BOISE, Idaho – Just outside the visitor’s locker room at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium, University of Wyoming redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Vander Waal stood tall and said there were positives to take away from a hard-fought overtime loss.
His red eyes told another story.
With a chance to extend the game in overtime, senior kicker Cooper Rothe missed a 37-yard field goal Saturday night and No. 21-ranked Boise State defeated UW 20-17 in a pivotal Mountain Division showdown.
The loss gives the Cowboys two conference losses and, with just three games left to play, makes winning the division and a shot at playing in the Mountain West title game slim.
Boise State (8-1 overall, 5-0 Mountain West) has yet to lose a conference game. UW is now 1-13 all-time against the Broncos. The loss also drops the Cowboys’ (6-3, 3-2) all-time record in overtime games to 8-8.
“You could hear a pin drop (in the locker room),” said Vander Waal, who made his first start of the season in place of redshirt freshman Sean Chambers. “No one wants to lose. No one wants to lose like that. It’s a heartbreaking loss for everybody. I think we all felt it. … To lose like that was heartbreaking.”
Senior linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted a pass from Boise State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Chase Cord with 3 seconds remaining in regulation to set up a Hail Mary attempt from Vander Waal. The throw was knocked down in the end zone, sending the Cowboys to their first overtime game since a Sept. 23, 2017 matchup with Hawaii.
UW won the toss to start overtime, and opted to play defense. The Cowboys’ defense held strong and forced Boise State into a field goal attempt. Eric Sachse hit from 28-yards out to give the Broncos the lead.
On their first offensive play of overtime, the Cowboys attempted a flea flicker that was nearly intercepted in the end zone. On fourth-and-6, UW sent Rothe out for the tying field goal. The kick sailed wide-right and appeared to come up short as well.
“He needs to know that he did not lose the game for us,” Wilson said. “We lost the game as a team. He needs to know that, because one play does not win or lose a game. And I think he knows that. But I’ll make sure he does.”
The Pokes nearly had a chance to kick a winning field goal in regulation, but a fourth-and-1 attempt by sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay was stopped behind the line of scrimmage at the Boise State 39. Cord – who was starting in place of freshman Hank Bachmeier – was intercepted on the ensuing drive.
“They just stacked the box. They just rushed the A gap,” Valladay said. “Credit to them. There’s nothing else we could have done right there.”
UW chewed up more than 5 minutes of clock on the drive before coming up empty.
“We felt like we had all the momentum to get one yard,” Vander Waal said. “To get one yard seems pretty easy. They just brought a blitz off the backside and they executed on that play better than we did.
Valladay ran for 124 yards and a touchdown in the game, the most yards Boise State has given up to a single running back this season and the most since Nico Evans ran for 141 yards against the Broncos in 2018. Valladay has rushed for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games.
UW held Boise State to just 285 total yards, their lowest total of the season, while forcing two turnovers.
“I want to congratulate Boise State. They’ve got an excellent team. Their guys played hard. I thought our guys played hard as well,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. “The game had the makings to come down to one play, but I also know this. There’s not one play that wins or loses a whole football game.”
Rothe, a Lou Groza Award finalist a season ago, is 11 of 16 in field goal tries this season after missing four combined attempts the previous two seasons. He hit a 39-yard field goal before halftime to give Wyoming a 10-7 lead.
“(Rothe is) hurting,” Bohl said. “But let’s be real clear, there’s lots of ‘one plays.’”
Despite the disappointment, Vander Waal feels his team can hold its head high, though it doesn’t take the sting away from what he says is the hardest loss of his college career.
“We hung with a top-25 team in the country … there are a lot of positive takeaways,” said Vander Waal, who started nine games for the Cowboys in 2018. “It’s just the feeling of the loss right now is kind of overwhelming.
UW plays at Utah State next Saturday in Logan. Bohl said it was OK for players to “lick their wounds” for the next day or so. But come Monday, the Cowboys need to be past the heartbreak.
“To beat (Boise State) at their turf for the first time would be huge,” Wilson said. “But we didn’t get it done. We’ll take a look at the film on Monday and learn from it and move on.”