LARAMIE — Wyoming failed to flip the script.
For the second time in three years, the Cowboys hung with one of the top 10 teams in college football. Once again, the upset bid crumbled in the second half.
The No. 9-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers led by just seven points at halftime, but the Cowboys committed a dearth of critical errors, the Cornhuskers scored 17 straight points out of the break and the Cowboys suffered their first loss of the season, 38-14, Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.
"To have teams like that and to go down one score into half and to come out and to have that be the result of the game, it hurts," UW center Nick Carlson said.
The Pokes know the position all to well.
In 2009, the Cowboys trailed by just one score against No. 2 Texas at home, but faltered in the second half and lost 41-10. They hung in for much of the first half with a Longhorns team ranked in the top five early last season as well, but lost 34-7.
"It gets old because you want to come back out there and you want to dominate and you want to get those guys," UW running back Alvester Alexander said. "We came out and played hard ... but just didn't get it in the end."
On Saturday, UW had War Memorial's third-largest crowd ever feeling hopeful at halftime once again.
True freshman quarterback Brett Smith hit receiver Mazi Ogbonna on a 48-yard catch-and-run with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, cutting the deficit to 14-7. Nebraska kicker Brett Maher missed a 50-yard field goal to end the half and the Pokes had much of the momentum heading into the locker room.
"We all were extremely enthusiastic," Smith said. "We believed that we could've won and I still believe we could've won."
They gave all the momentum away, however, immediately in the second half.
True freshman DeAndre Jones was flagged for a personal foul on the opening kickoff, setting Nebraska up in Pokes' territory. Then, junior safety Luke Anderson drew a similar call just plays later, setting up Huskers running back Rex Burkhead for his second touchdown of the day.
"You don't deserve to win when you do those things," UW coach Dave Christensen said. "We can't have stupid penalties in a game like this ... especially after going out there and realizing that, physically, we could probably do OK."
The Cowboys limited Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez to just 37 rushing yards, but Burkhead rushed for 170 yards, a career high, on just 15 carries.
Maher added a field goal midway through the third quarter and then another critical blunder cost the Cowboys a chance to keep it close.
On a second down, Smith looked deep for Ogbonna and hit him in the hands for what might have been a 79-yard touchdown, but Ogbonna couldn't haul in the pass.
"I was wide-eyed and just dropped the ball," Ogbonna said.
Smith led the Pokes on another long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but by then the damage was done.
And another upset opportunity faded.