Smith leads Wyoming to 56-23 rout of Air Force
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP)
This time, it was Brett Smith who dressed down the Falcons.
Afterward, Cowboys coach Dave Christensen got a Gatorade bath from his quarterback and a handshake from his counterpart, Troy Calhoun.
That was in stark contrast to last year's postgame problems in Laramie, when Christensen confronted Calhoun after the Falcons squeaked out a 28-27 win and accused the Falcons of faking an injury to their starting QB so they could set up the next play without a timeout.
He drew a week's suspension and a $50,000 fine for his actions.
Both coaches said earlier this week that they had moved on from that confrontation and didn't feel it would have any effect on the rematch.
''I talked to him before the game, we had a nice conversation and I talked to him after the game, wished him the best of luck the rest of the way,'' Christensen said of Calhoun.
The coaches' newfound cordiality aside, the Cowboys certainly saw this whooping as payback.
''It meant a whole lot just for this team in general, just going out the way we did last year with the episode at the end of the game, that's not what we want our team to be,'' Cowboys defensive back Marqueston Huff said. ''So, it was something we wanted to go out there and fix.''
Smith threw for 373 yards and four TDs and added 138 yards on the ground in leading the Cowboys (3-1, 1-0 Mountain West) to their highest scoring output ever against Air Force (1-3, 0-3) in a heated series that dates to 1957.
''With the heartbreaking loss last year, I know he wanted to come out and win this game,'' Smith said of his coach. ''And I think it not only meant a lot to him but it meant a lot to everybody.''
Smith's 511 total yards broke the school record of 482 set by Josh Wallwork against Idaho in 1996. Smith completed 35 of 41 passes and his first TD throw was the junior's 57th, breaking Casey Bramlet's record of 56 set a decade ago.
The Falcons had no answer for Smith or the Cowboys' spread offense that piled up 454 yards by halftime. By then, Smith had his third four-TD performance of the young season plus a 6-yard touchdown run.
Smith took the Cowboys' first snap and swept around the left sideline for a career-long 74-yard scamper before defensive back Jamal Byrd spun him down him at the 1.
''I was excited. I wish I would have gotten in,'' Smith said. ''I ran out of gas at the end.''
All that did was set up Smith for the record breaker, and he found Dominic Rufran all alone in the end zone for his 57th career TD pass.
Rufran was wide open again later in the quarter, and he turned a pass over the middle into a 61-yard touchdown that gave Wyoming the lead for good at 14-10.
Linebacker Nehemie Kankolongo put a wicked hit on Falcons returner Anthony LaCoste after Shaun Wick's 6-yard TD run, Devyn Harris recovered the fumble and Smith threw a 4-yard scoring strike to an uncovered Jalen Claiborne to make it 28-10.
LaCoste atoned for his turnover with a 6-yard TD run, but Smith replied with a 6-yard TD of his own on fourth-and-3 when the Cowboys once again spread out the defense with five receivers and Smith sliced through a gaping hole in the line.
He wasn't finished, quickly moving the Cowboys downfield in the final minute and finding Robert Herron for a 10-yard TD that put Wyoming ahead 42-17 at the half.
Smith completed 23 of 26 passes in the first half and was 9 for 10 on Wyoming's opening drive after halftime, one that Wick capped with a 3-yard run to make it 49-17.
That surpassed the Cowboys' previous high against Air Force in 1988, when they won 48-45.
''He played beyond well,'' Calhoun said. ''I think it would be an understatement to say we need to do more to deter it. We were overwhelmed.''
The Falcons lost for the seventh time in nine games, the worst stretch in Calhoun's six-plus seasons at the service academy.
Coming off consecutive blowout losses to Utah State and Boise State by a combined 54 points, the Falcons struck first when quarterback Jaleel Awini capped the opening drive with a 33-yard TD keeper.
After the touchback, Smith nearly scored from 75 yards out. Although he got dragged down at the 1, the tone was set.
''I was just excited we were able to answer and I was excited we were able to get points out of it,'' Smith said. ''We never stopped. We executed pretty much in all aspects of our game.''
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton