BOISE, Idaho — Wyoming followed its blueprint for usual success.
Xazavian Valladay paced the nation’s 14th-ranked rushing attack with the most yards No. 22 Boise State has allowed to one player all season. Wyoming held the Broncos to 17 points and 163.8 yards fewer than their season averages. And for the seventh time this season, the Cowboys won the turnover battle.
It all added up to an upset bid being oh so close that, as Wyoming quarterback Tyler Vander Waal put it, “you could hear a pin drop” in the visiting locker room inside the bowels of Albertsons Stadium afterward.
In its first road overtime game in nearly three years, Wyoming fell to Boise State 20-17 late Saturday night. Eric Sachse kicked a 28-yard field goal on Boise’s first possession of extra time before Cooper Rothe pushed his 38-yard attempt to the right, sending the Cowboys to their second Mountain West loss while keeping the Broncos unbeaten in conference play. It was Wyoming’s first overtime game since 2017 and its first on the road since Nov. 12, 2016 at UNLV.
“No one wants to lose like that,” Vander Waal said. “It’s a heartbreaking loss for everybody. I think we all felt it.”
In a matchup pitting one of the MW’s best offenses against one of the top defenses, Wyoming took a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter after Valladay ripped off a 21-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left in the third. The score was set up by Javaree Jackson, who hit Boise running back George Holani in the backfield to force a fumble and pounced on the loose ball at Boise’s 35-yard line.
Valladay certainly helped take the pressure off Vander Waal, who was making his first start since last year’s regular-season finale in place of the injured Sean Chambers. The sophomore ran for 124 yards on a career-high 37 carries, becoming just the second player to break the 100-yard mark this season against a Boise defense that began the night fourth in the league against the run.
Boise, which came in averaging 37 points and more than 480 yards per game, had 285 yards of offense. Wyoming, which fell to 0-7 all-time on Boise’s blue turf, finished with 283.
“It comes down to our game plan,” linebacker Logan Wilson said. “Our defensive staff, they’re very good at game planning stuff to put us in position to be successful, and I think after that first possession we just kind of nestled in and really executed that game plan the best we could.”
The Cowboys’ defense held Boise to just three points in the second half until Khalil Shakir scored on a 5-yard run with 5:37 left, capping a 10-play, 57-yard drive to tie it at 17. Wyoming failed to convert on fourth down from Boise’s 39 with 31 seconds left, but Wilson intercepted Chase Cord in the waning seconds to force extra time.
Boise State started overtime on offense and picked up one first down before Sachse split the upright with his kick. After Vander Waal’s first two passes on Wyoming’s possession netted 6 total yards, Boise dropped Valladay for one its eight tackles for loss to set up Rothe’s attempt, which sent Boise’s players pouring out on the blue turf in celebration once it went wide right.
“The game had the makings to come down to one play, but I also know this: There’s also not one play that wins a whole football game,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “We’ve got a hurt locker room right there, and that’s OK. I think our guys put a great deal of effort into it.”
Vander Waal knew all week he’d be making the start after Bohl announced Chambers’ season-ending knee injury Monday. He finished 15 of 23 passing for 160 yards and had a 3-yard touchdown run to draw Wyoming even at 7-7 with 4:57 left in the second quarter.
But Boise announced just before kickoff that its starter, Hank Bachmeier, was out, forcing Cord into action. Boise’s offense didn’t miss a beat at the start with Cord going 6-for-6 on the Broncos’ opening possession. He capped the 12-play, 92-yard march with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Akilian Butler to give Boise a quick 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys, who came in ranked second in the MW in scoring defense and rush defense, held the league’s top scoring offense to just 28 yards and two first downs the rest of the half and took a 10-7 lead at the break on Rothe’s 39-yard field goal. But Wyoming couldn’t pad its lead late, mustering just 50 yards and two first downs in the final quarter to set up a painful finish that puts Wyoming two games back of the Broncos atop the Mountain Division standings with three to play.
“It’s tough. It sucks,” Wilson said. “There were way more plays throughout the course of the game that we could’ve made to where that wasn’t even a chance.”