If you squinted just right, everything looked perfect Friday afternoon at Albertsons Field.
It wasn’t, of course. In Josh Allen’s dream scenario, as he himself laid out before the season, Wyoming would have been playing in a bowl game after Christmas, not before, in warm weather, not Idaho, riding a conference championship, not a two-game losing streak.
But if you forgot about that and lost yourself in the falling snowflakes and styrofoam potatoes, it all felt fitting. Never mind the shoulder injury that cost Allen two-and-a-half games or the fact that he threw for 50 total yards in the final three quarters Friday. Wyoming’s quarterback was getting his moment.
Allen could have been denied that moment, or he could have denied it himself. But come kickoff at 2 p.m., he was there. And at the end of it all, a 37-14 whupping that will make Central Michigan think twice before returning to the Mountain Time Zone, Allen was named Potato Bowl MVP.
Allen had planned to take a few more days before officially announcing his intent to declare for the upcoming NFL Draft, much like Wyoming running back Brian Hill had done the year before. But Allen’s teammates were having none of that. He said it right there onstage, still in his pads and wearing a newly earned hat: He’s going pro.
The announcement itself didn’t mean much, really. It had been long assumed that Allen was going to leave after the season, even before Craig Bohl said as much following Wyoming’s home finale. Allen said after Friday’s game that when he chose to return to Wyoming back in January, he essentially assumed it was for one more season.
But the declaration hadn’t come out of Allen’s mouth, publicly at least. To be honest, it felt a little strange that Allen wouldn’t just admit to what his coach had already told us. Now, though, it looks prescient. It was a decision he had lost sleep over nearly a year ago. When he finally announced it, he got to do so in front of his teammates, with a trophy in one hand and another standing in front of him.
Allen deserved that much. Whatever your stance on college players skipping bowl games to preserve their health for the NFL, it’s certainly a route Allen could have chosen. That was true before he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder, and it was far truer afterward.
It would have made for an awkward ending to Allen’s Wyoming career, and it likely would have created an unfortunate amount of backlash.
Thankfully, we’ll never have to know. You can chalk up Allen’s decision to his team-first attitude, like Bohl did after the game. Maybe he just really wanted to show NFL Scouts then and there that his arm still has the juice; he sure wasted no time doing that. Either way, Allen was out there, and he threw three touchdowns in his first seven passes.
“It’s a blessing to have him back,” defensive end Carl Granderson said. “We were just hoping he played this game. We really needed him. He’s a big part of the team.”
Granderson scored a touchdown on one of Wyoming’s eight takeaways Friday, making it impossible to ignore that the Cowboys’ turnaround has not come entirely on the shoulders of Allen. But there is no denying what Allen did to revitalize this program, both with his talent and the flair with which he used it.
He had given Wyoming so many memorable moments and had been the catalyst to so many wins that it just felt right for him to go out on top, even if the stage was a different one than he had hoped for.
His final act at Wyoming will not be a junior’s Senior Day introduction, a moment met with confusion more than warmth, or a third straight game with Allen in a headset.
Still, the best part was not that Allen was named MVP. It was that we got to see Allen play one more time in a Wyoming jersey.
We got our encore, and Allen came out and played the hits. The game got out of hand so quickly that Allen was more handoff specialist than gunslinger in the second half.
But he left the game to chants all the same.