The offenses certainly stole the show in regulation, but it was the defense and special teams that stood out in overtime Saturday as the University of Wyoming football team outlasted Hawai’i in a chilly and high-scoring game in Laramie, 59-56.


The Cowboys (5-6 overall, 3-4 Mountain West) kept the Paniolo Trophy after junior place-kicker Stuart Williams nailed a 36-yard field goal in the first overtime to beat the Rainbow Warriors (0-11, 0-8 MW). But the game-winning score was made possible by senior linebacker Devyn Harris, who stopped Hawai’i on its fourth-down attempt from the Wyoming 4 to begin the OT period. Hawai’i started overtime with the ball and drove to Wyoming’s 4, but Harris tackled the ball carrier for a 1-yard loss to give UW possession. The Cowboy offense ran three plays before Williams lined up for the game winner.


With a game-time temperature at 25 degrees, the offenses warmed things up by scoring early and often. The squads combined for 1,417 yards of offense (Wyoming with 793) and 115 total points. Junior quarterback Brett Smith set the school- and Mountain West record with 640 yards of offense, including 498 through the air and 142 on the ground.



Six of the first-half touchdowns came on plays of more than 20 yards. Hawai’i opened the scoring with a touchdown six minutes into the game, before Wyoming quickly responded with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Smith to sophomore running back Shaun Wick, but missed the extra point. Smith passed Casey Bramlet to become UW’s all-time leader in total yards (10,209) during the opening drive.


The Cowboys took their first lead of the game with a 23-yard touchdown strike from Smith to junior wide receiver Dominic Rufran to go up 13-7, while Hawai’i responded with a touchdown pass of its own to end the first half up 14-13. Smith hit senior wide receiver Robert Herron for one of his career-high four TD catches on a 47-yard score on the first play of the second quarter, though, to put UW up 20-14. The Rainbow Warriors retook the lead with a touchdown after a Wyoming fumble deep in its own territory, before Smith scampered 51 yards down the right sideline and UW converted the two-point attempt to go back in front 28-20 with just over five minutes left in the first half.


The two squads would combined for three more scores in the last five minutes of the first half, as Hawai’i hit a 30-yard touchdown pass that was followed quickly by a 72-yard touchdown pass from Smith to junior wide receiver Keenan Montgomery. Smith would fumble on UW’s ensuing offensive possession, though, as UH used the turnover for the final touchdown of the half to knot the game at 35-35. The Cowboys drove in the last 52 seconds, but missed a 38-yard field goal as time expired.


It was more of the same in the second half, as the squads combined for six more touchdowns. Hawai’i started the scoring with a 29-yard pass two minutes into the half, while Wyoming tie the game at 42-42 with a 20-yard scoring strike from Smith to Herron. The Rainbow Warriors went back in front by six early in the fourth quarter, but the extra point was blocked by sophomore defensive end Eddie Yarbrough. Another big play gave Wyoming a slim 49-48 advantage, as Smith connected with junior wide receiver Jalen Claiborne for a 71-yard touchdown strike. The Cowboys extended the lead to 56-48 with a five-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Herron with 2:52 left, but Hawai’i scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 left and tied the game at 56-56 with the two-point conversion.


Wyoming earned a 491-347 advantage in total yards in the first half, including 173-88 in rushing yards and 318-259 in passing yards. The Cowboys went 7-of-9 on third downs in the first half, compared to 4-of-8 for Hawai’i, but the Rainbow Warriors earned a 16:22 to 13:38 advantage in time of possession.


Wyoming concludes the regular season at Utah State next Saturday at noon MT.