Pokes Capture Fourth-Straight Border War with 45-31 Win over CSU

The Wyoming Cowboys retained the Bronze Boot with a big win over rival Colorado State Saturday in Laramie before 20,055 fans. (UW)

Smith Passes for 235 Yards and Four Touchdowns

(Laramie, Wyo.) – Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith threw for 235 yards and four touchdowns to guide the University of Wyoming football team to a 45-31 win over Colorado State in the 104th edition of the Border War on Saturday in War Memorial Stadium. A crowd of 20, 055 fans saw the Cowboys build a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter and never look back en route to their highest point total of the season.

“”Brett [Smith] was excellent today,” UW head coach Dave Christensen said. “We were 15 of 20 on third down conversions and the time of possession was in our favor, which was huge. Disappointed we gave up a couple of plays, like the fluke bounce on their first possession, but we made some key stops. The biggest one for me was that we were plus three in the turnover margin and that was the difference.”

Smith went 19-of-32 with no interceptions and added 27 yards on the ground for Wyoming (2-7, 1-4 MW), while seven different Cowboys caught a pass. Senior wide receiver Chris McNeill paced the group with six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver racked up a career-high 148 all-purpose yards thanks to 89 on the ground and 59 through the air. Freshman running back Shaun Wick notched a career-high 102 rushing yards for his first career game over the century mark.

Defensively, senior linebacker Korey Jones notched 10 tackles for his second-straight game with 10. Sophomore safetyChad Reese added nine tackles and an interception, while sophomore cornerback Blair Burns had a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Cowboys held CSU to 2-of-10 on third down, while converting 15-of-20 themselves.

“I thought we did a good job both running the ball and stopping them,” Christensen said. “We held them to just 125 rushing and we were balanced at running and throwing the ball. Our kids went out and did a nice job executing and putting points of the board.

Ghaali Muhammad and Chris McNeill with the Bronze Boot. (UW)

Colorado State (2-7, 1-4 MW) hit a couple big plays in the first quarter, but it was all Wyoming on the scoreboard. The Cowboys received the opening kickoff and crafted a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown in three minutes that put UW up 7-0. The drive was capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Smith to McNeill. CSU got on the board just 11 seconds later, though, as a Ram wide receiver caught a tipped ball and raced 75 yards to the endzone.

Wyoming would take control of the game from there with two quick scores. Smith crafted another extended drive, this one 14 plays over 75 yards in 4:46, and found a wide-open Miller for a 16-yard touchdown pass. The Rams responded with a 32-yard rush to quickly get back into UW territory, but Burns caught an interception and returned it 99 yards to the house. The interception return was the second longest in school history and put Wyoming up 21-7 with 3:27 left in the first quarter.

The Cowboy defense forced a punt on the ensuing CSU drive and UW’s offense responded with an 80-yard drive that resulted in Smith’s third touchdown pass of the day. The touchdown gave Wyoming a commanding 28-7 lead just a minute into the second quarter. Another CSU punt gave UW the ball back, but the Cowboys missed a 47-yard field goal wide right.

Colorado State closed the gap with a 70-yard drive for a touchdown to pull within 28-14 with 2:54 until halftime. The half ended with punts by both teams, but Wyoming managed 300 yards in the opening half and went 9-of-11 on third downs.

Smith passed for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, while McNeill had five catches for 45 yards and freshman wide receiver Jalen Claiborne hauled in three for 59 yards. Wick added 53 yards rushing. Defensively, Reese had six tackles and Jones added five, as the UW defense held CSU to 1-of-5 on third down.

The squads exchanged failed fourth-down attempts to start the second half, before CSU crafted a seven-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard field goal. The score made it 28-17 midway through the third quarter, but Wyoming marched right back down the field and Smith rushed in from five yards out to extend the lead back to 35-17 with 5:24 left in the third.

Wyoming got the ball back with another CSU punt that Claiborne returned deep into CSU territory and converted it into another seven thanks to Smith’s fourth touchdown pass of the day. The score put Wyoming up 41-17 with less than three minutes left in the third. Momentum continued to go UW’s way when Reese earned the Cowboys’ second interception of the day on the ensuing CSU drive and Williams connected on a 31-yard field goal giving UW a 45-17 lead early in the fourth.

The Rams battled back with two-straight touchdowns thanks to big plays to make the score 45-31. Colorado State notched a 31-yard touchdown pass at the 10-minute mark and added a touchdown rush after a 65-yard pass on its next drive with less than seven minutes left in the game. Wyoming converted four first downs on its next drive, though, to run the final 6:48 off the clock.

Wyoming continues its season at New Mexico next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MT in Albuquerque, N.M.

–UW Sports Information