Cowboys' Saturday Replay: 2011 Victory at San Diego State

Tracy Ringolsby

From the desk of Tim Harkins/Wyoming Athletic Department

Laramie It was a road victory that began with an offensive explosion and ended with the Cowboy defense recording a fourth quarter shutout, as the 2011 Wyoming Cowboys traveled to San Diego, Calif., and defeated the San Diego State Aztecs 30-27.

Cowboy football fans can re-live the 2011 win over San Diego State Saturday at 1 p.m., M.T. when the radio call of the game will be re-broadcast on Cowboy Sports Network affiliate stations. Fans unable to access the radio re-broadcasts on a Cowboy Sports Network affiliate may listen to the broadcast by clicking on the link that accompanies this story on the Wyoming Football page at

The passing combination of freshman quarterback Brett Smith and junior wide receiver Chris McNeill was a key in Wyoming’s win. Smith threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns. McNeill caught eight of those passes for 111 yards. Both of Smith’s TD passes were caught by McNeill. Smith also added 24 yards rushing and scored two rushing TDs for a total of 365 yards of total offense.

The Aztecs scored first on a 44-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Lindley to tight end Gavin Escobar with 10:24 remaining in the first quarter. Wyoming responded with a 91-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard TD run by Smith at the 5:10 mark of the first quarter. 

SDSU’s Lindley would connect with running back Ronnie Hillman on a 71-yard pass play on the Aztecs next possession to regain the lead at 13-7 after a missed extra point. The Cowboys would respond with their first of two TD passes from Smith to McNeill, this one for 26 yards to take the lead at 14-13 at the end of quarter number one.

The second quarter was controlled by the Cowboys. Smith would score his second rushing touchdown from 20 yards out to increase the Pokes’ lead to 20-13 after a failed PAT. He would later find McNeill on an 11-yard touchdown pass to give UW a 27-13 lead. 

On the final play of the first half, Cowboy place-kicker Daniel Sullivan would hit a 33-yard field goal to give Wyoming a comfortable 30-13 halftime lead.

UW received the second half kickoff and was forced to punt after five plays. On the first Aztec play of the second half, Hillman broke through the Wyoming defense for a 99-yard touchdown run to narrow the Cowboy lead to 30-20. Both teams defenses maintained that score through much of the third quarter until Hillman capped off a 63-yard drive for San Diego State with a three-yard TD run with one minute left in the third quarter, cutting Wyoming’s lead to three points at 30-27.

The fourth quarter saw the Wyoming defense rise to the occasion, shutting out SDSU in the fourth quarter. The Aztecs did move into field-goal range twice with a chance to tie the game, but place-kicker Abelardo Perez missed field goal attempts from 39 and 27 yards, both misses being wide left, and Wyoming secured a 30-27 win.

Wyoming’s defense was led by junior strong safety Luke Ruff and freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who both recorded seven tackles and one pass breakup each. Senior defensive end Gabe Knapton and senior free safety Tashaun Gipson each made six tackles. Gipson also intercepted Lindley at the Wyoming five-yard line in the third quarter to stop a potential scoring drive by the Aztecs. Knapton along with fellow senior defensive end Josh Biezuns and junior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau each recorded one sack on the day.

Wyoming’s Smith (365 yards of total offense, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns) and San Diego State’s Hillman (224 rushing yards, two rushing TDs, 81 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown) were named Co-Mountain West Offensive Players of the Week for their performances in the game.

The win marked UW’s second consecutive win in San Diego, having also defeated the Aztecs in 2009 in Qualcomm Stadium by an identical score of 30-27. With the win in San Diego, the 2011 Wyoming Cowboys improved their record to 5-2 for the season on way to an 8-5 finish and a bid to the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.

The win over San Diego State is one of 13 memorable Wyoming games that will be re-broadcast this fall and winter over the Cowboy Sports Network (CSN) as “Cowboy Football Classics”. The series began on Saturday, Sept. 5 featuring UW’s 23-3 home victory over the University of Virginia to open the 2007 season and will conclude on Saturday, Nov. 28 with the re-broadcast of Wyoming’s 38-17 win over Georgia State in the 2019 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.

The Saturday re-broadcasts will feature a pre-game segment with the Cowboy Sports Network’s radio broadcast team of Dave Walsh and Kevin McKinney reminiscing about the game followed by the original broadcast of the game and the original postgame interviews conducted the day of the game. Walsh and McKinney will also have some closing comments at the end of each broadcast.