LARAMIE – The team that flew over 5,000 miles from Honolulu to the High Plains on Thanksgiving Day showed up ready to celebrate the holiday weekend with a win.
And the Cowboys? Well, they were the turkeys.
Wyoming finished a puzzling regular season with a 6-6 record after a 38-14 loss to Hawaii on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
A week after dominating Mountain Division champion Utah State 44-17 on the road, Craig Bohl’s team forgot to show up for senior day.
“I want to take a look at myself and say, ‘Why in the heck weren’t we prepared?’ Because we weren’t,” Bohl said after the Pokes finished 2-6 in Mountain West play after talking about kicking the championship door down leading into the season. “So if you want to come up with an answer, just say Coach Bohl didn’t have them very well prepared. The bottom line: That’s what it was. And coach (Todd) Graham had that group prepared, and we got schooled up.”
The Warriors (6-7) led 14-0 after the first quarter, 24-0 late in the second quarter and 31-7 at the intermission after scoring on a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half.
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“In my opinion, it’s a little disappointing to have those highs and have those games where we are super low like today,” star linebacker Chad Muma said after finishing his final home game with nine tackles.
Whatever halftime adjustments Bohl and his staff made did not work.
On its first two possessions of the third quarter, UW punted from the Hawaii 45-yard line and had a three-and-out.
The Warriors had a 32-yard touchdown pass negated by an ineligible man down field, and pressure by Easton Gibbs led to a Victor Jones interception in the red zone to keep the Cowboys within three scores.
Levi Williams connected on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Neyor to get UW within 31-14 with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Gibbs stopped Calvin Turner in the backfield on fourth-and-1, but the Cowboys’ offense went four-and-out after Hawaii turned the ball over on downs.
Chevan Cordeiro threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to uncovered tight end Steven Fiso for the final score with 6:27 remaining.
Sean Chambers replaced Williams at quarterback, but UW turned the ball over on downs again with 4:29 left.
“I’m going to tell you one thing, at least for me personally, that I would say caused a lot of the losses. I feel like it has to be our preparation,” cornerback Azizi Hearn said when asked about UW’s inconsistent play throughout the season. “Because we go dominate Utah State, we lose to Hawaii, we lose to New Mexico. …
“We’ve got to approach it better or something. I haven’t figured it out, there’s too many things to think about.”
After a sluggish start to the game following the introduction of the seven super seniors who played their final home game, UW finally showed some signs of life after a 4-yard touchdown run by Titus Swen cut the deficit to 24-7 with 1:36 remaining in the second quarter.
Bohl decided not to call a timeout before Hawaii’s third-and-14 on the ensuing drive, which allowed the visitors to bleed the clock. Then the Warriors moved the chains with a simple run play.
“We were off-kilter on defense, and I’m an old defensive guy,” Bohl said when asked about not using a timeout to try to get the ball back with a stop. “At that time I was thinking, they’re backed up, let’s get out of here, let’s regroup. We’ve got to do some major adjustments at halftime.”
After UW did use a timeout to set up the defense to prevent the unthinkable, Cordeiro made a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jared Smart with no time left look routine and not like a prayer.
“I did call timeout with four seconds left and the reason why is they were going to take a shot in the end and we were not prepared for that at all,” Bohl said. “If anything kind of encompasses how the whole day went, it was a bad-assed hair day. It was bad. And we’ve got to move forward from it and learn from it.”
The crowd of 14,213 was too stunned to boo as the Cowboys entered the swanky High Altitude Performance Center dejected and the Warriors ran into the antiquated visiting locker room on cloud nine.
On the opening drive of the game, Cordeiro capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown scamper to give the visitors a 7-0 head start.
Williams completed three third-down passes for 32 yards in the Pokes’ first drive, but pressure from the Hawaii defensive front led to an incompletion on the fourth third-down attempt.
John Hoyland, who made three field goals at Utah State, missed a 53-yard field goal attempt.
A pass-interference call against Muma in the end zone set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Calvin Turner with 3:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Cordeiro completed a 28-yard pass to Turner to move the chains on third-and-16 and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Fiso to make the score 21-0 in the second quarter.
Matthew Shipley’s 25-yard goal extended Hawaii’s lead to 24-0 with 5:22 remaining in the first half.
The Warriors out-gained UW 312-219 in total offense in the first half and 490-305 for the game.
Believe it or not, both six-win teams are holding out hope for a bowl bid. Somewhere, the 1996 Pokes are shaking their heads.
“I know this locker room is disappointed right now. Deep down inside they want to keep playing,” Bohl said. “I think we have elements of being a good football team. We certainly didn’t show it today.”
Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn