Tuck’s Takes: Peasley hushes critics with career-best outing
LARAMIE -- The hate was real. It was also unwarranted.
Did Andrew Peasley struggle in his Wyoming debut? The stats bear that out.
The junior completed just 5 of his 20 pass attempts for 30 yards in that lopsided loss at Illinois. He tossed a wobbly, underthrown interception. He should've finished with at least three of those.
There were plenty of other factors that led to that forgettable outing for the Utah State transfer, but when finger-pointing time arrived, he simply bent his wrist and pointed directly at himself.
That, of course, was a lie. One only a leader tells.
His wide receivers didn't get open with any regularity. The play calls were not conducive to finding any sort of rhythm. Illinois' secondary is legit.
Craig Bohl got emotional behind the podium during his postgame press conference after his team outlasted Tulsa 40-37 in double overtime, something the old school ball coach rarely does. It was brought on as he talked about the vitriol his quarterback received throughout the week.
"It's frustrating for me sometimes and I will get a little defensive when I hear some undue criticism of a guy that is out there working hard," Wyoming's ninth-year head coach said. "I got news for you guys, he ain't got no six-figure NIL deal, alright. He plays for Wyoming because he loves it. So, it strikes a nerve with me and I'm happy for him."
Peasley responded like a team captain does.
"For me, it feels good," he said. "But, honestly, I'm more proud of this for everyone."
When he was told Bohl choked up in his defense, Peasley offered this up.
"I mean, I transferred schools and there's a lot of expectations for myself and he knew that," he continued. "You know, when you go 5-for-20 and kind of get your butt whooped in the season opener, it was tough for me. In my mind, I just told everyone 'we got to bounce back, as a team.' All this adversity, all through the week, we were just grinding and I feel like that showed today.
"Overall, just the offense and the defense, we all just took it to another level and I think we learned from our mistakes. Now we're here."
In Saturday's home opener, Peasley started the game 4-for-4 in the passing department. He was hitting underneath throws and had plenty of time to operate in the pocket thanks to a second consecutive solid outing from the Cowboys' front five.
With just 57 ticks remaining in the first half, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Oregon product took the shotgun snap and surveyed the middle of the field before firing a 48-yard touchdown pass right into the awaiting arms of a streaking Will Pelissier.
Peasley connected on another long ball midway through the fourth, connecting with Joshua Cobbs, who was flying down the seam all alone. That was a 51-yard hookup.
Peasley's final stat sheet reads like this: 20-of-30, 256 yards, two touchdowns. For good measure, he tacked on 45 rushing yards and helped the Cowboys overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Statistically, it was the best game of Peasley's career.
His teammates aren't surprised.
"It feels great," said receiver Ryan Marquez, who not only blocked a punt in the second quarter, he also scooped it up and scored from six yards out. "We've always had the most confidence and Andrew Peasley. Last week, he's the quarterback so he's going to take the brunt of it just like coaches, but a lot of that was on us. A lot of that was on us receivers and we need to be accountable. I thought the receivers came out with their heads on straight today.
"... This is just a team where you got my back and I got yours. And that's how we feel about Peasley. We know that he is a great player."
Cobbs, who finished the day with a team-high five grabs for 77 yards, including hauling in that long touchdown in the fourth, also shouldered the blame for that Zero-Week debacle.
"Peasley got a lot of that hate after that game and a lot of that was on us," the sophomore from San Antonio said. "So, I think we all came out here with a hungry mindset."
Bohl said the signal caller will always get too much of the glory and too much of the blame in this game. Peasley received the latter. His swagger comes with a smile to match. That was on full display as he spoke to the media postgame.
He says he never gets too high or too low. It's believable, not just sports-speak.
His coach also witnessed that firsthand when he issued a challenge to Peasley on Tuesday.
"I said, 'you've got to play better and we challenged the receivers and everything else," Bohl said. "We have to come up with some contested plays. He worked hard in practice and Andrew delivered today."
A baritone version of Ragtime Cowboy Joe roared through the air ducts as this young group celebrated its first victory of the 2022 campaign. The locker room likely looked more like the dance floor inside the Buckhorn parlor.
A wide grin creased Peasley's face when asked about that raucous celebration.
"It's probably the best feeling in the world, you know, just coming into the locker room and looking at one another and just, it's all love and it's good," he said.
There was one issue, though.
"Well, I need to learn the song," he said with a smile, referring to the school fight song. "I probably shouldn't say that."
I think he deserves a pass on that.
Wyoming 40, Tulsa 37 - Double overtime
Too much R-E-S-P-E-C-T
I caught up with UW defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel as he was walking off Jonah Field after this wild finish.
I simply asked: "Why are the corners giving so much of a cushion?"
There are a number of reasons, he said, one being the inexperience in his secondary. Yes, Jakorey Hawkins and Deron Harrell came from Power-5 programs, Ole Miss and Wisconsin, respectively, but they haven't played a ton of football of late.
Cam Stone is a sophomore. He's appeared in 17 games, most of that experience coming on special teams.
Sawvel said he wants to press more on the outside, but added the jam-job at the line would have to be a "knee-buckler," especially against the talented group of wideouts that litter Tulsa's roster.
Seven different receivers snagged a pass from quarterback Davis Brin on Saturday, including a team-best 11 for Keylon Stokes. The senior, who is also the school's third all-time leader in yards from scrimmage, rolled up 136 yards and a touchdown through the air. Two other Golden Hurricane pass catchers eclipsed the 100-yard mark, too. JuanCarlos Santana finished with seven grabs for 102 yards and a score. Malachai Jones hauled in six balls for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Another reason for the 427-yard passing day against his secondary, Sawvel added, his unit simply needed to make more plays.
Stone did just that with the game tied at 34-34 and just 1:20 remaining in regulation. Stokes caught a slant pass and broke into the open. When he reached his 33rd yard of that jaunt, he was hammered from the blindside by the Texas product, who didn't give up on the play. The ball popped loose and Wyoming recovered near midfield.
That play likely saved the game, but that won't work against even better competition.
"I appreciate you bringing that up," Bohl said sarcastically when asked about the amount of respect his defensive backs were giving all afternoon. "... I'm an old defensive guy, so we'll get in there and get some things figured out. You know, there were a lot of yards and we got to take a look at that."
Titus Swen didn't have a very Titus Swen-like afternoon.
The junior, who is on about every preseason award watch list under the sun, carried the ball just 11 times and amassed 40 yards. That's an average of 3.6 yards per tote. He was the Cowboys' second-leading rusher behind his quarterback, who finished with five more yards on the ground.
Inching toward the Tulsa goal line and draining the clock late in regulation, Swen took the handoff and dashed to his right. There, he was immediately met by a pair of defenders. Though the initial contact didn't take him down -- it rarely does -- the ball was poked free and recovered by the visitors.
Wyoming's first chance to ice this one went by the wayside.
Swen suffered an injury to his midsection in Wyoming's season-opening loss at Illinois last Saturday. That likely played a role in Saturday's performance.
Though this wasn't the ideal outing for the Pokes' lead back, his head coach sang his praises after the game.
"Hey, you know what, I applaud Titus," Bohl said. "Bruised ribs, while sometimes you can be cleared (by doctors), but you know I had them one time and I mean, hell, I couldn't hardly go to sleep. To play in a game ... he was out there doing the best he could."
Picking up the slack for Swen, Dawaiian McNeely made his return to the field after suffering a right hand injury the week before the season opener. The sophomore, who was wearing a "club," provided an emotional lift and picked up some big yards, finishing 26 yards on just six carries. DQ James also ran the ball twice for nine yards but hauled in a crucial 14-yard pass late in the fourth.