College Football (Div-I)

2019 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Wyoming 38 Georgia St 17

Tucson, AZ — On a shimmeringly sunny and gorgeous day in the desert, a temperature of 61-degrees welcomed both the Wyoming Cowboys (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West Conference) and Georgia State Panthers (7-5. 4-4 Sun Belt Conference) to the 2019 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. With 2020 in our sights, these two programs beckoned in this New Year’s Eve delight.

The previous two Arizona Bowl’s most certainly didn’t disappoint. Two-straight overtime affairs filled with excitement galore. New Mexico State’s 57-year bowl drought vanished in 2017, and the Nevada Wolf Pack took home the hardware to Reno, NV in last season’s thriller. On New Year’s Eve 2019, the Cowboys from Laramie, WY and the Panthers from Atlanta, GA went toe-to-toe.

It didn’t take long for Georgia State to strike. This looked to be a dandy in the making. Panthers’ quarterback Dan Ellington — playing with a torn right ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) — went to work on the first drive of the game. Are you kidding me… a torn ACL? That deserves goodness, gracious. Ellington suffered the injury on November 9th facing Louisiana-Monroe.

Georgia State’s strength is its running game. Averaging 245-yards per game during the season (No. 14-overall in the country), the Panthers decided to pound the rock on the ground against Wyoming’s stout run defense. Ellington delivered one great throw in the series, but the pigskin matriculated downfield with run after run. Mr. Ellington quickly put Georgia State up 7-0 with a gallop up the middle and 12:59 still left on the first-quarter clock. His lateral quickness and speed running north was unbelievably surprising. May I remind you, this kid was maneuvering around with a torn ACL. Wow.

The Cowboys’ initial drive began with the first-career start for freshman QB Levi Williams. With a decent drive themselves, Wyoming got on the board thanks to a 53-yard field goal by placekicker Cooper Rothe with 09:01 left in the opening quarter, closing the score to 7-3 in favor of Georgia State. A second FG attempt from Rothe later in the first quarter sailed wide right.

How about a Panthers’ turnover on downs with 02:59 left in the opening frame? What are you doing deep in your own territory? I’m still scratching my head. Wyoming took advantage with Mr. Williams’ first-career touchdown pass to wide receiver Austin Conway. On the ensuing offensive play for Georgia State, Ellington threw an interception with 02:02 remaining. Williams’ dart to the explosive 6-foot-0 and 196-pound running back Xazavian Valladay increased the Pokes’ lead to 17-7 with under 01:00 left in the opening quarter.

As the game-clock ticked into the second quarter, Wyoming began to take complete command in front of heavy Cowboy contingent of about 15,000 fans. Williams connected with WR Ayden Eberhardt on a ridiculous throw across his body, catch and run. The result had the Pokes entering halftime with a 24-10 bulge.

As for Georgia State’s Ellington, he showed nothing but utter toughness and resolve on that injured right knee. Limping to the sidelines after a play late in the second quarter, it looked as if the gutsy QBs career had come to an end. In amazement, he returned to the field just a few plays later and continued to play in this bowl game until the game-clock read 00:00 in the fourth quarter. Hats off to you, Mr. Ellington.

Eventually taking a commanding 31-10 lead in the third quarter and finishing off Georgia State for good, 38-17, Wyoming bolstered their record to 8-5. Mr. Valladay went berserk on the ground with 26 totes for 204 yards and a trip to the heezy for six.

Williams, the freshman sensation, slung around the pigskin for 234 yards, three TDs, and just one INT. After a slow start, the Cowboys’ defense showed us why they’re highly touted.

Although the Panthers found themselves heading back to Atlanta with a 7-6 mark, they played extremely hard regardless of the score. I realize it’s cliche, but they should hold their heads up high.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Wyoming Cowboys are your 2019 Arizona Bowl Champions. Congratulations to the Pokes, Head Coach Craig Bohl and the entire coaching staff. Kudos to a large number of Wyoming fans that made the trip from Laramie to the desert.

That’s a giant Christmas wrap with a bow from beautiful Tucson. Happy New Year 2020!

Extra Points:

Georgia State

  • Won their first game in program history on September 2, 2010
  • 27-17 victors in the 2017 Cure Bowl, defeating Western Kentucky for their first-ever bowl win
  • Beat the Tennessee Volunteers this season in Knoxville, TN, 38-30 (both teams took down SEC opponents) 
  • QB Dan Ellington’s career prior to the Arizona Bowl (2018-19) – 4,410 yards passing with 33 TDs to 12 INTs — 1,223 rushing yards and 10 trips to the house 
  • Play at Georgia State Stadium — previously Turner Field before it was reconfigured (home of the Atlanta Braves from 1997 to 2016)

Wyoming

  • War Memorial Stadium in Laramie stands at 7,215 feet above sea level (highest Division I FBS college football stadium in the United States)
  • Defeated the Missouri Tigers in the first game of their season, 37-31 (the Pokes’ SEC opponent)
  • A perfect 6-0 at home in 2019
  • Levi Williams originally committed to the University of Houston before he decided to rescind it and take an offer with Wyoming (Houston fired Major Applewhite as their head coach, and hired former West Virginia Mountaineers’ head man, Dana Holgorsen, as their new head coach) 
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rudy D.

    January 1, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    Love the article from Randy Drautz covering the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, AZ. Having watched the game myself, he gives an accurate and enjoyable read to the game. Always appreciate seeing his trademark of statistics about players and teams, along with a view of the action with some great humor. His Extra points section really gives his readers some interesting additional information about the teams and key players.

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