Wyoming took a page out of the playbook Hawaii used last weekend at Fresno State and plastered it on the face of a feisty, but tiring defense en route to a 31-7 victory tonight in a Mountain West Conference matchup in Laramie, Wyo.
It was the ninth straight home win for the Cowboys, who played in front of 7,000 mostly happy fans. Both teams left the chilly confines of War Memorial Stadium with 1-1 marks in league play. Hawaii returns to the islands after an eight-day stay on the mainland to play host to New Mexico at empty Aloha Stadium next Saturday at 6 p.m.
They can only hope that Wyoming running back Xazaviar Valladay doesn’t come with them. He carried the ball 32 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns and fellow back Trey Smith managed two scores of his own to complete the defeat. He had 89 yards on 20 carries as the Cowboys rushed for 281 yards on 59 attempts. Freshman quarterback Levi Williams completed nine of 18 passes for 112 yards and converted several first downs on punishing run plays.
Meanwhile, Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro looked like a sophomore in need of a refresher course. When he had time to throw, his passes were often high and off the mark. He completed only 11 of 26 for 110 yards with one pick and no touchdowns. It was his first loss in six starts as the Saint Louis School product looked ordinary. He was sacked five times and had 1 yard rushing. It was a far cry from last week when UH ran roughshod over the Bulldogs en route to the 34-19 victory. But on this night, UH managed only 123 yards on the ground and a paltry 233 for the game.
It was not a good night.
Down 10-7 to start the second half, UH got the ball first and promptly drove right down the field, only to miss a 44-yard field goal by Matt Shipley wide right. That took a little air out of UH’s momentum as each team struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the early going of the second half.
But Wyoming finally figured out the best way to move on Hawaii is to run right at the Warriors and that’s exactly what the Cowboys did on a punishing 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard run by Smith to give Wyoming a 17-7 advantage with 4:22 left in the third.
This was a moment in the game where the offense had to join the party, but a bad offensive pass interference penalty wiped out an apparent third-down conversion and Wyoming was back in business at midfield late in the third quarter and was well on its way to sending Hawaii back to the islands with a .500 mark when UH forced a timely turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter deep in its own end.
The two teams traded punts with Hawaii winning that battle, setting up shop at its own 45 in need of at least a field goal. But Cordeiro tried to force a throw and the deflected pass ricocheted into the arms of Charles Hicks and he returned it to the UH 17 where the Cowboys made no mistakes this time, scoring on a 6-yard run by Valladay to extend the lead to 24-7 with 8:19 left.
Hawaii overcame a slow start at Fresno State last week to rally for a win, but the Rainbow Warriors pushed their luck in the first half against an opponent that rarely loses at home. Valladay hit the 100-yard mark on 18 carries in the first half alone to lead Wyoming to a quick 7-0 advantage in chilly Laramie where the air is cold and thin.
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff and scored an easy touchdown on an 18-yard run by Valladay and then added three more after a bad fumble by Cordeiro on attempted pass that gave Wyoming the ball deep in UH territory. Barely five minutes into the game and Hawaii was already down 10-0.
The score remained that way deep into the second period as UH’s defense made some adjustments after the opening drive to clamp down on the Wyoming run game, forcing the Cowboys off the field more times than not. A poor decision on a punt return by Melquise Stovall had UH backed up deep in it own end once more early in the second quarter.
The Warriors did put together a couple of first downs, but Cordeiro looked uncertain and off target, missing open receivers on third down, leading to punt after punt. The UH defense did its best during this stretch, but eventually the Cowboys offense started to get into gear behind the legs of Valladay and the arm of Williams, but UH held on a first-and-goal from the 6 to eventually force a missed 35-yard field goal.
That woke up the offense from a deep sleep.
At this point, Hawaii hadn’t run a play in Wyoming territory. In fact, the deepest penetration was the Warriors’ 34, pretty embarrassing with a national TV audience tuning in. But give the UH coaches some credit. They brought backup quarterback Calvin Turner in for a little wildcat, establishing the run. Cordeiro followed it with a timely 47-yard completion to Zion Bowens to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Dae Dae Hunter on a second-and-goal play.
Suddenly, with 1:04 left in the first half, UH had cut the lead to 10-7 on a nice 6-play, 80-yard drive. Wyoming opted to let the clock run out, holding a three-point lead at intermission.
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