Well the shot of Wyoming (3-1) running the table this season is now ruined thanks to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0). The crowd of 32,617 saw the Cowboys hang with Nebraska for the first half but ultimately fall 38-14. Heading into the game the Huskers were 21 point favorites and certainly looked like the bigger, stronger and faster team on both sides of the ball.
Still Wyoming did play well during the game and it would have been much closer if it wasn't several key mistakes on the Cowboys. The Pokes totaled seven penalties for 70 yards including three personal fouls. The first by Chris McNeill killed a drive in the first half that had just entered the Nebraska side. On the first drive of the second half DeAndre Jones shoved a player well after the play was dead which gave Nebraska great field position to start the drive. A few players later Luke Anderson put a late hit on a sliding Taylor Martinez which tacked on another fifteen yards to the first down that had already been acquired.
Wyoming QB Brett Smith was poised all game long except for one late interception. On the night Smith finished 17 of 33 for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He would have easily exceeded 200 yards except for several drops by his receivers including a 40 yard pass that fell through Mazi Ogbonna's hands. For most of the game he looked better then the highly touted Taylor Martinez who was 12 of 21 for 155 yards and touchdown. Martinez also ran for 44 yards and a score.
The biggest factor in the Nebraska win was the power run game of Rex Burkhead who averaged 11.3 yards per carry en route to 170 yards and two touchdowns. His 45 yard TD run was the first score of the game and the only big play the Wyoming defense allowed in the first half. Even when he was contained Burkhead would slip through tackles and it often took a gang to try and bring him down.
Wyoming went with a game clock control plan and for the most part it worked well in the first half. Wyoming held the ball for 18:29 in the first half and helped the keep the game close at 14-7. Nebraska won time of possession in the second half and outscored the Cowboys 24-7. A criticism of Coach Christensen in the past has been that in big games he just played to not get blown out. Despite the loss the Pokes were aggressive and doing everything possible to try and win the game. There was a fake punt near mid field that didn't work but was still a gutsy call. Then on 4th and 6th from the Nebraska 10 he opted to go for it and Smith found Herron for a touchdown. I'm glad he didn't settle for a field goal attempt in that situation. Speaking of field goals Daniel Sullivan missed his only attempt and is now 1 of 3 on the season.
Alvester Alexander did a nice job against the Nebraska front four. He lead the team with 58 yards and 4.1 ypc which was his best performance on the season. Ghaali Muhammad gained 21 yards on three carries and wish he would gotten some more chances. The offensive line gave up just one sack and has allowed just three on the year.
Last year the big non-conference game was Boise State and the Pokes lost 51-6. Boise and Nebraska are two different teams but Wyoming played so much better this year and it certainly gives me optimism about the Cowboys heading into the bye week. Last year Wyoming totaled just 138 yards of offense against Boise State, it was a brutal game. This team has turned a corner and certainly will have a shot at winning when facing San Diego State and Air Force this year.