Wyoming didn’t increase its win total Saturday. Now the Cowboys will wait to find out what kind of bowl destination seven will get them.
The Cowboys had their least productive game of the season on offense, falling to Air Force 20-6 at Falcon Stadium in both teams’ regular-season finale. The Cowboys lost three of their final four games during their brutal November stretch that included three games on the road against teams that finished ahead of them in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division standings, but Wyoming — one of seven bowl-eligible teams in the league — still finished one game better than the 6-6 showing that kept them out of the postseason last year.
Bowl matchups will be announced on Dec. 8.
“We’re going to move forward,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “There’s a lot of guys that are disappointed in the locker room. This is a big ballgame for our program and a big game for Air Force as well. They won. I told our guys to keep our heads up and move forward.”
The Cowboys didn’t score until the fourth quarter but still had their chances to end Air Force’s six-game winning streak, particularly when freshman Levi Williams took over for Tyler Vander Waal, who went just 4 of 7 passing for 27 yards. For the second straight week, he rotated with Williams, but Williams took over almost exclusively early in the third quarter after Vander Waal threw an interception in Air Force territory with the Cowboys trailing by just a touchdown.
Critical turnovers were a theme for Wyoming, which held the Falcons to a field goal on their next possession and got within one possession with a 26-yard field goal from Cooper Rothe with 13 minutes, 8 seconds left in the game. Wyoming took over at Air Force’s 47-yard line for its next possession after Charlie Scott shanked a 13-yard punt, but Williams was picked by Jeremy Fejedelem three plays later on a pass that went off Austin Conway’s hands.
The teams traded field goals to make it a 13-6 game with 2:23 left before Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III delivered the backbreaker with his arm, finding a wide-open Ben Waters for a 75-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Wyoming had three drives reach Air Force’s 28 or farther but got just six points out of those possessions.
“We’ve got to do better on first down, and then just finish in the red zone,” Williams said. “That’s probably one thing we’re going to emphasize all week is finishing in the red zone. I think we got in there three times and just couldn’t get the points.”
Wyoming, which came in with the MW’s No. 2 rush defense, held Air Force’s triple option to just 162 yards on the ground — 142 fewer than its season average — but the Falcons held the ball for 32 minutes, 27 seconds of game time, including 18:40 in the first half. Williams went 6-for-11 for 84 yards and added a game-high 79 rushing yards, but 38 of those came on one carry as the Cowboys struggled to get their running game going against the league’s third-ranked run defense.
Xazavian Valladay’s streak of five straight 100-yard rushing games ended with a season-low 38 yards as the Cowboys averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Wyoming set season-lows in points, rushing yards (114) and total yards (225).
“We knew going in that this is, I believe, the most complete Air Force team that’s been there since I’ve been our head coach,” Bohl said. “I told them that before the game. We were going to have a hard time moving the football, and we certainly did.”
Wyoming ran just five plays in the first quarter as the Falcons bled nearly 9 minutes off the clock on their second possession. Hammond capped the 16-play, 73-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak to give Air Force a 7-0 lead one play into the second quarter.
Wyoming halted some of the Falcons’ momentum midway through the second quarter when Garrett Crall stripped Hammond of the ball. Esaias Gandy recovered the fumble to set Wyoming’s offense up at Air Force’s 46, but the Cowboys eventually faced fourth-and-8 from the Falcons’ 28. With a stiff wind in Wyoming’s face, the Cowboys elected to go, but Williams was pressured as he tried to throw to end Wyoming’s threat.
The Cowboys had just four first downs to Air Force’s 12 in the first half and were outgained 134-78.
“We had a hard time staying man on man,” Bohl said. “We popped a couple of plays down there. We just couldn’t come up with enough movement ... get a couple of plays in the end zone.”