Wyoming Cowboys Walk Off a 16-15 Victory in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl
• Cowboy Place-kicker John Hoyland Makes Game-Winning Field Goal as Time Expires
Tucson, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 2023) — It was a storybook ending for the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday as they sent retiring head coach Craig Bohl out with a dramatic 16-15 walk-off victory in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. Cowboy place-kicker John Hoyland made a 24-yard field goal as time expired to give the Pokes their ninth win of the season. Wyoming quarterbackAndrew Peasley was forced to leave the field on numerous occasions during the game following big hits, but fought through to return and lead the Cowboy offense, while the Wyoming defense came up with big stop after big stop to keep the Pokes in the game.
The Cowboys finished the season with a 9-4 record. It was Wyoming’s first nine-win season since 1996 when UW posted a 10-2 season. It was also the fourth season of eight or more wins during the Craig Bohl era and the sixth winning season during Bohl’s 10-year tenure as Cowboy head coach. The bowl victory marks the fourth for the Pokes under the direction of Bohl, who announced his retirement back on Dec. 6.
Hoyland was named the game’s MVP, making all three of his field-goal attempts on the day from 34 yards, 52 yards and the game-winner from 24 yards out.
Like all of Wyoming’s nine victories this season, it was a total team effort by the Cowboys. Peasley was outstanding on the day, completing 20 of 25 passes (80.0 percent) for 168 yards to nine different receivers. He also rushed for 16 yards on nine carries for 184 yards of total offense. When Peasley was unable to return during Wyoming’s final drive of the game due to what Peasley himself described as an oblique injury, back-up QB Evan Svoboda came in to help finish off the game-winning drive. Svoboda completed 1 of 2 passes (50.0 percent) in the game for 16 yards and carried the ball five times for 26 yards, including Wyoming’s lone touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter to pull the Pokes to within two points at 13-15. Running back Harrison Waylee was a workhorse, carrying the ball 18 times for 91 yards. Wide receiver Wyatt Wieland caught a team high five passes for 55 yards. Tight ends John Michael Gyllenborg and Treyton Welch added four catches each. Gyllenborg accounted for 44 receiving yards and Welch had 22. Wide receiver Ayir Asante also had a big catch of 26 yards to start the final game-winning drive for the Cowboys.
Defensively, the Pokes had 20 different defenders make at least one tackle in the game, led by linebacker Shae Suiaunoa, who finished with five tackles and one quarterback hurry. Linebacker Easton Gibbs made three tackles and broke up one pass. Defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole was credited with three tackles and one quarterback hurry, and nose tackle Cole Godbout also made three tackles. Strong safety Isaac White came up with the lone turnover in the game on an interception on the Wyoming two-yard line in the first quarter to end a Toledo scoring drive. Defensive ends Sabastian Harsh and Tyce Westland each came up with one key tackle for loss in the game. Westland also added a pass break-up as did defensive endDeVonne Harris, and defensive backs Wrook Brown, Tyrecus Davis and Wyett Ekeler were each credited with a pass break-up.
Wyoming accounted for 354 yards of total offense, while Toledo finished with 328 total yards. The Cowboys out gained the Rockets on the ground with 170 rushing yards to Toledo’s 144. Each team finished with the exact same passing yard total of 184 yards.
Bohl steps away from Wyoming Football after one of the most sustained periods of success in program history, including: more bowl victories (4) and more bowl appearances (6) than any coach in school history; six winning seasons — second most of any Wyoming coach; and more NFL players developed than at any time in program history.
Quotes From Head Coach Craig Bohl
Craig Bohl coached his final game as head coach of the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday as he announced his retirement on Dec. 6. Bohl concluded his career as the longest serving head coach in Wyoming Football history — 10 seasons. He ends his college coaching career with a record of 165-92 (.642) and a Wyoming record of 61-60 (.504). Bohl ranks No. 13 among all current active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coaches in terms of wins, with 165.
Bohl addressed the media at a postgame Arizona Bowl press conference following Saturday’s victory.
“I want to first say thanks for the invitation (to the Arizona Bowl). You staged a great game with two really good opponents,” said Bohl. “Coming into this game from my perspective, I thought it would be a one-possession game, which it was. I think I talked about winning the kicking game, which was really important. I’d also like to congratulate Toledo. They had a phenomenal year and they played hard tonight. I know they were a little short-handed, but we were short-handed, as well.
“It was great to come up with a win. It’s great to close out my career with this football team. They truly have been special.”
When asked about the performance of quarterback Peasley, Bohl responded, “Andrew is resilient. He’s as tough as boot leather. He’s a Cowboy through and through, and he’s got ice water running through his veins. A really resilient performance by him tonight.”
Asked about the final drive of the game that resulted in the game-winning field goal by Hoyland, Bohl said, “Every game is going to have some adversity. We had to use three quarterbacks in that drive. That certainly wasn’t scripted but all three guys came in and played really well. We had great confidence in John (Hoyland). We knew we were in field-goal range once we got the additional penalty yardage (on the late hit on wide receiver Wieland). We certainly wanted to get down there a little closer and we were able to do that with some of the things that Evan (Svoboda) and other guys did on that drive. John had the ice running through his veins on the kick. Big, big win. We worked the clock down to zero for the walk off.”
Bohl was questioned about where this win ranked in his career and he replied, “It’s special because it’s the last one for me. I’ve been coaching for 42 years, and I haven’t had to go to work a day in my life yet. This is a tremendous profession and its great to go out with these guys. I have a real sense of peace about moving on. It was time for this Cowboy to ride off. Coach (Jay) Sawvel is going to do a great job.
“I think the future for this program looks very bright. Coach Sawvel and I’ve talked about that along with Tom Burman (Wyoming Athletics Director). We feel like the foundation has been set. If you look at the programs that I have been fortunate enough to be involved with, whether it was Nebraska during the Tom Osborne era or my time at North Dakota State, those were long building processes. I believe that we’re in really good shape to move forward. I’ll be rooting the Pokes on. Coach Sawvel is going to do a great job leading. It’s certainly a competitive conference that we play in, but I think the future looks really bright and the culture is set. Are there going to be challenges? Yes, but I think our older guys have done a great job laying a foundation, and we’ve got good players coming back.”
Quotes From Wyoming’s Former Defensive Coordinator and Incoming Head Coach Jay Sawvel
“We got the win. We hung in and our guys battled all night and that’s all that really matters,” said Sawvel. “First thing in my new role as head coach is I’m hopeful of having an offensive coordinator hired by next weekend. That’s been taking a lot of my time, working through that and talking with a lot of people. I also hope to have a safeties coach hired probably around that same time. Once we get our full staff together, then its getting ready for the second semester to start, hit the reset button and start over for next year. We’ve got a really good football team coming back — guys are bought in and engaged. They genuinely love Wyoming and they genuinely love each other.”
Quotes From Wyoming Players
“I was just trying to send the seniors out in the right way and obviously send Coach Bohl out in the right way,” said Hoyland. “I knew that Evan (Svoboda) coming in would lead us down the field and put me in position to try and do my best to win the game. That’s all I can hope for as a kicker.”
“Obviously, six years in college football is a pretty long time,” said Peasley. “It’s been a great ride and these last two years at Wyoming have been super special for me. I talked to the team yesterday. I’m very blessed with how they welcomed me in. There’s been some ups and downs. We didn’t reach all our goals this year, but we won a bowl game to finish on top. I’m very thankful to be a part of this team and be around the guys I’ve met here.”
Cowboy Notes From Saturday
∙Wyoming finished off the season with three consecutive wins.
∙The Cowboys’ 9-4 record this season marked the first nine-win season since the 1996 Cowboys posted a 10-2 record.
∙The 2023 season marks the sixth time in the last eight seasons that Wyoming has posted a winning record. The last time that Cowboy Football had six winning seasons in an eight-year period was from 1993-2000.
Below is a breakdown of Wyoming’s six winning seasons over the past eight years.
Season Record Postseason Results
2023 9-4 Arizona Bowl Champions
2022 7-6 Arizona Bowl Participant
2021 7-6 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions
2019 8-5 Arizona Bowl Champions
2017 8-5 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions
2016 8-5 MW Championship Game Participant & Poinsettia Bowl Participant
∙Among the accomplishments the Cowboys have enjoyed during the 2023 season are:
-Winning at least eight games for the fourth time in the past eight seasons.
-Winning at least seven games for the sixth time in the last eight seasons.
-Earning bowl eligibility for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
-Posting a perfect 7-0 home record — the first 7-0 home record in War Memorial Stadium history.
-Defeating two Top 25 ranked teams in then #24 ranked Texas Tech in the season opener and then #24 ranked Fresno State in the sixth week of the season.
-Capturing wins in rivalry series vs. Colorado State and Hawai’i to retain the “Bronze Boot” and “Paniolo Trophy”, respectively.
-Attracting a single-season record attendance of 162,144 fans.
∙With his three field goals in the Arizona Bowl win today, Cowboy place-kicker John Hoyland has 58 field goals for his career. He passed former Wyoming great Sean Fleming, who made 57 field goals from 1988-91. Hoyland is just one field goal away from the Wyoming school record of 59, held by Cooper Rothe, who set the record from 2016-19.
∙Linebacker Easton Gibbs recorded three tackles vs. Toledo. He has 109 tackles for the 2023 season. Gibbs now has 362 career tackles as a Cowboy to rank eighth on the Wyoming career tackle list. The two players directly ahead of Gibbs are former Cowboy linebacker/defensive end Gabe Knapton in seventh with 368 tackles and former Wyoming safety Chris Prosinski, who is in sixth with 373 career tackles.
Toledo Series Notes
∙Saturday’s meeting between the Wyoming Cowboys and Toledo Rockets was the third in history between the two schools.
∙Wyoming now leads the series 2-1. The previous two meetings were a 20-15 Wyoming victory in Toledo in 2010 and a 34-31 Toledo win in Laramie in 2012.
∙The road team had won the previous two meetings. Now Wyoming also owns a neutral-site win in the series.
Wyoming’s defense began the game forcing Toledo’s offense into a three-and-out series, but after a 57-yard Toledo punt the Pokes were pinned back at their own six-yard line on their first possession of the game.
The Cowboys proceeded to drive 77 yards over 13 plays on their opening offensive drive, gaining five first downs along the way and featuring a balanced offense of 57 rushing yards and 20 passing yards. UW place-kicker Hoyland capped off the drive with a 34-yard field goal to give the Pokes a 3-0 lead with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter. The scoring drive took 7:26 off the clock.
After the ensuing kickoff, Toledo began their second possession at their own 23-yard line. The Rockets put together a sustained drive of their own picking up three first downs and moving the ball down to the Wyoming 29-yard line. On a third and 10 from the 29, Toledo quarterback Tucker Gleason attempted a screen pass to running back Jacquez Stuart, who tipped the pass but couldn’t control the pass. The tipped ball fell into the hands of Rocket center Devan Rogers who took the catch into the end zone for what was originally ruled as a 29-yard TD pass. But the completion was overruled as illegal touching since the offensive lineman was an ineligible receiver and no defensive player touched the ball. Toledo decided to go for it on fourth and 10, but Cowboy safety White intercepted the pass of Rocket quarterback Gleason at the Wyoming two-yard line to halt the drive.
On its second offensive possession, Wyoming gained one yard on a rush by quarterback Peasley. Peasley then connected with wide receiver Wieland for nine yards out to the 11-yard line. On third and one, Wyoming’s offense decided to go for a big play and Peasley connected with tight end Gyllenborg down the right sideline for 34 yards to the Wyoming 45-yard line. That play concluded the first quarter.
Facing a third and 10 at the Wyoming 45 to open the second quarter, Peasley found wide receiver Ryan Marquez for 14 yards to the Toledo 41-yard line. The Pokes once again took a deep shot to the end zone, but wide receiver Alex Brown couldn’t come down with the catch. Running back Waylee gained two yards followed by a pass from Peasley to wide receiver Will Pelissier for four yards. On fourth and four from the Toledo 35-yard line, Hoyland came in and made his second field goal of the day — a 52-yarder that bounced off the cross bar and over to extend Wyoming’s lead to 6-0 with 11:20 remaining on the clock. The scoring drive covered 63 yards in 10 plays and took 5:54 off the clock.
Toledo’s third possession of the game would be their first scoring drive of the game. The Rockets drove 60 yards in 10 plays resulting in a 33-yard field goal by place-kicker Luke Pawlak. The key plays on the drive were a 23-yard pass from quarterback Gleason to receiver Junior Vandeross III to the Wyoming 40-yard line. Gleason followed up that completion two plays later with a 24-yard run of his own down to the Wyoming 16-yard line. That is where the Wyoming defense stiffened when on a third and nine at the Wyoming 15-yard line UW defensive end Harris knocked down a pass attempt as defensive tackle Bertagnole put pressure on QB Gleason.
Wyoming gained one first down on its next possession but was then forced into its first punt of the game as Clayton Stewart punted the ball to the Toledo 20-yard line.
On first down from its 35, Toledo broke its first big play of the game as running back Stuart broke through the left-side of the Rocket offensive line and went untouched down the left sideline for 80 yards and a touchdown to give Toledo its first lead at 10-6 with 5:19 remaining in the first half.
The Cowboys began its drive at the Wyoming 27 and were able to gain one first down after two six-yard completions from Peasley to Wieland and wide receiver Devin Boddie Jr., but the drive would stall at the Wyoming 40-yard line. Cowboy punter Stewart punted the ball 34 yards to the Toledo 26-yard line and after only a one-yard return, the Rockets took possession.
Wyoming’s defense took charge and forced Toledo into a three-and-out series. Rocket punter Emilio Duran connected on a 54-yard punt down to the Wyoming 13-yard line where Poke punt returner Caleb Cooley made a fair catch with only 1:23 remaining in the half.
The Pokes gained a first down on back-to-back runs of four and eight yards by running backs Jamari Ferrell and Waylee, respectively. Waylee would carry one more time for one yard and the half came to a close with the score Toledo 10, Wyoming 6.
The halftime stats saw the Cowboys account for 189 yards of total offense — 93 rushing and 96 passing. Toledo ended the first half with 198 total yards — 130 rushing and 68 passing — with 80 of the rushing yards coming on one play, an 80-yard rushing TD. Wyoming generated 10 first downs to Toledo’s seven. The Cowboys also came away with the only turnover of the first half on an interception.
Wyoming’s Peasley completed 11 of 16 passes (.688) for 96 yards, connecting with five different receivers. Running back Waylee led the Pokes with 49 rushing yards. Tight end Gyllenborg led UW with three catches for 37 yards, and wide receiver Wieland also caught three passes for 20 yards. Linebacker Suiaunoa led Wyoming with three tackles, while safety White was credited with the Cowboys’ one interception.
Toledo quarterback Gleason completed 6 of 16 passes (.375) for 68 yards. Running back Stuart had four carries for 90 yards, including an 80-yard TD run. Receiver Junior Fandeross III had two receptions for 22 yards to lead the Rockets. Nate Bauer led Toledo in tackles with seven.
The second half began with Wyoming taking the opening kickoff. After gaining two first downs on its first possession, the Cowboys were forced to punt. UW’s Stewart placed his punt out of bounds at the Toledo 15-yard line.
The Rockets started their first second-half possession fast with pass completions of 30 and 14 yards to the Wyoming 41-yard line. But three big defensive plays by Cowboy defensive ends Westland and Braden Siders resulted in a tackle for a loss of two yards by Westland, a tackle by Siders for only a three-yard gain and a pass break-up by Westland. Toledo was forced to punt and once again pinned Wyoming back at its own six-yard line.
Wyoming gained one yard on first down to the seven-yard line, but on second and nine Peasley dropped back into his own end zone to pass when defensive lineman Esean Carter broke through Wyoming’s offensive line and knocked the ball loose from Peasley. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a Toledo safety to make the lead Toledo 12, Wyoming 6 with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter.
Wyoming was forced to free kick the ball to Toledo following the safety. After a return by running back Stuart out to the 50-yard line, Toledo gained two first downs, including converting a fourth down and nine at the Wyoming 33-yard line that resulted in a pass from Gleason to Jerjuan Newton down to the Wyoming 16-yard line. The Cowboy defense once again rose to the occasion. Allowing Toledo only two more yards, with Cowboy linebacker Gibbs flying in on a blitz on third and eight and hitting QB Gleason’s arm as he threw to force an incomplete pass. Toledo place-kicker Pawlak came in and successfully converted a 33-yard field goal, making the score 15-6 in favor of Toledo.
The Cowboys took over after the following kickoff at their own 17-yard line. After a first-down run of seven yards by Waylee to the 24-yard line, quarterback Peasley kept the ball on second and three and rushed for 10 yards around the left end to the Wyoming 34. At the end of the play, Peasley was hit by Rocket defender Daniel Bolden. Officials announced that the play was under review and Bolden was called for targeting and was ejected from the game. After the 15-yard targeting penalty was accessed, Wyoming had the ball first and 10 at the Wyoming 49-yard line. Waylee carried the ball for one yard to the 50-yard line on the final play of the third quarter, with the score Toledo 15, Wyoming 6.
On second and nine at the 50 to start the fourth quarter, Peasley completed a pass to Waylee but the play resulted in a one-yard loss. On third and 10, the Toledo defense sacked Peasley for a seven-yard loss back to the Wyoming 42-yard line. Cowboy punter Stewart hit the punt off the side of his foot for a 25-yard kick to the Toledo 33-yard line.
Toledo completed a 20-yard pass on first down but the Poke defense forced three straight Rocket incompletions, including a quarterback hurry by UW linebacker Suiaunoa. On fourth and 10 from the Wyoming 47, Toledo punter Duran shanked a punt off the side of his foot for only a 20-yard punt to the Wyoming 27-yard line.
The Poke offense saw Waylee explode for an 18-yard run on first down, taking the ball out to the Wyoming 45. That was followed by four consecutive pass completions by Peasley of four yards to Waylee, three yards to tight end Welch, 10 yards to wide receiver Brown and 19 yards to wide receiver Wieland. Peasley then kept the ball and scrambled for 12 yards to the Toledo seven-yard line, but he was forced to leave the field after taking a big hit. Back-up quarterback Svoboda came in for Peasley. Svoboda kept the ball around left end for six yards on first down to the Toledo one-yard line. Svoboda then took the ball on a quarterback sneak up the middle for Wyoming’s first touchdown of the game to pull the Cowboys to within two points at 15-13 with 8:37 remaining in the game.
The Rockets would gain two first downs, moving the ball from their own 35-yard line to the Wyoming 37, but that was as far as they would get and the Cowboy defense forced another Toledo punt to give the Pokes one final chance to pull out a victory.
It wouldn’t be easy however, as once again Wyoming faced poor field position to begin its final possession, starting back at its own six-yard line with 4:11 remaining in the game. Peasley would begin the drive with a 26-yard completion to wide receiver Asante across the middle, moving the ball out to the Wyoming 32-yard line. It would, however, be Peasley’s final play as a Cowboy as he had to leave the field with what was later described by Peasley himself as an injured oblique. Svoboda re-entered the game to take over at QB. A one-yard run by wide receiver Boddie Jr. on a reverse would be followed by an incomplete pass and an eight-yard run by Waylee. Facing a fourth down and one at the UW 41-yard line, Svoboda would keep the ball up the middle for three yards and a first down. He had his helmet knocked off during the play and so Cowboy quarterback Jayden Clemons entered the game and carried the ball but was tackled for a loss of two yards. Toledo took a timeout with only 1:33 remaining in the game. On a second and 12 at the Wyoming 42, Svoboda connected with Wieland on the right sideline for 16 yards. At the end of the play, Toledo defensive back Ronald Delancy III was called for a personal foul as he threw Wieland down after Wieland was out of bounds. That additional 15-yard penalty moved the ball down to the Toledo 27-yard line. Waylee rushed up the middle for three yards and Toledo took their second timeout at 1:19. Waylee carried around the right side for one yard on second and seven, forcing Toledo to take their final timeout with 1:14 remaining. On third and six, Svoboda would follow running back Sam Scott around the left end for 13 yards to the Toledo 10-yard line. Wyoming would take a timeout with 50 seconds remaining. Svoboda rushed for three yards down to the seven-yard line. Head coach Bohl then let the clock run down to four seconds before taking a timeout. In came place-kicker, Hoyland to attempt a 24-yard field goal. Having already made kicks of 34 and 52 yards, Hoyland knocked his third attempt of the day right through the middle of the uprights as time expired to give Wyoming a 16-15 walk-off victory to improve to 9-4 on the season and send Head Coach Craig Bohl off with a dramatic win in his final game as Wyoming’s head coach
Wyoming will open the 2024 college football season on Saturday, Aug. 31 back in the state of Arizona where they will play at Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.