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Nov. 11—LAS VEGAS — Disaster struck again, for the University of Wyoming football team Friday night in Las Vegas.
The Cowboys came out flat against UNLV in a crucial Mountain West matchup, falling behind three scores midway through the first quarter. UW was able to cut into the lead with two consecutive touchdowns, but a sloppy second half led to a 31-14 loss to drop the Cowboys out of MW title contention.
UW fell to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in conference play, while the Rebels stayed in the title hunt by improving to 8-2 and 5-1.
"I'm disappointed we weren't able to start faster, and we've got to take a look at that," UW coach Craig Bohl said after the game. "Some of that has got to come down to players taking some ownership, too. I'm not throwing anybody under the bus, but I talked to our team about that.
"One time, I made a statement (after the Boise State loss) saying we weren't ready to go, and I fell on the sword for that. I get it. It's ultimately my responsibility, but there's some grown men in that room that need to come out and be ready to play. We were not."
UW started the game with a quick three-and-out, and the Rebels scored three plays later after a 56-yard pass from quarterback Jayden Maiava to wide receiver Ricky White set the Rebels up at the Cowboys' 10-yard line. Maiava ran it in himself the next play to give UNLV an early 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.
UW quarterback Andrew Peasley lost a fumble on the ensuing drive to set the Rebels up at the Cowboys' 29-yard line, and UNLV scored seven plays later with a Maiava 1-yard touchdown run to go up 14-0.
After a third consecutive three-and-out from the Cowboys, UNLV capped a seven-play, 67-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run by running back Jai'Den Thomas to extend its lead to 21-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
UW was able to stop the bleeding after defensive end Sabastian Harsh recovered a Maiava fumble to set the Cowboys up at their own 47-yard line. UW scored its first points of the night four plays later with a 32-yard touchdown run from Peasley to cut the lead to 21-7 early in the second quarter.
After the teams traded punts, the Cowboys' defense came up with a huge turnover on downs with a tackle for loss by defensive end Tyce Westland. UW's offense put together an 11-play, 51-yard drive that was capped with a 1-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Wyatt Wieland to make it a one-score game at 21-14 late in the second quarter.
The Cowboys had a chance to tie the game going into halftime, but Peasley was picked off in the red zone with 12 seconds left in the second quarter to keep UNLV's lead at a touchdown going into the break.
"It was a bad read," Peasley said. "Terrible read. We were going tempo, and I saw the safety running over to Wyatt, and I thought he was late. It ended up being big zone, and it was a bad read. I played the wrong side."
UW started slow again in the second half, allowing the Rebels to extend their lead to 28-14 after a 13-play, 70-yard drive ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Maiava to tight end Kaleo Ballungay late in the third quarter.
The Cowboys put together a strong drive to start the final frame, but opted for a 52-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-three at the Rebels' 34-yard line, a kick John Hoyland missed wide left to keep it a two-score game. The miss was Hoyland's fifth in his past six attempts.
"That's not my call," Peasley said. "That's not my job to make decisions like that. I have full trust in John. I have full trust in coach Bohl. If he says we're going to go for it, we're going to go for it, and I'm going to do my best to get the first down. If we kick the field goal, I'm going to be watching John put it in."
UNLV made the most of the solid field position, tacking on a 39-yard field goal to go up 31-14 with less than eight minutes to play. The Rebels added one more 43-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter to bring the game to its final score of 34-14.
"What became apparent when we got taken to the woodshed at Boise and the same thing happens here: We are not positioned to win a Mountain West Conference championship," Bohl said. "Those are the facts. This loss is profoundly disappointing."
Starting running back Harrison Waylee was suspended for the first quarter against the Rebels for violating team rules, Bohl said. He finished the game with eight carries for 29 yards for an average of 3.6 yards per carry.
Peasley was 11-of-22 for 144 yards and one interception. He added a team-high 88 yards on the ground on 14 carries. Wyatt Wieland led the team in receiving with five catches for 72 yards.
"I'll put it all on myself. I'll put it all on the offense," Peasley said. "It's tough to solve the problem when you don't know what the problem is. I think it's us players that need to execute better.
"We have the game plan and we're doing everything we need to do, it's just execution and little mistakes. We have to be better."
The Cowboys will host their final home game of the season next weekend. UW will kickoff with Hawaii (3-7 overall, 1-4 MW) at noon Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
"It hurts bad," Wieland said. "We know that we needed this one to stay alive, but at the end of the day, we just have to move on. We still have two more opportunities and two more guaranteed (games), and then go from there.
"We have 24 hours to sulk about this, then we have to move on. We have to get ready for our next game."
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Alex Taylor is the assistant editor for WyoSports and covers University of Wyoming athletics. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X at @alex_m_taylor22.