On Saturday afternoon the Wyoming Cowboys 2–5 (0−3 MWC) faced off against the #10 Utah Utes 6–0 (3−0 MWC) for the final time as conference foes. Utah came into the game with an insane victory over Iowa State last week, 68–27. The Utes are 6–0 for the third time in seven years. The Pokes are coming off of possibly the hardest first half of a season in the entire nation. The only team with a similarly difficult road to start is the Oregon State Beavers.
The Cowboys won the toss to begin the game but decided to defer to the second half. Utah marched the length of the field with relative ease. The Cowboys did stop one drive with an interception in the end zone by senior cornerback Marcell Gipson. The interception was the first of Gipson’s career. The Cowboys showed some life in the first half but either shot themselves in the foot with a silly mistake or they took more risks than were necessary. Risky calls on offense are a staple of Coach Christensen’s, like it or not. The shining moment for the Cowboys in the half was a blocked PAT by senior Chris Prosinski, who also climbed to 7th on the Cowboys all-time tackles list.
At the half the #10 Utah Utes were way up on the Wyoming Cowboys 23–0.
Leading the way for the Utes was quarterback Jordan Wynn who went 13-for-18 with 173 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. The touchdown passes went to Luke Matthews on a 45 yard bomb as well as to DeVonte Christopher. The Utes also wore down the clock with a heavy dose of running back Matt Asiata who had 12 carries for 74 yards.
The Cowboys didn’t have much to show for the first half of play. Austyn Carta-Samuels went 5-for-7 for a meager 61 yards. Alvester Alexander had 11 carries for 25 net yards. Prosinski led the Cowboys defense with seven tackles and a blocked PAT.
Even less was working for the Pokes in the second half than was working in the first, which was relatively little. Every time the Pokes looked as though they might piece together a drive they would have a negative play. This led to no scoring for the Pokes. The Utes started almost all of their drives in Cowboy territory.
In the fourth quarter the Pokes finally got something going with Dax Crum at the helm for his second drive. Crum had a couple quality passes that moved the Pokes down the field. Wyoming was also aided by a pass interference call on the five yard line. Crum threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to David Leonard for Wyoming’s only real glimmer of offense. The Pokes attempted a two point conversion but were clobbered at the line of scrimmage on the direct snap to the running back.
Final score at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, #10 Utah Utes 30 — Wyoming Cowboys 6.
The statistical leaders for the Utes were Wynn, Asiata, and return man Shaky Smithson. Wynn went 16-for-25 with 230 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Asiata ran for 109 yards on 16 carries and became Utah’s first 100 yard rusher of the season. Smithson had four punt returns for 111 yards and often put the Utes in Wyoming territory to start their drives.
Leading the way for the Pokes was Alexander with 19 carries for a dismal 44 yards. Carta-Samuels played thru most of the game but was relieved by Dax Crum late in the game. Crum threw the team’s only touchdown of the game to wide receiver David Leonard. Prosinski finished with 12 tackles and a blocked PAT. There were also three interceptions in the game by Marcell Gipson, Tashaun Gipson, and by freshman Marqueston Huff. It was M. Gipson’s first career interception, T. Gipson’s fourth career interception, and Huff’s first career interception.
David Leonard stressed the importance of the second half of the season, “It’s a six game season and that’s what we’re focused on. We’re not gonna mope about this loss. We’re gonna continue to get better and strive to accomplish our goal, which is to play in the post season.”
The Pokes have another tough loss on their record but the Cowboys accomplished a few firsts for the season. The Cowboys were +3 on turnovers with three interceptions and the Cowboys scored in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.
Head Coach Dave Christensen praised the brothers Gipson for their ability to create turnovers, “That’s about as many turnovers as we’ve had in four games. They’ve been playing good and playing hard and they’re good cover corners.”
When asked about the team turning around the season Tashaun Gipson commented that, “Right now, it’s gotta be a turnaround for us. If we’re trying to make it to post season play, what we did in the first half of the season is dead and gone. We have to turn over a new leaf.”
Older brother Marcell Gipson reflected the same urgency as his brother in the post game interview, “We NEED a win! That’s it and that’s all.”
Next week the Cowboys are headed into the second half of the season with a losing record. The Pokes will face off against hated MWC rival BYU next Saturday in Provo. The Pokes do have plenty of opportunities to right the ship in their remaining MWC games, but will need wins in most of those games to have any chance at bowl eligibility. If the Cowboys win four out of their last five games they will finish the season at 6–6 (4−4 MWC) and should have no problem getting into a bowl game. It‘s going to be an extremely tough road for the Cowboys to pull a 180 on their season though.