LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Trey Smith's breakout game included an 80-yard touchdown scamper amid a personal best 152 yards, helping Wyoming hold on for a 21-16 win over Idaho on Saturday, the Cowboys' seventh straight victory dating to last season.
It was the first 100-yard game for Smith, a graduate transfer from Louisville. On his long score, he bounced off linebacker Christian Elliss at the line, shook a would-be ankle tackler a few yards farther downfield, regained his balance, then won a footrace down the right sideline.
Smith, whose previous high was 98 yards last season while playing for Louisville, credited his offensive line.
"They kept fighting and finishing their blocks and I'm just really proud of them," he said, adding that the crowd spurred him on. "It felt amazing. To have the fans behind me on that long run — that's a feeling that I'm going to remember forever."
Elliss, the Vandals' second-leading tackler with nine, including one for loss, pinned the defeat on himself for not stopping Smith at the line of scrimmage on the decisive score.
"I got my hands on him, but sadly the tight end kind of cracked me a little bit, and if I would have just blown faster, it would have been a 2-yard gain," Elliss said. "I'm gonna make it up to my team. I'm gonna make it up next week and for the rest of the season."
The TD put Wyoming up 21-13, but Cade Coffey's third field goal, from 24 yards, trimmed the lead to 21-16 with 7:20 to go after Wyoming's Esaias Gandy batted away a third-down pass by Mason Petrino in the end zone. The Cowboys' Solomon Byrd sacked Petrino to stuff the Vandals' next drive, and Smith rushed for a pair of first downs to allow the Cowboys to run out the clock.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, who saw his team force six turnovers in its first two games, credited Idaho's effort.
"They did a good job of taking care of the football. We didn't come up with any takeaways," he said. "We had to overcome a lot of self-inflicted wounds. ... When push came to shove, our guys made plays."
Idaho coach Paul Petrino complimented his team's tenacity but lamented key penalties, which included an offensive pass-interference call in the end zone on the Vandals' last drive.
"I told them you can't get 15-yard penalties," he said. "You have to be disciplined, do things right, (but) several of them will look at film and be proud with the toughness and effort."
Austin Conway's 45-yard punt return led to a 10-yard TD run by Smith late in the first half, putting the Cowboys up 14-10. Conway caught the Vandals' coverage team by surprise by scooping up the ball just as it appeared it would roll dead.
Roshaun Johnson's 15-yard TD run gave Idaho (1-2) a 10-0 lead after its first two possessions. Raghib Ismail Jr.'s 12-yard run for Wyoming (3-0) cut the lead to 10-7 moments before Conway's surprise punt return.
Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers, who was averaging 182.5 yards of total offense, was held to 26 yards rushing on 11 carries and completed 4 of 12 passes for 50 yards. Several passes were dropped.
Mason Petrino was 15 of 33 passing for 184 yards but was sacked four times. Johnson had 69 yards on 15 carries.
Tre Walker had 13 tackles to lead Idaho, while Logan Wilson had 11 for Wyoming, including two pass breakups and a tackle for loss. Garrett Crall had eight tackles, including a pair of sacks for the Cowboys.
LOWER TIER SUCCESS
Wyoming improved to 7-1 against Idaho. Since 2000, Wyoming is 15-2 against FCS teams, with all games being played in Laramie.
In 1969, 14 African-American football players were dismissed from the Wyoming team for asking their coach if they could wear black armbands before a game against Brigham Young to protest racist treatment by BYU players in a game the prior season. Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman invited the 11 living members of the so-called Black 14 back to campus and presented the eight players who attended with letterman's jackets they would have earned had they remained on the team.
Tony McGee, a defensive end on the '69 squad, transferred to another college and went on to a 14-year NFL career, which included a Super Bowl title with the Washington Redskins in 1982.
"Super Bowl rings are great, but right now, this is something that I missed 50 years ago, something I desired 50 years ago, maybe even a bowl bid," McGee said. "Right now, this is so special in my life. At this moment, this is No. 1."
GREAT AT THE GATE
The attendance of 28,814 allowed Wyoming to break its mark for the first two home games of a season. The total of 54,851 snapped the previous opening two-game record, set in 2007, by 3,788.
Idaho: After a humiliating 79-7 loss at No. 15 Penn State to open the season, the Vandals rebounded with a 41-31 win over Division II Central Washington. Against Wyoming, the Vandals picked up 67 yards on the ground on their first two drives, but only seven yards on their next eight possessions, finishing with 93. Still, a stout defense and a respectable passing game (210 yards) kept Idaho in a tight battle all day.
Wyoming: For the third straight game, the Cowboys fell behind by at least 10 points early and had to fight back. An opening 37-31 upset of Missouri has been followed up with a pair of lackluster efforts, although the team's 3-0 start is its best since 2011.
Idaho: The Vandals will host Big Sky opponent Eastern Washington next Saturday, but the game won't count in the conference standings because it was added after each team's league games were set. Idaho leads the series 15-7 but has lost three straight to the Eagles.
Wyoming: The Cowboys finish their nonconference schedule at Tulsa on Saturday. The Cowboys lead the series 3-2, but the schools haven't met since 1998 when both were in the WAC.