Turning Point, Unsung Hero and What’s Next for UW Football
HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Those pesky Rainbow Warriors just wouldn't go away. They rarely do. Especially at their place.
We've seen this movie before.
In Craig Bohl's last trip to the islands in 2018, Cooper Rothe drilled a 23-yard field goal to give the visitors a 13-10 lead with 5:31 to go. Hawaii, and its true freshman quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, proceeded to march 68 yards on 10 plays. The rookie signal caller, who was making his first-career start, fired a 38-yard touchdown strike to JoJo Ward, giving the 'Bows a 17-13 advantage with 1:26 to go.
Wyoming's last gasp fell just short after Tyler Vander Waal led the Pokes on a 9-play, 54-yard drive that died on the UH 14-yard line.
Though he watched from the sideline, Zach Watts remembers it well.
"That was a tough flight, flying back right after the game and losing last second," UW's offensive guard said of the eight-hour trip over the Pacific Ocean. "I was just a bright-eyed freshman and I was tired. I couldn't imagine actually playing in it."
That scenario appeared to be playing out once again Saturday night inside of a rain-soaked Ching Complex in Honolulu.
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Hawaii jumped out to a 10-0 lead. UW punched back with 13 unanswered. The Cowboys drove 54 yards on 11 plays to open the third quarter. That drive culminated with a 38-yard field goal off the right foot of John Hoyland.
The 'Bows didn't go down quietly, striking back with a 13-play, 76-yard drive of their own. A 20-yard boot from Matthew Shipley tied it up once again.
After trading punts, an unlikely game-changer strolled into Wyoming's backfield and delivered a devastating blow to the home team.
Dawaiian McNeely, who didn't play in last Saturday's 28-14 victory over Utah State because of a lingering nerve issue in his right hand, took the handoff and dashed right through the Hawaii front untouched and blazed to the end zone from 61 yards out.
It wasn't the knockout blow -- that came on the ensuing drive when quarterback Andrew Peasley cruised in alone -- but it was the lift the Cowboys needed just when it looked like this one could be another nail biter.
"You know, I was kind of running backs by committee," Bohl said, referring to starter Titus Swen entering concussion protocol in the first quarter and spending the rest of the game in street clothes on the sideline. "Like I said, those guys saw some field, they said some cuts up and I do think we did a dominant job blocking up front. But those backs are really making a lot of big plays with their legs."
DQ James, who was vaulted into the starting spot when Swen went down, had a career outing with 179 rushing yards on just 14 carries. McNeely finished with 81 yards on four carries and Peasley chalked up 71 yards and a pair of scores on 14 attempts.
For the second straight week, UW eclipsed the 300-yard mark on the ground. That is the first time that has happened in the Bohl era.
"Outstanding," James said of the offensive line's performance in the win. "Hey, all my yards go toward them. The last two weeks go toward them. I couldn't do it without them."
Watts wasn't about to bask in the praise. This was a group effort, he said.
"Shoot, I mean, a win is a win," the junior said. "Obviously, we're never satisfied. We got off to a slow start and had some self-inflicted wounds there at the beginning that we have to improve on, but a win is a win.
"I'm so proud of this team. I'm so blessed to be with this team."
Wyoming 27, Hawaii 20
If you take a quick glance at the Cowboys' passing numbers Saturday night, a cringe is sure to follow. Peasley was off the mark most of the night -- to say the least. His two interceptions were not only bad decisions, they were way off target.
Peter Manuma was the only player in the vicinity of both. Hawaii's safety snagged both, too.
So, why on earth would Peasley be the unsung hero after completing just 7-of-15 throws for 76 yards and tossing a pair of ugly picks?
"I thought Andrew Peasley competed extremely hard," Bohl said. "He can play better, but he competed like a champion."
Peasley had a forgettable night through the air, but despite battling a hand injury and a nagging hip flexor, the junior signal caller used his feet to get the Cowboys' offense going. He gashed the 'Bows for a 35-yard touchdown run to get the visitors on the board in the second quarter. He added a fourth-quarter score on a bootleg, cruising into the end zone untouched to give Wyoming a late 27-13 lead.
Peasley was sacked three times. You can chalk those up to Hawaii's downfield coverage. He took big hits and kept ticking.
What Bohl said.
We also need to give a shoutout to Read Sunn.
The reserve linebacker was forced into long snapping duty when Carson York reaggravated a hamstring injury. He was perfect on the night, too.
That's a huge luxury to have.
"Maybe in my younger years I'd probably pick it up, but I'll let DQ do that. You know, it's a beautiful trophy. One of the things that I have found through the years is, even though you look at the difference in geography and everything else, these two programs are really pretty hard-nosed programs. So, you know, to have a trophy and celebrate ... Our guys are in the locker room taking pictures with it right now."
Will that trophy go next to Jim Bridger's Rifle?
"We'll discuss that, but it goes down to our equipment guy. Just know this, we're going to have ice cream bars on the airplane coming back. I'm excited about that."
-- Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl on winning back-to-back trophy games and claiming the Paniolo Trophy Saturday night in Honolulu
The Cowboys are on their second bye week of the season, giving them two weeks to prepare for the annual Border War meeting with Colorado State. The Pokes and Rams will meet for the 114th time Saturday, Nov. 12 inside Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
PRESS PASS: Roaming The War
-PRESS PASS: Roaming The War