nick Smith took a knee in victory formation and the clock ran out on the dramatic Wyoming win.
The Cowboys finished with 373 yards of offense. They had 262 through the air and only 111 on the ground. Jevon Bigelow was the leading rusher with 35 yards. Tyree Mayfield had four catches for 112 yards. Carl Granderson added 10 tackles for the defense.
Air Force had 415 yards of total offense. They ran for 362 yards, had two backs go over 100-yards, and a third finished with 90. The Falcons also controlled the clock with over 38 minutes in time-of-possession compared to UW’s 21.
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Wyoming tries for its fourth straight win and to get bowl eligible at New Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 24. The game starts at 12:30 p.m.