By Keith Kelley – 20 Sept ’14
The Wyoming Cowboys snatched victory from the jaws of defeat Saturday afternoon, as the Pokes got a game-winning field goal from Stuart Willams, and Wyoming rallied to beat Florida Atlantic 20-19. After the Cowboys were stopped on fourth down deep in their own territory and only 2:09 left on the clock, it appeared as if the Owls would just run the clock down and leave Laramie with a win. But the Wyoming defense had other ideas. On Florida Atlantic’s first play, quarterback Jaquez Johnson was stripped by senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha. Another senior linebacker, Jordan Stanton, would recover the fumble, giving the Pokes new life. Stanton said that when they took the field, they knew they had to make a play to get the ball back.
Both Nzeocha and Stanton are no stranger to making big plays, as both have earned Mountain West defensive player of the week honors this season. On the strip of Johnson, Nzeocha says they figured that Florida Atlantic would be conservative and run the ball to get the clock down. And with just one timeout left, Nzeocha says they knew they had to be aggressive.
Now that they got the ball back, the Cowboys were faced with a first down at their own eight yard line. And not knowing exactly how they got the ball back, senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard, who was on the phone with offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, had to direct the Pokes on another drive for the ages. Just two weeks ago, Kirkegaard took the Pokes down the field, as Wyoming beat Air Force. On the first play, Kirkegaard found a wide open Dominic Rufran, who raced down the sideline for an 88 yard gain to the Florida Atlantic four yard line. And with 15 seconds left, Stuart Williams kicked a game-winning 18 yard field, as Wyoming improved to 3-1 on the season. So that’s two game-winning drives directed by Kirkegaard this season and he says that he’s got a ton of confidence in this offense when they’re faced with adversity.
Kirkegaard finished the game just 10-23 for 161 yards, by far not his best performance of the year. But Kirkegaard continues to make plays when the Pokes need them. Rufran, who put the Pokes in position to win with his catch, caught four balls for 110 yards in the win. He says this is the biggest win for him since his freshman year, and he will remember this win for the rest of his life.
The Wyoming running game was pretty impressive throughout the game, as Shaun Wick passed the one-hundred yard mark again, with 111 yards rushing and a touchdown. While D.J. May rushed for 71 yards and a score. The Cowboys finished with 173 yards rushing on the day, and had 334 yards of total offense. The Wyoming defense held the Owls to under 300 yards of total offense, 296, as they made the plays they needed to, to win the game. Linebacker Devyn Harris led the charge with ten tackles, while Stanton, and defensive lineman Patrick Mertens both recovered fumbles. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said you can use cliches like keep on fighting, and never stop believing, but until you’re in that position, it’s all just talk.
The Cowboys are now 3-1 on the season, and will play their final non-conference game of the year this Saturday, when they are at Michigan State. Kickoff in East Lansing is set for 10 a.m. mountain time.
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