LARAMIE – Craig Bohl has witnessed a lot during his nearly four decades on the sideline.
Last Saturday’s turn of events — Wyoming’s allowed a 42-16 lead to evaporate into a 43-42 deficit before pulling out a 50-43 victory over Northern Illinois — was a uniquely stressful experience for Bohl.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a game that has flipped as fast as what this game did,” Bohl said during his Monday press conference. “Northern Illinois, credit to them. They believed they could hang in there and fight, which they did. They got some things going. I thought we stubbed our toe and didn’t play as well as we could have.
“But the resolve of our football team to come back and finish off the game, both on the offense and defense, really has been good the last two times.”
The Cowboys (2-0), who defeated Montana State and NIU with clutch scoring drives in the final minutes to match the program’s 2020 win total, are bracing for more #MACtion this week.
UW hosts reigning Mid-American Conference champion Ball State on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium (2 p.m., Stadium).
The defense will be looking to finish stronger after giving up 33 points and 301 yards in the second half inside hot and humid Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
“I definitely thought we got complacent,” nickel back Keyon Blankenbaker said. “We didn’t finish out the game. That’s what I kind of saw of the defense in the fourth quarter. We held on to a win. That’s all that matters.
“We are very prideful, we’ve got a huge test this weekend and we’re going to bounce back for sure.”
Bohl credited NIU quarterback Rocky Lombardi for avoiding the rush and running back Harrison Waylee for making big plays during the rally.
UW defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said the mistakes his unit made can easily be fixed in practice.
“From a coaching standpoint, the corrections are not earth shattering on what we have to do,” Sawvel said. “I think we were kind of on the edge of letting off the gas a little bit as a football team. You’re up 42-16 and didn’t finish some things like we needed to.”
Sean Chambers and the offense had a chance to drive the final nail in the Huskies’ coffin early in the fourth quarter when Bohl left them on the field for a fourth-and-1 at the NIU 10-yard line.
Xazavian Valladay, who finished with 101 rushing yards and a touchdown, was swarmed to the ground in the backfield.
The Huskies rode the wave of momentum for touchdowns on their next three possession to take the lead with 4:56 remaining.
“That’s how football goes. Things don’t always go your way, and you’re always going to face adversity,” senior right guard Logan Harris said. “Credit to our offense and how we reacted the last two weeks to the adversity that we faced.”
Chambers completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Treyton Welch with 47 seconds left in the 19-16 win over Montana State and ran for a 9-yard touchdown on third-and-goal with 1:35 left to beat NIU.
“I think you’re seeing some real maturity from Sean,” said Bohl, who was pleased with UW’s balance on offense (204 yards passing, 191 yards rushing). “We looked explosive.”
The Cowboys have escaped with two dramatic wins and no injuries of note this season, other than Bohl’s stress-induced cold sores.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been through two back-to-back games that have ended the way they have, and I’ve coached 38 years,” Bohl said. “It’s great to be 2-0.”
Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn