The final score was not in the Cowboys favor but Wyoming can hold their head high after this game. The Pokes went toe to toe with the #15 Longhorns for much of this game. I don't see a remaining opponent that will have a tougher running game or defense on the Wyoming schedule.
Let's take a look at went wrong and right in this one. At the end we have our awards banquet.
Robert Herron caught five passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The first one was just a short little pass from Brett Smith and then Herron broke two tackles and streaked down the sidelines for a 82 yard score. Herron has always had the speed, now he has better strength and much better confidence.
Offensive play calling. Wyoming was playing to win this game and not just prevent getting blown out. That had been a big criticism from fans in previous games against bigger opponents. On the opening drive they went for it on fourth and one instead of settling for a long field goal attempt. They go into the redzone but had to settle for a short FG attempt. In the second quarter the Cowboys had the ball and the 9-7 lead. They tried to step on the throat of Texas with another long pass but it was intercepted. The Pokes scored early in the fourth quarter and went for the two point conversion to make it a two score game. Next drive Wyoming was still down 14 points and recovered a fumble. They went for it twice on fourth down in Texas territory and came up short the second time. A touchdown on that drive would have made it a one score game.
There was one pass that Brett Smith really wishes he never made. Besides that he played very well and looked very sharp throwing the ball. On the day Smith finished 16 of 28 for 276 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was able to show a very nice throwing touch on his deep and intermediate passes. He was able to hit Robert Herron in stride down the sidelines in the first quarter for a long gain. That is a pass that he really struggled with last year. In the second half Smith was able to hit Dominic Rufran in some tight coverage. One the ground Smith was able to gain 18 yards, he was able to pick up some key first downs with his feet.
Texas was known to have a tremendous run game. The top high school running back recruit in the country last year was Jonathan Gray. Wyoming was able to limit him to nine yards on five touches. He'll probably go onto a tremendous college career and end up in the NFL. Texas fans were anxious to see Gray run wild and they never got that satisfaction.
Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron both finished with over 100 yards rushing. DJ Monroe also had five rushes for 36 yards. All three averaged over seven yards per carry. Wyoming was able to contain their rushes up the middle for the most part. The biggest problem was runs on the edge that went for long gains.
Wyoming was also able to convert only one third conversion the entire game. They were able to do better on 4th down (2 of 3) then 3rd down (1of 11). The Pokes only had one three and out the entire game which is great. The problem was putting together long extended drives. One major reason for that is our next item.
The running game was abysmal aside from the opening drive. Brander Miller rushed 14 times for 34 yards. Shaun Wick had five carries for nine yards. As a team Wyoming only averaged 2.3 yards per carry. Wick never got going and Miller was unable to gain any yards after contact. Smith was the only Cowboy to come up with some clutch runs. The rushing attack was one of my concerns heading into the game and it really stopped the Cowboys from being a bigger threat and control the clock.
The entire second quarter was awful with Texas putting up 17 points straight points. Wyoming had two interceptions that Texas converted into touchdowns. Then with the 1:06 left Wyoming had a punt that was partially blocked and only went to the Cowboy 42. That was turned into a field goal with just three seconds remaining. That huge swing in momentum put the Cowboys in a hole they could never dig out of.
Now's let hand out some awards for the season opener.
COWBOY JOE: For the second straight year Herron had two touchdown catches in the season opener. 173 yards against this Texas secondary is impressive. Smith and Herron demonstrated great chemistry in spring and fall scrimmages and that showed today.
Blair Burns was the defensive MVP. He had two nice pass breakups and some outstanding tackles.
COWBOY LOW: That second quarter was abysmal. We've already covered that in this article. We're not going to do it again. Luke Ruff had a tough time with open field tackles.
COWBOY FOE: We knew the Texas running game was going to be good. I wasn't counting on David Ash being so effective at quarterback. Ash went 20-27 for 156 yards and one touchdown. He was very accurate and was able to stay of out trouble when pressured by the Wyoming blitzes. He was never sacked.