Border War: Next Generation Made Sure Wyoming Seniors Enjoyed War Memorial Farewell
LARAMIE -- On Senior Night, the 21,152 fans who ignored single-digit temperatures not only bid farewell a glimpse at the Cowboys future was not merely on display, but provided significant moments in the Cowboys improving their record to 28-24 in the Bronze Boot Era of the Border War
Oh, the seniors made their statement in the 17-7 victory, underscored by middle linebacker Logan Wilson's game-defining interception with 3:20 to play, which allowed the Cowboys to run out the clock, and start the celebration.
And they have definitely made their impact felt in the reemergence of the Cowboys as a factor in the Mountain West with reason to feel the program is only going to build off the foundation they have led.
It is a group of players, which basically made the commitment to come to Wyoming after the second year of the Craig Bohl Era, when the roster Bohl inherited from predecessor Dave Christensen included only seven seniors and the Cowboys suffered a 2-10 record during the 2015 season.
The Cowboys haven't had a losing record since, and will head to Air Force for the final game of the regular season on Saturday with a 7-5 record and the likely selection to appear in a bowl for the third time in four years.
All of this comes with a roster that faced Colorado State with 22 freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep depth chart, including both starting quarterback Tyler Vander Waal and freshman quarterback Levi Williams, a redshirt this year who made his debut Saturday and will have four years of eligibility remaining after the season.
And that doesn't include No. 1 quarterback Sean Chambers, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Nevada, which has sidelined him in the last three games, and will force him to also miss the regular-season finale at Air Force on Saturday as well as a likely bowl appearance.
Sophomore running back Xazavian Halladay didn't practice all week because of a knee injury that made his availability for Colorado State questionable. He answered the questions with his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game and his sixth of a season that saw him missing one game and limited in four others because of an earlier knee problem. He became the fourth Cowboy running back in the six seasons of Bohl to reach the 1,000-yard mark. And in addition to his 1,023 yards rushing in 10 games, he has 120 yards receiving on his resume.
And that's despite maybe tipping the scales at 190 pounds.
"He really came on," said Bohl. "He is not very big, but he is so strong."
And he is durable. He he carried 27 times for 154 yards against Colorado State, and has carried 148 times in the last five games.
"People thought a week ago when they saw my leg that I was done but I kept my trust in God," he said. "I have to get back in the training room, and get ready for (Air Force)."
It is, Valladay said, what Cowboy Tough is all about.
"Our motto is Cowboy Tough and that's why I am here," said Halladay, who came to Wyoming from Matteson, Ill. "I am starting to realize what it actually means. I'm still defining what it means and hopefully I can live up to it"
Williams' route to Wyoming was more about a detour than an initial desitination. In March of his junior year in high school the native of Canyon Lake, Tex., committed to the University of Houston. He declined ensuing offers from schools for campus visits, and last December signed his letter of intent with Houston.
On Dec. 30 last year, however, head coach Major Applewhite was fired after only two seasons and a 15-11 record, and was replaced by former West Virginia coach Dana Holgersen, who made it clear to Williams that Holgersen's son would have the inside on being the Cougars future quarterback.
Williams decommitted, and after being asked to walk-on for one year by several Power 5 schools, he not only accepted a full-ride offer from Wyoming, but having graduated from high school at the end of the fall semester, he came to Laramie, enrolled in school last spring and took part in spring practice.
When Chambers went down, Williams found himself No. 2 on the depth chart, and made his debut on Friday, alternating with Vander Waal, who suffered a twisted ankle on the first possession of the second half.
And he made a definite impression rushing for a net of 49 yards on 13 carries -- including a one-yard push into the endzone for the touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 14-7 lead -- and completed both of his pass attempts for 25 yards.
"It is awesome," said Williams, "playing in front of a big crowd. The best fans in the country coming out to a 7-degree game."
Williams also provided the final blow to the Colorado State hopes when on fourth-and-2 from the CSU 28 he rushed for 19 yards, battling the efforts of a hand full of Rams to tackle him before finally being brought down, and then watching the final seconds tick off the clock.
"He brought a little extra to the running game," said Bohl. "Where X is we felt it was good to get (Williams) in."
And it was.