Thanks to a career-high five touchdowns from junior quarterback Brett Smith, the University of Wyoming football team rolled to an impressive 56-23 victory over Air Force on Saturday in Falcon Stadium.
In front of a crowd of 35,389, the Pokes rolled up 454 first-half yards and 42 points, and kept it going in the second half as UW won its Mountain West opener and finished with 622 total yards and a 16-year high in points en route to the victory. Wyoming (3-1 overall, 1-0 MW) didn't punt until late in the third quarter and rolled up 34 first downs, while limiting Air Force (1-3, 0-3 MW) to just 24. The 56 points on the scoreboard for UW was the most since 1997, when the Cowboys defeated Iowa State 56-10.
Smith had scoring tosses of 7, 61, 4 and 10 yards, along with a 6-yard scamper, to give UW a 42-17 halftime lead. For the day, Smith finished with 511 total yards, a UW single-game record, besting the previous high of 482 (Josh Wallwork vs. Idaho, 1996). He also became the UW career leader in TD passes, as he now has 60 in three seasons.
Senior wide receiver Robert Herron had nine grabs for 94 yards and a score, while junior wide receiver Dominic Rufran had eight catches for 117 yards and two TDs. Herron and Rufran now rank eighth on the career TD catches list. The Cowboys were 10-for-14 on third downs and 1-for-1 on fourth down.
Defensively, UW was led by linebackers Lucas Wacha and Jordan Stanton with 10 and nine tackles, respectively. Sophomore defensive end Eddie Yarbrough had eight tackles and one tackle for loss. The UW defense had five tackles for loss, limited Air Force to just 6-of-14 on third down and had two fourth-down stops.
Air Force struck quickly as the Falcons had a 33-yard touchdown run with 12:51 on the clock in the first stanza to lead 7-0. But Smith took the momentum back the very next play with a career-long 74-yard rush, getting it all the way down to the Air Force 1. Two plays later, Smith found junior wide receiver Dominic Rufran from 7 yards out to even the score at 7 with 11:51 to go in the first quarter. The play was an historic one, as Smith moved into first place in the UW record books for passing TDs and Rufran moved up the career TD list.
The UW defense stiffened in the red zone on the next Air Force possession, holding the Falcons to a field goal to trail just 10-7 with 8:50 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cowboy defense came up with a nice fourth-down stop with 4:40 to go in the first quarter to take over at the UW 34, and two plays later, Smith found Rufran on a 61-yard catch and run for the TD, and UW led 14-10 with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Junior linebacker Nehemie Kankolongo forced his first career fumble with a hit on a kickoff return in the second quarter, recovered by senior linebacker Devyn Harris. UW took over at its 36-yard line with 13:45 to go in the half. The Falcons added a 6-yard TD rush with 8:18 left in the first half to trail 28-17, but that was the closest Air Force would get on the scoreboard.
UW's next contest pits the Pokes against Texas State on the road Saturday. The game begins at 5 p.m. MT on the Longhorn Network.