By Wyoming Sports.org
If the Wyoming Cowboys packed it in a couple of weeks ago, they are doing a strange way of showing it.
In fact, the Cowboys look like anything but coasting to finish the season, as they defied the odds and defied some of the season’s problems in shocking a down Tennessee team, 13-7 Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
The win, Wyoming’s second straight, moved the Cowboys to 4-6 on the season, while the lame-duck Volunteers fell to 3-7.
Longtime Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer will be stepping down at the end of the season under pressure, and Monday’s announcement brought out speculation on whether the Vols would be emotional -- sky high and down ridden.
The Cowboys made sure that all of the positive emotion on the field was theirs.
“We did a great job today and I thought we deserved a victory,” said an excited Wyoming coach Joe Glenn. “We worked hard and went out and played hard and came away with a hard fought victory. You can say what you want, but with Tennessee having gone through what they've been through this week, their kids came out and they probably aren’t real happy with their performance but they never went away. They played hard all day long.”
Fulmer, who won a national title in 1998 and two SEC titles, said his players, which showed tremendous support for him this week, don’t owe him an apology.
“If anything, I should be apologizing to the fans and everybody for this whole week coming about,” Fulmer said. “You get beat if you turn the ball over.”
The Cowboys sure know the feeling. But this time, it was their defense that took advantage of a couple of Tennessee mistakes and turned them into scores. In fact, when Wyoming freshman quarterback Chris Stutzriem hit fullback Greg Genho on a 4-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, it was the first time that Wyoming scored first in a game this season.
The score was set up by a big defensive play by defensive end Mike Neuhaus, who tipped a pass from Tennessee quarterback Nick Stephens, caught the ball and rambled 55 yards to the Tennessee 4-yard line.
Stutzriem, in just his second start of his career, quickly got the Cowboys on board.
Wyoming would take a 13-0 lead in the second quarter when senior linebacker Ward Dobbs stepped in front of the Stephens pass and returned it 24 yards for the score and a 13-0 lead.
Place-kicker Jake Scott missed the extra point after earlier missing a 31-yard field goal attempt.
As it turned out, the two missed kicks wouldn’t hurt the Cowboys.
Tennessee would get on the board earlier in the third quarter when Gerald Jones caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jonathon Compton, who had replaced Stephens.
“Our quarterback play has been less than what we would like to have,” Fulmer said. “I did think Jonathan (Crompton) came into the game and threw it around and competed and kept us in the game.”
The Cowboys played it conservative for much of the rest of the way, although they had a nice 10-play drive that stalled on downs on the Tennessee 23-yard line.
It was Wyoming’s defense that won the game in the second half, as it made several big plays to stop the struggling Vols.
Tennessee finished with just 219 total yards and an average of 3.3 yards per play.
“I just thought our defense played excellent today,” Glenn said. “We made plays to win the game for us. We hadn't had a turnover for a while so to get a couple and to have them mean so much was payback.”
Offensively, the Cowboys finished with 266 yards on offensive, including 167 yards rushing against a very good Tennessee defense. Senior running back Devin Moore had another big game, with 98 net yards on 32 carries. Wynel Seldon added 40 yards on 12 rushes.
Stutzriem had another workman-like game, completing 8 of 16 passes for 95 yards. Junior Karsten Sween played a handful of plays coming off of a concussion suffered two weeks ago, and was 1-of-1 for 4 yards.
“It was a big win,“ Stutzriem said. “Like I said two weeks ago; as long as everybody did their job we're going to be fine. Tennessee is a great team, they've got a legendary coach, they played with a lot of emotions but, you can never count out any boys from Wyoming."
Tennessee defensive end Wes Brown said they won’t make any excuses for their performance on Saturday.
“It's been a tough week, but there's no excuse for how we played,” Brown said. “No one wanted anything more than to win these games for coach Fulmer and these coaches. That's all I can say, it's been a tough week."
Fulmer congratulated the Cowboys on the win.
“They have a good team. They had a big win last week,” Fulmer said. “They ran the ball on us better than I thought they would overall. But I thought our defense played well enough to win the game. Offensively, we just didn't get it done--again.
“(The players are) 18- to 22-years-old. There were a lot of emotions throughout the week. Youth is resilient, but it's been a tough week. But that doesn't cause a ball to be intercepted. If we don't have that, we win 7-0 maybe, I don't know. You're always disappointed when you lose a football game. And you're particularly disappointed when you lose a game you feel like you should have won.”
For the Cowboys, it was a big self-confidence boost for a team that was struggling two weeks ago.
“It was a good victory for us on the road. We needed a win, we we’re fighting hard,” Glenn said. “We got to a point in our season were it was easy to pack it in but we battled and fought hard and maintained a great spirit in practice and worked hard in practice.”
The Cowboys don’t have a lot of time to celebrate, as they face UNLV Thursday night in Las Vegas.