Wyoming-Air Force football postgame thoughts

If the first two Wyoming football games are any indication, you better not leave early or quit watching this team late in games.

The Cowboys rallied for a 17-13 victory late Saturday night in front of a good crowd of 21,246 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. For a game that kicked off at 8:20 p.m. and was on national television, I didn’t think UW would get 20,000 people in the stands.

The final scoring drive was fun to watch, and impressive since the offense didn’t do a whole lot prior to that. Here is some video highlights from that drive, including the game-winning touchdown pass from senior Colby Kirkegaard to senior tight end J.D. Krill with 58 seconds left in the game.

I thought the play-call on the game-winning touchdown was great. In fact, I thought UW should have gone to more of those boot-leg, misdirection type plays more in the game since Air Force did a good job of pursuing to the ball and stuffing the Cowboys’ run game.

That 9-play, 75-yard scoring drive was UW’s longest of the season.

Were you as surprised as I was that the Cowboys struggled to run the ball? Credit Air Force, no doubt, but 51 yards was a shocker. Kirkegaard wasn’t sacked, which was good compared to six against Montana the week before. Kirkegaard showed great poise on that last drive, and hopefully that will be a confidence-booster for him and the entire offense moving forward.

Here is Kirkegaard after the game:

Even though UW didn’t do a lot offensively prior to that last drive, I thought it was big that Kirkegaard hit senior receiver Dominic Rufran an a couple of 41-yard pass completions. The Cowboys are going to have to hit some big pass plays to stretch defenses out so they don’t stack eight or nine guys in the box to stop the run.

The Cowboys’ defense was took some punches from Air Force, especially early in the pass game. Senior cornerback DeAndre Jones struggled early in pass coverage and with open-field tackling. Senior cornerback Blair Burns also missed a big open-field tackle.

But the defense hung in there, and did a good job of holding Air Force to a field goal in the fourth quarter that gave it a 13-10 lead with 3:25 to play. A big tackle for loss by Burns on third-and-goal, and one by junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough on the play before for a loss of one were huge plays. UW’s defense looked like it was wore down and tired up to that point.

It was the fewest points UW allowed against Air Force since 2009 — a 10-0 loss at Air Force — and the fewest points allowed in a Cowboys win since 1999 — a 10-7 win at the academy.

“I would say it’s probably the best effort I’ve been a part of,” defensive end Patrick Mertens said. “It feels like we held them pretty good on rushing and they had to pass the ball.”

Was nice to see the defense force two turnovers, and even nice to see the offense not commit a turnover. After going 2 of 4 in red zone scoring against Montana, UW was 3 of 3 against Air Force.

Was also good to see more of UW’s receivers get involved like sophomore Tanner Gentry (career-highs with eight catches for 91 yards) and senior Jalen Claiborne (three catches for 31 yards and his 11th career touchdown for UW). The throw Kirkegaard made to him on that touchdown was impressive.

To say UW has arrived and a contender in the Mountain West is pushing it. The Cowboys don’t have a big margin of error between success and failure, and things get real this coming week going to No. 2 Oregon and on Sept. 27 at No. 13 Michigan State. If any of you saw or watched highlights of those two teams Saturday, you know what I mean.

But a 2-0 start is good start, and it seems like the players are buying in more each week with the way first-year coach Craig Bohl and his staff want to get things done. Interesting note on Bohl: he is the first UW coach to win his first two games in his first season since Pat Dye in 1980. Dye won his first three games, and the Cowboys went on to finish 6-5 that season.

Here is Bohl in his post-game news conference after the Air Force game:

Found it interesting that when senior free safety Darrenn White went out of the game for a breather UW went with redshirt sophomore William Tutein, a first-year player who is from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and a transfer from Division II Chadron State. Tutein, who also plays on special teams, had one tackle. I will have more on Tutein later this week

For complete coverage of the game, including stories, pictures and video highlights and interviews, go to wyosports.net.