LARAMIE — Wyoming was in perfect position to pull off the upset.
The Cowboys trailed No. 9 Nebraska 14-7 at the half Saturday, and the crowd of 32,617 — the third-largest in the history of War Memorial Stadium — was abuzz.
But the Cornhuskers' Tim Marlowe returned Daniel Sullivan's short second-half kickoff to the Nebraska 44-yard line and UW freshman DeAndre Jones was flagged for a personal foul to put the ball at the UW 41.
Four plays and two additional UW penalties later, Rex Burkhead scored on a 16-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 21-7 in a game Nebraska captured 38-14.
"You don't deserve to win when you do those things," UW coach Dave Christensen said. "Good teams don't do those things, and we're obviously not a good team yet.
"Mature teams don't go out and hit guys when they're not looking. They were stupid penalties and that's just free yardage for [Nebraska]."
The Huskers were more than happy to take advantage of the Cowboys' lack of self-control.
"It was huge," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said of the ‘Huskers' second-half start. "[Wyoming] kind of got some momentum. ... I thought it was important we set the tone for the second half."
The UW defense had a chance to get off the field when Nebraska faced a third down and eight from the UW 39.
Josh Biezuns appeared to have Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez wrapped at the line of scrimmage, but Martinez broke free in the middle of the field and slid feet first at the 31. Free safety Luke Anderson then compounded the problem with a late hit on Martinez, putting the ball at the UW 16.
"I thought I had him dead to rights in the backfield," Biezuns said, "but he stepped up and took off on me."
On the next play, Burkhead broke three would-be tackles on his way to the end zone.
"We wanted to come out and, obviously, make a statement in the second half, and I thought we had the ability to do that," Biezuns said. "That penalty killed us.
"It's just tough to give the No. 9 team in the country breaks like that. We've just got to make plays and avoid stupid penalties."
The penalties stopped whatever momentum UW had taken into the locker room at halftime and left the Cowboys once again short of knocking off a Top-25 team.
"Coming out of the locker room, we felt we had the momentum," UW cornerback Tashaun Gipson said. "We wanted to come out with the same intensity [we had in the first half], but foolish penalties hurt us and I feel like we gave them that score down there."
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they also gave away their chance at the upset.