The Wyoming Cowboys took a big step in the Mountain West with a dominating 31-15 victory over a Utah team that has had the Pokes' number in the past few years. Coach Joe Glenn and the Poke faithful were happy to put back-to-back wins together and get ready for next week's showdown with Colorado State.
This was a true coming-out party for redshirt freshman quarterback Karsten Sween. In his first start at War Memorial Stadium and second career start overall, the neophyte had a spectacular first half.
With a raucous homecoming crowd cheering him on, Sween went 11-of-16 for 124 yards passing and a touchdown in the first half.
"It was nice being home," said Sween. "It was definitely nice playing at the War [Memorial Stadium], being in your own bed, having my wife with me. We got a win; now we move on to CSU."
Although the Cowboys dominated the first half, the game started auspiciously, when Wyoming junior kick returner Hoost Marsh fumbled the ball out of bounds.
After that the Pokes didn't miss a beat, going on a 10-play, 35-yard drive, culminating with the first career field goal by redshirt freshman kicker Jake Scott. The 47-yard effort put UW up 3-0 at the 10:51 mark of the first quarter.
On the drive, Sween was 4-for-6 but could not convert on 3rd and 23, setting up the field goal.
Utah senior quarterback Brett Ratliff was not enjoying his day early, as the Utes took over on their own two-yard line for their first possession of the game already down three. And it would get worse.
"They couldn't run on us; they couldn't throw on us The Poke defense was just unbelievable," said Glenn.
After picking up three first downs, Ratliff dropped back to pass and was sacked and stripped of the football by Cowboy sophomore linebacker Ward Dobbs. Senior free safety Dorsey Golston recovered it on the Utah 11. This was the first sack of the season allowed by Utah, but there would be more to come.
Three plays later, junior H-back WadeBetschart plowed in over the middle from two yards out, putting the Pokes up 10-0 with just under 7 minutes to play in the first quarter.
There was no other scoring in the quarter, which ended with the Pokes on the Utes' 4-yard line. At that point, Wyoming had held the ball on offense 10:41 to Utah's 4:19.
On the first play of the second quarter, Sween ran the QB option for four yards and a touchdown. The TD capped off a 12-play, 68-yard drive lasting 5:11. It put the Cowboys up 17-0 at the 14:56 mark of the second quarter.
In the second quarter the Poke defense took center stage with another game-changing play. On 2nd and 23 from his own 49, Ratliff dropped back to pass and was again met in the backfield by the defense. This time Cowboy senior strong safety John Wendling sacked and stripped Ratliff, with junior linebacker Luke Chase recovering for the home team on the Utah 35.
Three plays later, the Sween show continued when he dropped a 24-yard teardrop into the one-handed grasp of junior wide receiver Michael Ford, who was streaking into the corner of the end zone. This made the score 24-0 with less than 3 minutes to go in the half.
"Karsten just put it into a spot where I was the only person that was going to be able to get it. I kind of shunned him [the defender], you know, and just made a good catch on it," said Ford.
"Me and Mike [Ford] have good chemistry," added Sween.
The Pokes' dominance on both sides of the ball for the first half was highlighted by the offense scoring on their first three possessions.
"It was great for our team, the momentum," added Ford. "Our defense always plays pretty good. All we have to do is put up a couple of points, and our defense will hold them out."
More of the Same
The second half started the same as the first half ended - all Cowboys.
Less than two minutes into the second half, the defense struck a mortal blow to Utah's hopes. Junior cornerback Julius Stinson intercepted Ratliff on the Utah 42-yard line and scampered into the end zone to put Wyoming up by a commanding 31-0.
"I almost dropped it," said Stinson. "I was scared because it was such an easy catch. I sat on the route, he [Ratliff] looked at me, and I looked at him, and he threw it. I just stepped in front and made the run back [for a touchdown]."
After exchanging punts with the Pokes on the next two possessions, the Utes finally showed some life, making a big defensive play of their own.
With the ball on the Wyoming 32-yard line, Sween handed off to Betschart on a 3rd and 1 play. Betschart had enough for the first down, but as he stretched the ball out, senior cornerback Eric Weddle stripped it at the 35-yard line. Weddle then sped to the end zone, putting the first points of the day on the board for Utah and making it 31-7 Cowboys.
On the next possession the Pokes marched 61 yards on 11 plays, but Scott missed a field goal from 43 yards out. Neither team was able to mount any offense the rest of the quarter.
In the fourth, Utah was harassed by the Wyoming defense as the Pokes offense went conservative and ran out the clock.
The Utes were able to amass one more scoring drive of 20 yards after a Marsh fumble of a punt on the Cowboys' 20-yard line. Ratliff was able to connect with junior wide receiver Derrek Richards from three yards out, Ratliff also connected with sophomore Bradon Godfrey for the two-point conversion to close the game's scoring.
In the end, Glenn was happy with the performance of his team.
"We played Cowboy football today," asserted Glenn.
Passing: UW - Karsten Sween was 17-of-24, for 204 yards, 1 TD and 4 sacks. UU - Brett Ratliff was 16-of-31, for 111 yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions and 6 sacks.