Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
EAST HARTFORD, Conn., -- A 35-yard field goal off the right foot of Joe McFadden extended the home team's lead to 16-10.
A Sean Chambers interception set up that 16-play, 74-yard drive that started late in the third quarter and came to an end when that ball flew through the yellow uprights with just 11:16 left on the clock.
Momentum, yeah, that lived on the Huskies' sideline.
The team waived white towels around their heads. They jumped around. They coaxed the sparse crowd inside Rentschler Field to make noise.
For the first time this season -- heck, the first time since November of 2019 -- UConn was not only in a game in the fourth quarter, it was leading.
Wyoming wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt compared that momentum shift to hot coals.
"Are you going to pour gasoline on the fire or are you going to pour water on it and stomp it out? Giving them a chance and letting them hang in there, hang in there, hang in there just lit the fire right away," he said. "That's pretty tough to stop."
How would the Cowboys respond?
The visitors mustered a single field goal over the first 30 minutes. The first drive of the second half finally produced a touchdown, but a punt and that Chambers' interception followed.
Things were looking bleak.
Where have we heard that before?
Turns out, Craig Bohl knew just who to turn to -- the offensive line and his stable of backs.
Xazavian Valladay carried the ball five times on that ensuing possession. Titus Swen, twice. Chambers hit Eberhardt near the goal line for 23 yards on a crucial 3rd-and-7. Valladay punched it in one play later.
In all, the Cowboys (4-0) ran 10 plays and rolled up 77 yards. They took 4:39 off the clock.
Most importantly, they finally took the lead, 17-16, with 6:31 remaining.
"I thought we re-established momentum in the second half and we got the downhill running game going," Wyoming's head coach said. "That proved to be our ace in the hole."
Chambers was realistic after this one. He completed just 15-of-26 balls for 149 yards and an 18-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Neyor to start the third. He also tossed two picks. He called the team's slow start "unacceptable."
He called the big guys up front a different word -- a luxury.
"It's nice. Those guys are veterans and they've played a lot of games," Chambers said. "Like I said, they knew what to do. They knew how to do it. It was just about doing it.
"... I think we completed some passes and ran the ball really well. They were getting big, big movement up front."
On UConn's very next offensive snap, Tyler Phommachanh rolled to his right and fired a pass directly into the awaiting arms of Esaias Gandy. It was his second completion to Gandy on the afternoon. That was the only one that counted.
The problem? Gandy plays safety for Wyoming.
Five plays later, Swen bulldozed his way into the end zone to give the Cowboys some late insurance.
They ended up needed it, too.
"Once again, I thought we were done with this cardiac stuff, but we're not," Bohl said. "All I know is it's another W and I'm pleased with it."
Wyoming 24, UConn 22
This honor is going to the guy that literally saved the Cowboys' bacon late in this one -- Rome Weber.
The Cowboys' free safety kept his eyes on the prize with UConn (0-5) lining up for a potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt with less than 10 ticks remaining on the game clock.
Phommachanh took the shotgun snap and looked immediately to his right. He was looking for a swing pass out of the backfield. Instead, Weber got his finger tips on the spiral and it fell to the turf.
The sophomore from San Bernardino, Calif., who is sharing time in the secondary with super senior, Braden Smith, finished this one with four tackles, half-a-sack and a tackle for loss. That pass breakup, however, loomed largest on the final stat sheet.
Since being sat by Bohl for undisclosed reasons in the season opener, Weber has registered seven tackles and picked off one pass.
"Man, I'm just happy. I mean ... we won. It's hard to go on the road and win. I don't care what the team's record is or what people talk about them. Unless you've been there and you played a college football game on the road like that, you don't understand what it's like ... That's a game maybe we would've lost in the past and this year we're seeing that resilience part. So, I'm just proud of the team. You're 4-0 -- so, you got to smile about that."
-- Wyoming's super senior defensive end, Garrett Crall, talking about his emotions after the Cowboys' third come-from-behind victory in their first four games.
Wyoming will head into its lone bye week of the 2021 campaign with a 4-0 record. That's the program's best start since 1996. Following the break, Mountain West Conference play and a date with the rival Air Force Falcons awaits Bohl's bunch in Colorado Springs.
Did the bye come at a good time for this group?
"You know, I want to go back out there and prove to everybody what we can do and just get into conference play and start," Chambers said, adding that some of his teammates could use the rest and to heal up. "We got the bye week and we're going to utilize it. It is what it is."
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