College Football

Ohio overcomes Wyoming in OT, wins Arizona Bowl

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TUCSON, Ariz. – A ten yard touchdown reception by Tyler Foster in overtime secured the Ohio Bobcats a 30-27 victory over the Wyoming Cowboys in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl in front of 27,691 at Arizona Stadium Friday night.

Ohio won the toss and deferred. Cowboy receiver Wyatt Wieland fielded the kickoff at the Wyoming 25-yard line and returned it five yards. The Cowboys began the drive at their own 30.

Prior to the game, they Wyoming Cowboys guarded their running backs with the greatest of secrecy in the wake of the dismissal of Titus Swen from the team for violating team rules at the conclusion of the season. On the first play from scrimmage, a rush for two yards, it was revealed that Jordon Vaughn, a redshirt freshman, would be one of the running backs featured on the day. Linebacker Sam Scott, also a redshirt freshman, also converted over to running back.

Quarterback Andrew Peasley led the Cowboys the 70 yards to the game’s first score 4:42 later, a 17-yard rush for touchdown by Vaughn, the first touchdown of his collegiate career. John Hoyland’s extra point made the score 7-0 in favor of Wyoming with 10:12 left in the first quarter.

Hoyland booted the kickoff to the Ohio goal line. Keegan Wilburn eluded tackles and was pushed out of bounds at the Ohio 42-yard line to give the Bobcats good field position when the offense took the field.

Quarterback C.J. Harris, making his third start since taking over for the injured Kurtis Rourke, hit receiver Miles Cross for a 10-yard catch to the Wyoming 48. Harris ran for two yard and then receiver Sam Wiglusz was caught behind the line of scrimmage for a three-yard loss, setting up a 3rd-and-11. Harris threw incomplete to Wiglusz that should have set up a punt on fourth down, but Wyoming cornerback Kolbey Taylor was flagged for targeting. The penalty gave the Bobcats a fresh set of downs at the Wyoming 34, and saw Taylor ejected from the game.

On the next play, Harris hit receiver Jacoby Jones with a 34-yard touchdown strike. Bobcats punter Jonah Wieland threw the two yard pass to long snapper Justin Holloway to convert the two-point conversion to give Ohio the 8-7 lead with 8:23 remaining in the opening quarter.

Wyoming tried establishing the running game on their next possession, but outside of a 14-yard completion to receiver Alex Brown, found themselves facing 4th-and-9 on the Ohio 44 eight plays later to set up a punt.

Punter Clayton Stewart drilled the punt to the Ohio 14-yard line, but Wiglusz muffed the punt, which was recovered by Wyoming’s Mitchell Anderson on the 17-yard line. Peasley fired a pass to tight end Treyton Welch who grabbed it at the one-yard line and backed into the end zone for a quick touchdown. Hoyland’s extra point attempt was good, giving Wyoming a 14-8 lead with 3:58 remaining in the opening frame.

The next series for Ohio featured freshman running back Sieh Bangura, who rushed four times for 13 yards in the next seven plays to give the Bobcats a 3rd-and-2 at the Wyoming 41-yard line when the quarter ended.

When play resumed, Harris rushed for a dozen yards and running back Nolan McCormick picked up three yards, but two incomplete passes forced the Bobcats to settle for a 43-yard field goal by kicker Nathaniel Vakos with 13:28 remaining in the half. Wyoming still led 14-11, but the Bobcats ran 12 plays for 49 yards and took 5:30 off the clock during that drive.

The Cowboys went back to Vaughn and the running game, but the Bobcat defense held them to five plays and 24 yards in the next possession, forcing a punt back to Ohio with 9:48 remaining in the half.

The Bobcats began their next possession at their own 20 and kept the ground game alive. Two quarterback keepers by Harris, and three rushes by Bangura brought the ball back into Wyoming territory. However, a 10-yard holding penalty by center Parker Titsworth made it 1st-and-20 from the Wyoming 44-yard line, and then Wyoming defensive end DeVonne Harris sacked Bobcats quarterback C.J. Harris for a seven-yard loss. Now it was 2nd-and-27 with the ball at the Ohio 49. C.J. Harris was nearly sacked on the next play, which was an incomplete pass, and then made up some of the yardage with a 15-yard pass to receiver James Bostic. It wasn’t enough for the first down. Nathanial Vakos came on to attempt a 53-yard field goal but it fell short.

Both teams were forced to punt on their next possessions.

The Cowboys found a sense of urgency when they received the ball on their own 35-yard line with 1:11 remaining in the half. Welch caught a reception for nine-yards, Vaughn rushed for six-yards, and Peasley scrambled for a 22-yard gain to put the ball on the Ohio 28-yard line. A sack by Bobcats defensive end Vonnie Watkins pushed the Cowboys back seven yards. Hoyland came on to kick a 52-yard field goal to give Wyoming a 17-11 halftime lead.

Ohio commenced operations in the second half beginning on their 23-yard line but they never got things going and were forced to punt after five plays. The next three possessions, including two by Wyoming, were three-and-outs.

When the Bobcats received the ball on their own 44 with 7:21 remaining in the third quarter, the Ohio offensive line were able to wear down the Cowboys defensive front and open up holes for Bangura. The 6-0 200 pound back was able to pound out rushes of 5- and 8-yards before breaking open a 40 yard run until he was brought down by Wyoming linebacker Easton Gibbs at the Wyoming 3. Bangura rushed for a three-yard touchdown on the next play. Four plays, all rushes by Bangura, and the Bobcats were able to march 56 yards. Vakos kicked the extra point to put the Bobcats ahead 18-17 with 5:14 left in the third quarter.

The defenses again held tough as each team was forced to punt on its next possession. Ohio faced 4th-and-15 from their 17-yard line when the quarter ended. A 41-yard punt by Jack Wilson on the first play of the fourth quarter gave Wyoming the ball on their own 42-yard line.

Peasley threw a bomb to Alex Brown on their first play of the possession, but it was picked off by cornerback Torrie Cox Jr. at the Ohio 20-yard line and returned 15 yards to the Ohio 35. However, the Bobcats failed to score points off of the turnover. A penalty and a sack kept the Bobcats from advancing further than 24 yards over the next eight plays and Watson was forced to punt again.

The Cowboys were pinned down to their own 11-yard line to begin their next possession, but once again went three-and-out having gained only one yard on three plays. Stewart punted 53-yards to the Ohio 35-yard line where the Bobcats would begin their next drive.

Immediately C.J. Harris hooked up with receiver Miles Cross for a 15-yard catch to midfield. Bangura gained ten yards on four rushes and Harris added a 13-yard rush on a quarterback keeper. After seven plays and 38 yards gained, which took just over four minutes off the clock, Vakos kicked a 45-yard field goal to extend the Ohio lead to 21-17 with 4:17 left in regulation.

Wyoming went back to the game plan that worked when they began the contest. The Cowboys marched 75 yards on six plays, including two catches totaling 44 yards by Welch and an 11-yard completion by receiver Ryan Marquez, to set up Vaughn’s 5-yard rush for his second touchdown of the day. Hoyland added the extra point to give the Cowboys a 24-21 lead with 2:08 remaining.

This forced Ohio to abandon the run game also. Starting on their own 17-yard line, Harris hit Bangura, and tight ends Alec Burton and Will Kacmarek for gains. A 24-yard completion to Burton on 3rd-and-8 put the ball at the Wyoming 40 and a first down.

After two incomplete passes, it was 3rd-and-10 from the 40 when Harris threw an incompletion to Tyler Foster. Wyoming linebacker Easton Gibbs was called for pass interference on the play, which gave Ohio a fresh set of downs and put the ball on the Wyoming 32. After a Jacoby Jones four-yard reception, Vakos nailed a 56-yard field goal to tie the game and force overtime.

The Bobcats won the toss and deferred, which meant that the Cowboys would have possession on the Ohio 25-yard line. Peasley connected with Marquez for a 13-yard reception, rushed twice for two yards total, and threw incomplete intended for Wieland. This set up Hoyland’s 29-yard field goal to give Wyoming a 27-24 lead.

Ohio now would have to score either a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win. If the Wyoming defense forces a turnover or stops the Bobcats on downs, the Cowboys would win.

Bangura banged out a nine-yard run, and then Harris added four more on a quarterback keeper. Bangura added three more and then was stopped for a one-yard loss on the Wyoming 10-yard line. On 3rd-and-8, Harris connected with Tyler Foster at the back of the end zone for the touchdown and the 30-27 victory. Harris was also named most valuable player in the game.

Harris was 22-for-33 with 183 yards and two touchdowns for Ohio. He was also sacked three times. Bangura gained 138 yards on 25 carries to lead all rushers. Harris picked up 52 yards rushing on 10 attempts. Miles Cross pulled down four receptions for 39 yards and Sam Wiglusz added 27 more on four receptions, while Jacoby Jones pulled down 3 receptions for 44 yard. Nathanial Vakos made field goals from 43 yards, 45 yards and 56 yards and one extra point. He missed one from 53 yards. The win gives Ohio a final record of 10-4.

For Wyoming, Peasley went 18-for-30 and passed for 186 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked four times. Jordon Vaughn gained 68 yards on 16 carries and Peasley rushed 11 times for 46 yards. Treyton Welch was the big receiver on the day with 91 yards on five catches. Ryan Marquez added 38 yards on four catches. John Hoyland made field goals from 29 and 53 yards plus three extra points. The loss drops Wyoming to 7-6 on the year.

“Four quarters and a little extra,” said Bobcats head coach Tim Albin. “They [Wyoming] battled to the end, as our team did. We were just fortunate enough to come out with the victory.”

Albin was quick to praise his young quarterback, C.J. Harris, who made only his third start. “I thought he ran his best game between the tackles. It was physical. There were some plays where it was just one yard and the pile just kept moving. We worked really hard to establish that in the third quarter and it really paid dividends.”

Ohio University turned some heads with the unconventional call for a two-point conversion when they put their first touchdown on the board and didn’t need to go for two.

“It wasn’t really anything we saw in the file. It’s something that we’ve repped really for the whole year. It just never really presented itself. I thought, ‘Hey, let’s roll with it,’” said Albin. “It’s a matter of getting the play ran versus the right look. There have been times that it’s been called and we’ve changed it based on the look, so there are a lot of things that go into running that, but running it at the right time is critical and it worked for us.”

When asked about what it meant personally for him winning against Wyoming’s head coach Craig Bohl, Albin said, “I just wanted to win the game. Craig is a personal friend and I’ll just leave it at that.”

“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Bohl. “We came in as an underdog and we had tons of adversity. It was a tough game, but I’m really proud of how we battled back from behind. There are a bunch of guys hurting in that locker room.”

“I told them not only how proud we were of them, but how much we loved them. In life, sometimes you give everything you have and sometimes the result is not always what you want it to be. We knew it was going to come down to a play here and there,” Bohl added. “In this game, there were a lots of plays that we made and lots of plays that Ohio made. I told them to hold their heads high, thanked the seniors who aren’t going to be back next year and that next season starts as soon as the plane lands back in Laramie.”

This was the third Arizona Bowl, since its inception seven years ago, to go into overtime. Previously, New Mexico State defeated Utah State 26-20 in overtime in 2017; and a year later, Nevada pulled out a 16-13 overtime win against Arkansas State. Last year’s contest was cancelled after Boise State was forced to withdraw from their contest against Central Michigan due to an outbreak of COVID-19 on the team.

The Arizona Bowl committee has given over $4.5 million to over 70 charities in Southern Arizona since 2015, according to the committee’s website.

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