Sunday, September 13, 2009

Texas weathers early Wyoming storm

Richard Anderson photo
Texas receiver Malco Williams makes a move on the Cowboys late in the second quarter on Saturday.

by Bobby Abplanalp

The biggest football game in Wyoming history took place at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday and the Cowboys played like it, giving the visiting Texas Longhorns all they could handle for 30 minutes.

But the bigger, stronger and more talented Longhorns proved to be too much in the second half, as they pulled away for a 41-10 win.

Trailing 10-6 in the second quarter after Wyoming blocked a Texas punt resulting in a touchdown for the Cowboys, the Longhorns would score the remaining 35 points of the ballgame, starting with an executed two-minute drive at the end of the first half to regain the lead at 13-10 heading into the locker room.

For the entire first half, Texas took the Cowboys best shot, as quarterback and 2009 Heisman Trophy finalist Colt McCoy was constantly harassed in the pocket. McCoy was sacked once, throw 17 incomplete passes and an interception to Wyoming linebacker Weston Johnson. The Heisman hopeful was asked if the 7,220-foot Laramie elevation played a factor against his team. He said it was the Wyoming defense.

“You got to give Wyoming all kinds of credit,” McCoy said. “Their front four played tremendous and we could not get anything going the first half.”

“I have to congratulate Wyoming with the way they played,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “That’s what we see on film when we see them play up here. Their defense plays so hard and you got to give them credit. They just fought their guts out the first half.”

Besides Wyoming scoring off of a blocked punt, they also stopped Texas on a fake punt and a fake field goal in which the Cowboys would turn into three points of their own.

“The kicking game was either great or awful,” Brown said. “Our punting game, with the blocked punt, they (Wyoming) could have had two blocked punts, and then the fake field goal we messed up. We had a young man thinking he could make a fake on a punt and didn’t make it and that was a poor decision, and their defense played great throughout the night, and the kicking game led to the 10 points that Wyoming got.”

The Wyoming defense did its part to help put points on the board in the first half, but a continued lack of offense saw the tough Cowboy D get worn down by the number-two ranked Longhorns out of the Big-12 conference.

McCoy piled it on in the second half and finished the game throwing 30-of-47 for 337 yards and three touchdown passes, one of which was a 42-yard strike to wide receiver James Kirkendoll that regained the lead for Texas. Kirkendoll caught seven balls for 102 yards.

“That is the character of our team,” McCoy said. “You keep your head up and keep fighting in an environment like this (War Memorial Stadium). I tell you what, the fans here are awesome. This is a great place to play and the weather was great. We just didn’t handle it like we should have in the first half.”

“The ball to James, I was hot and they outnumbered us and I waited for him to clear the backer who was coming and I gave him the ball and he made a big play. He’s getting more comfortable on his inside position. He’s played on the outside his whole career. He’s starting to get a feel for it, he’s starting to play and he’s really come up big for us.”

Kirkendoll’s touchdown catch before the half really seemed to shift the momentum to the Longhorns for good.

“It definitely was big for us going into half-time,” Kirkendoll said. “We came out and matched their starters and played harder. Coach Brown came in at halftime and said, ‘it’s 0-0, we’re going to play it like it’s the beginning of the game,’ and we all knew Wyoming was ready to play and we just played harder the second half.”

That indeed was the case, as the home team could not match the visitor’s intensity in the second half, ultimately resulting in a big non-conference road win for Texas.

“I’m really pleased with the win,” Brown said. “I thought it was really good for our team that things weren’t as was as they were last week (a 59-20 home win over Louisiana Monroe). That’s why you go on the road early in an environment like this. I was proud of them with the way they responded.”

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