Troy Babbitt-US PRESSWIRE
Big plays give the Cowboys their third straight conference win.
An offensive outburst in the first half was followed by a white knuckle second half featuring key defensive plays. Wyoming (4-7 (3-4) has made it three straight wins thanks in large part to Brett Smith and his incredible month of November.
For the second straight week Smith set a new career high in passing yards. In the first half alone Smith threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with 412 passing yards when the game was done. In the last three games Smith has thrown for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns without an interception.
To start the game Wyoming quickly drove down to take an early 7-0 lead. On their next drive Wyoming was attempting a field goal that was blocked by UNLV and returned 53 yards by Sidney Lodge for a touchdown. The Pokes answered right back with another quick drive to take a 14-7 lead. The Wyoming defense toughened up and allowed a field goal on the Rebels next drive. Wyoming and UNLV then traded touchdowns and the Pokes now led 21-17. The Pokes used a quick strike drive to go up 28-17 right before the half ended.
It felt like Wyoming should have led by way more. Brett Smith had his way with the UNLV secondary the entire time. You were expecting for that success to continue and for plenty of points to be scored in the second half. Instead Wyoming fans were in for another nerve wracking finish. The Cowboy defense was able to keep the Rebels from scoring for the entire third quarter. Unfortunately the offense also went with much more conservative play calling the rest of the way. The run game became the focus in order to try and eat up the game clock. They went away from what was working in the first half (Smith throwing the ball).
In the fourth quarter Wyoming appeared to have forced UNLV to a short field goal. Instead the Pokes were caught off guard by the fake FG and Caleb Herring ran it in for a touchdown. Before Herring actually crossed the goalline Marqueston Huff came from behind and swatted the ball out at the one. The football was loose and rolled out of the back of the endzone. After reviewing the play it was finally ruled a touchback. If Herring had run out of bounds he would have gotten a first down. Really a clutch play by Huff at that moment.
Eventually the Rebels were able to score a touchdown with 5:10 left. They failed on their two point attempt and the score was now 28-23. The Pokes ended up punting on their next possession. It looked Brandon Miller had gained a first down but was given a poor spot.
The Rebels drove into Wyoming territory but eventually turned it over on downs. UNLV still had all three timeouts with 1:18 remaining. The Cowboys needed one first down to make sure they wouldn't have to punt. Luckily Brandon Miller was able to find an opening on the outside and broke out for a 66 yard run to the UNLV 2 yard line. Wyoming only gained 95 rushing yards in the entire game. Wyoming knelt down and finally locked up the victory.
In a game featuring two of the worst defenses in the country, only 51 points were scored and those that took the under were surprising winners. Obviously Brett Smith had a great game but there were several others that stepped up. Chris McNeill caught seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Norman with six catches for 79 yards, Robert Herron with three catches for 95 yards and Jalen Claiborne caught three passes for 84 yards.
There were a fair number of Wyoming fans in attendance. Sadly the announced attendance was only 10,717. That was their worst turnout of year, sadly UNLV has only broken 20,000 in attendance once this year. Sad to see that program hit such a low point.
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