The game perhaps shouldn’t have been as close as it turned out to be, but the Cougars kept the Cowboys in it until the last minute, giving fans of both teams a reason to keep watching. While the win wasn’t impressive, it is still a win. The offense scored more than 24 points, and the defense held Wyoming to fewer than 24 – both are goals that Bronco and the Cougars set for every game. Here is a look at the keys to the game from my game preview.
Jake Heaps and the Receivers. Jake Heaps threw a touchdown pass for the first time since the Florida State game. In the first quarter, BYU went up 16-0 on the Cowboys, and it appeared that the game would quickly get out of hand. A Heaps pick six in the second quarter seemed to ignite the Pokes, and they went into halftime trailing only 16-10. Heaps ended up 10/18 for 81 yards, 1 TD, and the INT. Not spectacular considering the opponent, but the passing touchdown was the bright spot.
Closed Chambers. O’Neill Chambers wasn’t missed. In fact, Hoffman and Falslev combined for an average 26 yards per return on six kickoff returns. I had more fun watching those returns than I have in a long time. Cody Hoffman was awarded MWC special teams player of the week for his work on returns.
The Rush Attack. The “run first” approach worked well – the Cougars rushed for 217 yards, led by Kariya (88), DiLuigi (82), and Quezada (59). Kariya and DiLuigi each scored a touchdown, as the rush attack did its job, picking up the slack left by the passing game, and leading BYU to the win.
Ball Control. In Bronco’s five previous wins against Wyoming, BYU had a 17-0 turnover margin over Wyoming, and the games were not often close. In this game, BYU gave up a pick 6 and a fumble, and were not able to force a turnover. Had the Cougars been able to win the ball control game, the rest of the game wouldn’t have been nearly as close.
It’s all about the D. The BYU defense held Wyoming to only 173 total yards, with 110 passing, and 63 rushing. The defense also put up two points when Wyoming gave up a safety. Most of the yards given up were in the 4th quarter, when Wyoming scored a touchdown and later drove down the field in a last-minute attempt to win the game. In the end, the defense made enough plays to win, forcing a turnover on downs in BYU territory in the final minute to seal the victory.
What we know about Wyoming
Wyoming is now (2-6), and will not be facing BYU again any time soon. Though I’m sure the Cougars wouldn’t mind playing them – Wyoming will be glad to be rid of a team that has not lost to them during the Bronco Mendenhall era. Wyoming has a tough game with SDSU next, but the end of their schedule lightens up, as they will end with New Mexico, UNLV, and Colorado State. Counting the loss at SDSU, the Cowboys are out of the post season, and might make it out of the year at (5-7).
What we know about BYU
BYU is sitting at (3-5) for the year. After this surprisingly close game against Wyoming, BYU has a BYE, followed by UNLV, Colorado State, and New Mexico. Coming out of those games, they should be (6-5), bowl eligible, and headed to face the formidable Utes. Only time will tell if the Cougars will have what it takes to win out the next three weeks, but based on their recent performances, I expect that they will.