Hill runs for the victory for Wyoming | NevadaAppeal.com

Hill runs for the victory for Wyoming

Joe Santoro
For the Appeal
Wolf Pack running back James Butler(20) tries to avoid Wyoming’s Garrett Gardner (28) and Marcus Epps (6) in the first half.
Steve Ranson/LVN |

RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack lost a football game Saturday night but also might have finally found its offense.

Backup quarterback Ty Gangi came off the bench for an injured Tyler Stewart in the first quarter and passed for 300 yards and a touchdown but it wasn’t enough as the Wyoming Cowboys beat the Wolf Pack 42-34 Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.

Stewart injured his right shoulder on the Wolf Pack’s third possession of the game with the Pack trailing 7-0. Gangi, who had thrown just 10 passes all season, completed 27-of-42 passes as the Wolf Pack scored all 34 points over the final three quarters.

Wyoming running back Brian Hill gained 289 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Cowboys improved to 5-2 and 3-0. Wolf Pack running back James Butler had 76 yards and also scored three touchdowns as the Wolf Pack, which has now lost four of its last five games, fell to 3-5, 1-3.

Wyoming led 21-13 at halftime as Hill carried the ball 16 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. The 6-foot-1 junior, who broke free for 41 yards on Wyoming’s first play of the game, exploded for 56 more and a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead eight minutes into the game.

Hill’s second touchdown was from two yards out, giving Wyoming a 14-3 lead with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. The 92-yard, eight-play drive also featured a 54-yard pass down the middle from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Tanner Gentry down to the Wolf Pack 6-yard line. Allen, who was just 4-of-6 through the air for 92 yards in the first half, also had a key 17-yard run on 3rd-and-8 on the third play of the drive.

The Cowboys’ third touchdown of the opening half saw Allen fake a handoff to Hill and keep it himself for a 1-yard score and a 21-10 lead with 1:23 left. The Cowboys covered all 75 yards on the 13-play drive on the ground as Hill carried seven times for 34 yards. Shaun Wick had three carries for 25 yards and Allen kept it himself three times for 16 yards.

Gangi, though, kept the Wolf Pack in the game in the first half. The 6-foot-2 sophomore played just three full drives in the first half and led the Pack to points all three times.

Hi first scoring drive covered 44 yards on 12 plays as the Pack cut Wyoming’s lead to 7-3 early in the second quarter.

Gangi connected with running back James Butler for 15 yards and a first down to the Wyoming 41-yard line on a screen pass and also found tight end Jarred Gipson for 12 yards down to the 28-yard line to set up Spencer Pettit’s 45-yard field goal.

Gangi then found the end zone on the Wolf Pack’s next drive. He hooked up with wide receiver Wyatt Demps for nine yards and a first down at the Wyoming 35-yard line and also connected with wide receiver Ahki Muhammad for 18 yards to the Cowboys 17 on a key 3rd-and-10 pass. Gangi, who accounted for 26 touchdowns (21 passing, five running) last season at Ventura College, cut Wyoming’s lead to 14-10 all by himself, scoring on a 17-yard run up the middle for his first Division I touchdown.

It was Gangi’s arm that keyed the Pack’s final scoring drive of the first half. Taking over at his own 21-yard line with 1:18 to go in the half, Gangi completed four passes for 46 yards to set up a 44-yard field goal by Pettit with just 25 seconds to go in the half. Gangi found Hasaan Henderson, playing his first game in three weeks after being sidelined with a concussion, for a pair of 14-yard gains. He also connected with Butler for 11 yards and wide receiver Jerico Richardson for seven.

Gangi was 11-of-19 in the first half through the air for 118 yards and also carried the ball six times for 24 yards. He had completed just 4-of-10 passes for 104 yards and carried the ball nine times for 44 yards this season heading into Saturday’s game.

The Pack and Cowboys kept trading points in the third quarter as neither team’s defense stopped anyone.

Wyoming went 75 yards on 13 plays on the first drive of the second half to take a 28-13 lead six minutes into the third quarter. Hill carried the ball just four times for 18 yards on the drive as the Cowboys used him mainly as a decoy. The key play of the scoring drive was a 20-yard pass from Allen to Gentry down to the Wolf Pack 34-yard line.

The Cowboys then resorted to some trickery to get into the end zone. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Wyoming wide receiver Austin Conway found a wide open Allen in the right corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass and a 28-13 lead.

Gangi, though, came right back as the Pack stayed close. It took the Pack just six plays to cut the Cowboys lead to just 28-20. Gangi picked up 14 yards on one run to the Wyoming 29-yard line and then connected with tight end Brandon Scott for a 20-yard pass to the 9-yard line. Butler then did the honors for the 9-yard touchdown, breaking a tackle by free safety Andrew Wingard and dragging linebacker D.J. May into the end zone for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.

Wyoming, though, answered right back.

Hill gained 10 yards to the Wolf Pack 47, Allen found Gentry for 16 more to the Pack 31 and Allen kept it himself for 10 yards to the Pack 20. Hill then went untouched for 20 yards and into the end zone for a 35-20 lead with 4:15 to go in the third quarter for his third touchdown of the game.

The Wolf Pack, though, cut the Cowboys’ lead to 35-27 on the next drive. Gangi and Demps connected twice for gains of nine and seven yards as the Wolf Pack put the game in Gangi’s right arm. Wyoming’s Wingard was also called for a crucial pass interference penalty, putting the ball at the Pack 49-yard line.

Gangi then tossed his first touchdown pass of the season, finding a wide open Gipson down the middle for 27 yards. The catch was Gipson’s third of the game after catching just six passes over the first seven games. The touchdown was also his first of the season after catching five touchdown passes a year ago.

Both teams finally stopped scoring early in the fourth quarter.

A sack by Wolf Pack defensive end Jordan Silva and a holding penalty on Wyoming forced the Cowboys to punt early in the fourth quarter. The Pack then drove down to the Cowboys’ 12-yard line as Butler picked up 13 on the ground and 15 through the air. But a personal foul on offensive linemen Daren Echeveria and Nathan Goltry (both chop blocks on the same play) pushed the ball back to the Wyoming 27-yard line. Pettit then missed a 37-yard field goal wide to the left two plays later.

Hill then put the game away with two more backbreaking runs. He broke free for a 20-yard gain to the 50-yard line and then blasted his way through the Pack defense for 39 yards two plays later down to the 10-yard line.

Allen gave the Cowboys a 42-27 lead three plays later as he kept the ball himself on a 7-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Pack defense with 2:52 to play.

Gangi, though, didn’t quit, leading the Wolf Pack 75 yards to another score as Butler found the end zone from a yard out. Gangi found Demps for gains of 23 and 20 on the drive as the Pack cut Wyoming’s lead to 42-34.

The Pack then recovered an on-sides kick and had one final chance to possibly tie the game but Gangi’s pass was picked off at midfield.

The Wolf Pack will have a bye this week before heading to New Mexico on Nov. 5. Wyoming will host Boise State this Saturday in Laramie, Wyo,