LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming football team will spend New Year’s Eve somewhere warm.
UW (7-5 overall, 4-4 Mountain West) will play Georgia State (7-5 overall, 4-4 Sun Belt) in the Arizona Bowl at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 31. The game will be played at the University of Arizona’s Arizona Stadium in Tucson. It will be UW’s third bowl appearance in four seasons, and the first matchup between the programs. The Cowboys were bowl eligible a season ago but were not invited to one.
A total of seven teams from the Mountain West accepted bowl bids Sunday.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to accept the invite on behalf of the Mountain West,” UW coach Craig Bohl said during a Sunday teleconference. “We’ve heard nothing but great things about the bowl.”
The Cowboys and Panthers both started the season 6-2 before dropping three of their last four games to close the regular season. Georgia State will make its third bowl appearance as a program since transitioning to the FBS in 2013, while UW will be play in its 16th bowl game. UW won its last bowl game, the 2017 Potato Bowl, against Central Michigan.
UW and Georgia State shared a common opponent this season (Texas State) and won a marquee game in their season openers: the Cowboys defeated Missouri, while Georgia State beat Tennessee in Knoxville. The Cowboys have previously played the 1990 and '93 Copper Bowls in Tucson.
UW athletics director Tom Burman said that, while there had previously been discussions about other bowl destinations, it became apparent in the last few days that Tucson would be the focus.
“(This team) overcame a great deal of adversity. When you look at the whole body of work, I was very proud,” Burman said.
Burman said he believed UW fans would show up in full force for the game and estimated the Pokes would probably draw 3,000-5,000 fans. He also noted that, in order for the school to not lose money, $100,000 worth of tickets need to be sold from the ticket office.
“I think we will travel very well. I am a little bit concerned because it’s a midweek game … but it’s Arizona, it’s Tucson, it’s a great city,” Burman said. “Our fans love our Cowboys.”
As far as the game itself is concerned, UW’s stout defense (17.8 points per game allowed) will be tested by another strong offense in Georgia State’s (32.4 points per game). Against Air Force in their regular season finale, the Cowboys held the Falcons' vaunted triple-option attack to a season-low in rushing yards and total yards. However, UW lost the game 20-6.
Bohl said it is too early to speculate whether redshirt sophomore Tyler Vander Waal or true freshman Levi Williams would start at quarterback in the game. UW is averaging 24.3 points per game this season (95th in the country) and just over 15 points per game in four games since redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers suffered a season-ending left knee injury.
“Regardless of who’s named starter, both guys will play,” Bohl said.
Bohl also said that freshman running back Titus Swen (knee) would likely play but senior running back Trey Smith (ankle) would not.
For redshirt senior linebacker Logan Wilson, Sunday’s bowl announcement was the culmination of five years-worth of blood, sweat and tears. Wilson and the rest of the senior class will have played in three bowl games in four seasons, the first occurrence of the feat since the 1990 senior class also went to three bowls in four years.
“It’s been a long time coming. Coach Bohl always kind of said when we got here that those who stay will be champions,” Wilson said. “It’s pretty awesome and we’re really looking forward to it.”