TUCSON, AZ – New Years Eve in Tucson, AZ? Why not? And for the Wyoming Cowboys (8-5, 4-4), they were all about it as both the fans and team traveled well, coming away with the 38-17 win over the Georgia State Panthers (7-6, 4-4).
The Cowboys would turn to freshman quarterback Levi Williams to hopefully jump start the offense, and the decision certainly paid big dividends, as Williams finished the game with an impressive 234 yards passing with three touchdowns to just one interception.
“I think it was the right move,” said Wyoming head coach, Craig Bohl. “He [Levi] was composed and made a lot of big plays… but for a freshman and really any quarterback I thought he played with great poise and composure.”
That of course was to be outdone by running back Xazavian Valladay. The redshirt sophomore and do-it-all workhorse, would arguably have the biggest day for the Cowboys, rushing for 204 yards and a touchdown, to go along with his 91 yards receiving and touchdown through the air as well.
Together the two capped a terrific season for the Cowboys in which they ended the year with not only their eighth win of the year, but more importantly the first bowl win since 2017, with a win in the Arizona Nova Home Loans Bowl.
Following the win, senior safety Alijah Halliburton was full of emotions, capping not only a terrific senior season, but a fantastic career in Laramie. “I’m just like happy, excited, sad, it’s just all over the place,” he said. “It’s my last game, but it was just such a big game.”
For the Cowboys, it’s a big step in the right direction, especially for a program that went 2-10 just a few seasons ago. And for the third time in the last four years, Wyoming has gone bowling.
“This program just flipped,” Halliburton said. “Coming in 2-10… I could just tell from the other seniors and the others players, they wanted to change, they wanted to get better, they wanted to get wins.”
However, the win wouldn’t come easy at first as Georgia State would start this game strong! Opening the game on a six-play, 75-yard drive, the Panthers would take the 7-0 lead early with just over two minutes into the game after a Dan Ellington rushing touchdown from four-yards out. Unfortunately for them, that was about the best thing the Panthers did all day.
Wyoming would respond quickly, connecting on a 53-yard, Cooper Rothe field goal with 9:01 to go in the first quarter to pull the Cowboys within four.
Just a few series later, they would gain the lead at 10-7 after a Williams would connect with Austin Conway from 18-yards out with 2:12 to go in the first, and from there Wyoming wouldn’t look back, cruising to a commanding 24-10 halftime lead.
Georgia State would put up a bit more of a fight in the second half, but it was too little too late as they ultimately fell sort in this one.
Wyoming would score early in the second half, extending their lead to 31-10 before the Panthers would find the endzone again, but that would be the last time they scored in this one.
Despite playing on a torn ACL, Ellington would finish his day with 156 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception to go along with his 70 yards rushing with a touchdown.
For Wyoming, they end the year at 8-5 and have a bright future with some young players, while Georgia State will look to rebound and finally get over the hump and continue to build their program.
Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott is certainly optimistic about it all. “We have some of the biggest wins in school history, and you go 5-1 at home, I mean there’s a lot of firsts that we’ve done here,” he said. “So people are taking notice of Georgia State.”