Josh Allen returned — and later said goodbye — and the defense did what it has done best all season, and then some.
The end result was a convincing 37-14 Wyoming victory over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Friday in front of an announced crowd of 16,512 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Not sure if there were that many there, but the majority of the fans there were cheering for the Cowboys — and they had a lot to cheer about.
Here is part of the team celebration after the game — in the snow.
Allen returned from a sprained right shoulder suffered Nov. 11, and was sharp. He threw three first-quarter touchdown passes to three different receivers. His first throw of the game went incomplete, but then completed his next seven. He only threw the ball six times in the second half. Allen was named the MVP of the game, and at the awards podium after the game he announced he would declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
One person he had to of impressed was Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, who was at the game and watched from the sideline.
Here is footage of that postgame trophy presentation, and Allen announcing his future plans:
The news that Allen isn’t coming back to UW for his senior season shouldn’t surprise anyone. However, I was a little surprised he earned MVP honors. Not that I didn’t think he deserved it, or at least should have been considered, but to me the MVP was UW’s defense.
The Cowboys forced a eight turnovers — a school and Potato Bowl record. They now leads all of FBS football with 38 on the season. Thanks to those turnovers, UW’s average starting field position in the first half was the Central Michigan 45-yard line. It scored 23 points off those turnovers, and should have scored more than that. You could have gone with three guys on that defense as MVP:
— Sophomore middle linebacker Logan Wilson had nine tackles — all solo stops — along with an interception and one forced fumble.
— Sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan had five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.
— Junior defensive end Carl Granderson had five solo tackles, one sack and a 58-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the final score of the game.
Here is Allen, Ghaifan, Granderson and fourth-year coach Craig Bohl after the game:
That defense also beat up Central Michigan senior quarterback Shane Morris with a season-high five sacks, along with a lot of other hits. Morris threw four interceptions. There were a couple of busted coverages where the Chippewas hit big pass plays, but that almost seems knit-picky at this point.
One thing that was disturbing was how the officials let the choppiness of the game almost get out of hand. Bohl was noticeably upset numerous times, upset enough that a source who was on the sideline told me that Bohl called UW athletics director Tom Burman at halftime to say if things didn’t improve, his team may fight back. Thankfully, nothing like that happened.
One has to wonder if Allen hadn’t gotten hurt, would UW have been a 10-win team this season? You can rack your brain over that all you want, but it won’t change anything. The most encouraging thing was the Cowboys finished the season with a bowl win, something they haven’t done since 2009. It is another step in the long-term success Bohl wants to establish in the program.
Looking ahead, UW returns eight starters off that defense in 2018, and everybody on offense aside from Allen and senior offensive lineman Ryan Cummings. The void left by Allen is large, but if the returnees make improvements and a quarterback is found and/or established, UW will be in position to win its share of games.
But for now, enjoy the holidays and enjoy the ride this football team took a lot of us on this season. This bowl win and a lot of the characteristics of this team will be talked about for a long time.
See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net for more coverage from the game.