The BYU Cougars held off a late Wyoming rally to win the Poinsettia Bowl 24-21.
Make no mistake about it: this was a huge victory for BYU. After all, Wyoming was arguably the most pleasant surprise in college football in 2016, winning eight games this season after posting a 2-10 mark last year. Given that the ‘Pokes beat Boise – which beat BYU the week before that game was played – this was clearly one of the toughest contests on the Cougars’ schedule. Add in the fact that the rivalry with Wyoming dates all the way back to 1912, and this game became a “must win” contest for BYU.
That’s exactly what the Cougars did.
However, it wasn’t exactly perfect. Sure, BYU jumped out to a 24-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the offense couldn’t get anything going on its final two drives, which kept Wyoming in the game. In addition, the Cougar defense struggled on third down, allowing the Cowboys to convert on 8 out of 15 third down opportunities and 3 out of 5 fourth down opportunities. As a result of these woes, Wyoming actually outgained BYU 362-312.
Despite these struggles, you’ve got to give the Cougars credit for winning the game. Although it gave up its share of yardage, the BYU D kept pressure on Josh Allen all night long, which resulted in two interceptions and a number of errant throws. And, while the offense sputtered late in the contest, the ground game still had a solid outing, as Jamaal Williams racked up 210 yards on 26 carries. This total was just 18 yards shy of the Poinsettia Bowl record.
With the victory, BYU finishes the season with a solid 9-4 record that includes wins against the Pac-12 (Arizona), SEC (Mississippi State), and Big Ten (Michigan State). The Cougars also closed out the year as one of the hottest teams in college football, winning eight of their final nine contests. Considering that BYU welcomes back seven starters on defense, four starters on the offensive line, and quarterback Tanner Mangum, there’s no reason to think that the Cougars won’t pick up right where they left off next fall.