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Wyoming Cowboys lobby for bowl game after disappointing 6-6 finish

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LARAMIE – Play on?

Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said his team would cherish the opportunity to play in a bowl game, despite finishing 2-4 in the Mountain West with a deflating 38-14 loss to Hawaii in Saturday’s regular-season finale at War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys (6-6) finished .500 overall after the program’s first 4-0 start since 1996.

“I’m confident they want to keep playing football,” Bohl said of his players. “I’m going to make a pitch. I think the Mountain West right now is the sixth-rated conference in the country. We won all of our non-conference games. We ran into a tough conference schedule. We’ve won six games. That qualifies us.”

Joe Tiller’s 1996 Pokes were not extended a bowl bid after finishing 10-2 overall with an overtime loss to BYU in the WAC championship game.

Times and expectations have changed.

“I think you will see us go out and dominate a team like we should have done in a lot of our games,” cornerback Azizi Hearn said when asked about the 2021 Cowboys’ motivation to play in a bowl. “But that’s the past and you learn from it. It would mean a lot for every single one of us.”

UW talked in the offseason about finally competing for a MWC title, but Bohl’s most experienced and deepest roster fell well short of that goal.

There were some quality road wins, with the 50-43 comeback at Northern Illinois and the 44-17 romp at Utah State at the top of the list.

The Huskies (8-4) will play in the Mid-American championship game against Kent State, and the Aggies (8-4) will play in the MWC title game against San Diego State.

The Cowboys also beat rival Colorado State, 31-17, to improve the super seniors’ record in the Border War to 5-1. But the Rams (3-8) started the season with home losses to South Dakota State and Vanderbilt and ended the disastrous campaign with six consecutive conference losses.

New Mexico’s 14-3 win to spoil homecoming in Laramie was the Lobos’ only MWC win. Hawaii was 2-5 in conference play before routing UW to improve to 6-7 overall.

Bohl admitted that he did not get his team prepared to win on Saturday and said the players had a “deer-in-the-headlights” look in their eyes against the Warriors.

“As well as what we played against Utah State, I think you can take it 180 degrees different,” Bohl said. “We played that poorly (Saturday). I’ve coached 38 years, a lot of ups and downs. I think we’ve got to regroup and take a look at what we’ve done well and correct some of the things we did poorly.”

UW was ranked fourth nationally in passing yards allowed (164.3 per game), and Hawaii ranked 127th out of 130 FBS teams in passing yards allowed (298.3 yards per game) entering Saturday’s matchup.

Levi Williams was 15-for-24 passing for 161 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Neyor late in the third quarter. Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro was 19-for-31 passing for 323 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

Cordeiro also rushed for a team-high 86 yards with a touchdown. His 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Jared Smart on the final snap of the first half proved to be an early dagger.

“I don’t know if it was our worst performance, but it seemed out of step considering where we had been,” Bohl said. “So I have to take a look at myself.”

Bohl would prefer to start the self-evaluation during bowl practices instead of officially saying goodbye to the seniors and waiting until spring practices to recalibrate.

In the latest postseason projections, The Athletic has the Pokes playing Western Kentucky on Dec. 18 in the New Mexico Bowl and CBS has UW playing Tulsa on Dec. 24 in the Hawaii Bowl.

The Cowboys have played in three bowls during Bohl’s previous seven seasons – a loss to BYU in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl, a win over Central Michigan in the 2017 Potato Bowl and a win over Georgia State in the 2019 Arizona Bowl.

UW finished 6-6 in 2018, including a four-game winning streak to end the season, but did not receive a bowl invitation.

“Unlike other sports, when you take those pads off for the last time, it hurts,” Bohl said. “Our guys, they want to keep playing. I want to keep coaching them.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn


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