Pokes Come From Behind to Beat Rebels

The Cowboys didn't manage to get completely on top of their turnover problem, but another solid day from the defense combined with some late-game heroics from Karsten Sween lifted Wyoming over UNLV Saturday.

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn was quick to focus on the positive after his team's conference battle with UNLV.

"Two is better than five," he said of quarterback Karsten Sween's two interceptions.

Sween bounced back from the pair of picks to throw two second-half touchdowns, and the Cowboys edged out the Rebels 29-24 in Laramie Saturday.

After giving up five turnovers at Air Force a week ago, Sween's interceptions were the only turnovers in the game against the Rebels, and the Cowboys got two picks of their own from safeties Michael Ray and Quincy Rogers.

"Throw away the stats," Glenn said. "We found a way to win, and that's what is most important."

As usual, the Cowboys defense gave the offense plenty of help, forcing two turnovers and finishing with a season-high seven sacks.

"I really give a lot of credit to our defensive line," said Wyoming linebacker Ward Dobbs, who finished with 15 tackles. "UNLV runs a spread offense and has some good athletes, so when you can put pressure on the quarterback it makes things a lot easier."

Defensive end John Fletcher made eight tackles in the game, including 2.5 sacks and four tackles for a loss. Mitch Unrein and Mike Neuhaus each added two sacks.

"I don't know what it was, but something was going right for us today," Fletcher said. "We kind of just went back to basics. We ran a little more line stunts than what we did last week, and I think it paid off. It shut down the run and they had to start passing, and that's when we started getting all our sacks."

Backup quarterback Ian Hetrick started in place of Sween, who threw three picks last week. Hetrick avoided turnovers against the Rebels but completed just five passes on 16 attempts for 64 yards.

"We've really been struggling more than any other team that I've been with in a long time," Glenn said. "You just keep plugging away at it and I knew sooner or later we would find a rhythm.

"Karsten, with the most experience, we felt like he should be the one out there. I love Ian. He is a great guy but doesn't have very much experience. Karsten did come in and finally dialed it in."

UNLV linebacker Beau Bell returned Sween's second interception for a touchdown, giving the Rebels their biggest lead of the game at 17-9. But Sween found wide receiver David Leonard on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 5:18 left in the third quarter, pulling the Pokes within two points.

"I thought that…was a key moment in the game for us," Glenn said.

For Sween, it was a turning point.

"It was tough, especially after I threw the second pick," he said. "I didn't know what was going to happen, but when they stayed with me and we started getting something going, that was nice."

A one-yard touchdown run by Devin Moore with 13:35 left in the game gave Wyoming its first lead of the second half at 21-17. An offensive pass interference call on the two-point conversion attempt pushed the try back to the 18-yard line, but Sween threaded a bullet to Hoost Marsh over the middle to make the score 23-17.

The Rebels bounced back through the air on their next possession and got some help from two 15-yard Wyoming penalties. A pass interference call against cornerback Michael Medina on third-and-23 gave the Rebels the ball on their own 25-yard line and kept the drive alive. A late hit by John Fletcher seven plays later moved the ball inside the red zone, and quarterback Omar Clayton punched in a one-yard touchdown with 8:32 left in the game, putting UNLV back on top 24-23.

"I think we were very competitive," said UNLV head coach Mike Sanford. "I think we played hard.

"We have to find a way to get over the hump and win these football games in the fourth quarter."

Wyoming answered with a 63-yard drive on its next possession. Sween hit tight end Wade Betschart on a three-yard touchdown pass that put the Pokes up 29-24 with 5:42 remaining, and a failed two-point conversion kept the lead at five points.

"We needed to score some points," Glenn said. "We stayed hard at it…(and) finally it kicked in.

"We practice for that stuff. It was real exciting. I couldn't take much more."

Sween finished eight-of-17 for 92 yards. Moore added 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Leonard finished with three catches for 45 yards and a score.

UNLV wideout Casey Flair led all receivers in the game with 10 catches for 121 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter that gave the Rebels their first lead of the game at 10-9.

The Cowboys got out of the gates quickly with a stop on the defense's first series and a 75-yard run by Marsh on their first offensive play of the game. After that, however, the Pokes mustered just 86 yards of offense in the first half.

"I take my hat off to UNLV who fought really hard today and has struggled over the last couple games," Glenn said. "They are a good team but ran into a scrappy Wyoming team today."

Billy Vinnedge kicked three field goals to give Wyoming an early 9-0 lead, but UNLV stormed back in the second quarter. A 47-yard field goal by Sergio Aguayo set up Flair's touchdown, and the Rebels took a one-point lead into the break.

UNLV helped out the Pokes with 14 penalties for 113 yards, and Sanford was less than thrilled about the lack of discipline.

"We had too many penalties and we had too many personal fouls to win the game," he said. "We are not going to be a stupid football team and make stupid mistakes. That was the kind of competitiveness I expect out of them, but that is not the kind of intelligent football I expect out of them.

"It is something we are going to get corrected," he added. "We are a no-excuses, no-explanation football team….If the penalties got called, then we are responsible for them."

The Cowboys have now won the last four meetings with UNLV and have won six of their last seven home games. They'll be on the road the next two weeks to take on conference foes San Diego State and Utah.

"We're a much better road team than we've been in the past," said linebacker Sean Claffey, who finished with seven tackles, three pass breakups and a half a sack. "We feel confident going on the road now, and we just got to get that mindset of going on the road and winning."

The lone home game remaining on the Pokes' schedule is Nov. 17 against current league-leader BYU.

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