UW beats Northern Illinois 40-34 in 3OT; what we learned

The No. 1 think I learned from watching Wyoming beat Northern Illinois 40-34 in triple overtime: You  never know what to expect covering college football.

A game that was supposed to start at 8:30 p.m. didn’t start until 10:20 p.m. due to severe weather with a lot of rain and lightning. The lightning was what delayed the game. After redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen’s 7-yard TD run to win he game in the third overtime, it was 2:35 a.m. Sunday when the game ended.

Here are the highlights of UW’s game-winning drive, capped by Allen’s run, and of Northern Illinois kicker Christia Hagen missing a 38-yard field goal in that third overtime.

As for the game itself, this is what I learned the most about the 2016 Cowboys after one game.

  1. Allen is going to be a fun guy to watch: With that said, he is going to make mistakes, and made a few against Northern Illinois. He started the game 4 of 4, then struggled a bit and should have been intercepted at least twice. But he calmed down, and at one point completed eight straight passes to start the second half. Allen finished 19 of 29 for 245 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 70 yards on seven carries. UW didn’t turn the ball over, and guys really gravitate to Allen. Here is Allen and senior middle linebacker Lucas Wacha after the game.

2. Wyoming’s defense is better: The numbers were not great — 34 points and 462 yards. But you could tell by watching that this group is improved, and should continue to get better. The Cowboys are faster and more athletic, and even though they are not going to be world beaters on that side of the ball, they should give this team a better chance of winning. Again, there is room to improve, but I left that game feeling better about this unit than I did before the season started.

3. The process works: Third-year coach Craig Bohl has said from Day 1 that UW is a developmental program. Well, guys are starting to develop. And, they are beginning to play like Bohl wants — a balanced offense that is still run-oriented. UW ran for 243 yards and threw for 245. They forced one turnover on a fumble recovery by redshirt freshman outside linebacker Logan Wilson in the first overtime. They also had seven tackles for loss and broke up six passes. The process isn’t complete, but it’s getting there.

Here is Bohl after the game.

A few other observations/notes:

— The announced crowd was 18,483. Not sure if there were that many once the game finally started, but there was still a decent amount in the stands. For the fans, my hats off to you.

— UW is hoping to be able to spread the ball around more in its passing game to guys other than senior wide receivers Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt. Well, that wasn’t apparent against Northern Illinois. Gentry had eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Maulhardt had five catches for 106, including a 44-yard catch. The rest of UW’s wide receivers combined for two catches — one each by redshirt freshman C.J. Johnson and sophomore James Price.

Cooper Rothe

Cooper Rothe

— True freshman kicker Cooper Rothe made his first two field-goal attempts of his career in the first half. UW made just two field goals all of last season. Rothe missed a 48-yarder at the end of regulation that would have won the game. He actually made it, but Northern Illinois called a time out to ice him. After the timeout, Rothe missed. He also missed a 37-yarder in overtime. I hope Rothe doesn’t let the misses get to him because I think he will be fine as UW’s kicker.

— I thought going into this game that Northern Illinois might be the best team on UW’s schedule this season, including Nebraska which UW plays at next week. I still think the Huskies are good, but not as good as I once thought. Still, UW beat a good team that has won 65 games since 2010. The Cowboys wouldn’t have been in a game against a team like this the previous two years.

— I was really impressed with Northern Illinois senior wide receiver Kenny Golladay. He caught 10 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran six times for 82 yards and a TD. The Huskies went to him a lot, and should have kept going to him. When they got outside on UW, (with Golladay or others) the Cowboys didn’t have much of an answer.

— I didn’t like the penalties for UW, 10 for 100 yards. Special teams penalties cost UW two touchdowns (one on a kickoff return by senior D.J. May and the second on a punt return for a touchdown by redshirt freshman Austin Conway) were called back by penalties. A third penalty, an unsportsmanlike penalty on sophomore defensive end Carl Granderson on the Northern Illinois punter on a play that was whistled dead due to a false start penalty on the Huskies, kept a drive alive and resulted in a Northern Illinois touchdown. UW has to clean up those mistakes.

— Junior running back Brian Hill had a workman-like game with 33 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns. His long run was only 13 yards, but Hill ran hard and often times dealt big hits to Northern Illinois defenders trying to tackle him in the second half. Hill how has 12 100-yard games in his UW career.

— All in all, a very good game and result for UW. They say football teams make their biggest improvement from from their first to second games. Hope that is true as UW plays at Nebraska Saturday. The Cornhuskers looked good in beating Fresno State this past Saturday.

Here is more post game video interviews from the game.

Because the game went so late, there is no game coverage in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, but for my column, notes, what fans, players and coaches said, report card, stats, photo gallery and video highlights/interviews log on to wyosports.net.

And if you don’t mind, as I write this I have yet to get some sleep. I walked into my house at 6 a.m. Sunday and am still wrapping up some work things. I think it’s time for a nap.

4 thoughts on “UW beats Northern Illinois 40-34 in 3OT; what we learned

  1. Was a long night but well worth it. IMO this was a huge win for this team. I feel an energy around this program now that I haven’t felt in years and it runs through the team and the fan base. We might not be their yet, but the signs are pointing up. This team is growing in front of our eyes. Very excited to see Wyoming play at Nebraska. I will be there.

  2. interesting comments RG, I think the undertone may be that with a Wyoming win the Huskies aren’t as good as you supposed. They are a stacked veteran squad, much better than they were last year, especially with Hare at QB. Bottom line is they got beat by a better squad Saturday night. What remains to be seen is the consistency we all desire for the Cowboy program. That was one hell of a ball game, one traditionally we lose. I was a skeptic heading into OT after Carey freezes the made FG by Cooper, it was definitely a chess match going into that over time stanza. Somehow, someway the Pokes found the resolve and determination to snatch a W under extremely difficult circumstances. Not sure how I feel about Nebraska yet, but one thing I do know is this team will compete. Thanks for all you do. Great job by the young guns in this one.

    • Great comments, TJ. I still think NIU is good, but you are right, I think I overestimated them somewhat. Good win no matter how you look at it from UW’s perspective. This game with Nebraska will be interesting to say the least.
      Appreciate your kind words and interest as always.

      RG

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