Wyoming scores on late drive to beat Air Force 35-27
Vander Waal came off the bench and tossed two touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score on a 22-yard strike with 1:09 left in the game, and rushed for two more TDs in leading Wyoming to a come-from-behind 35-27 victory over Air Force on a cold, snowy Saturday afternoon.
Vander Waal, who replaced injured starter Sean Chambers in the first quarter, led the Cowboys on a nine-play, 58-yard drive for the winning score, and Xazavian Valladay added a 27-yard scoring run with 17 seconds left to seal the win after an Air Force turnover on its subsequent series.
Vander Waal, who started the Cowboys' first seven games before being benched in favor of Chambers because of an anemic offensive performance, completed 14 of 26 passes for 225 yards. He had TD runs of 3 and 5 yards.
"I knew when Sean went down I had to step up," said Vander Waal, whose first play from scrimmage was an 11-yard TD pass to Raghib Ismail Jr. "I think for me that really helped with confidence the rest of the game."
Tyree Mayfield caught four passes for 112 yards — the first Wyoming player with 100 yards receiving this season.
Wyoming (5-6, 3-4 Mountain West) lost its top two offensive players in early in the game. Chambers suffered a leg injury on the seventh play of the game and watched the rest of the contest from the sidelines on crutches and his right foot in a boot. Running back Nico Evans suffered an ankle injury just three plays into the game, returned for one carry in the second quarter and didn't play again.
Chambers and Evans each rushed for 100 yards in the three previous games, leading the Cowboys to two straight wins.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl noted his team's resilience after losing Chambers and Evans.
"I think it's an indication of our guys hanging in there," Bohl said.
Kadin Remsberg and Cole Fagan each rushed for more than 100 yards and Donald Hammond III scored twice to lead Air Force (4-7, 2-5). The Falcons gashed the Cowboys defense for 362 yards on the ground and held the ball for just over 38 minutes.
Remsberg carried the ball 20 times for 128 yards, and Fagan had 116 yards on 17 carries and a 4-yard score. The last time the run-oriented Falcons had two 100-yard rushers in a game was the 2017 season finale against Utah State.
Hammond, who rushed for 92 yards, had scoring runs of 36 and 1 yards. He completed 5-of-9 passes for 53, but threw two interceptions on Air Force's last two possessions of the game.
Jake Koehnke kicked field goals of 27 and 21 yards for the Falcons, the second one putting the Falcons up 27-14 with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter.
But Air Force wouldn't score again as the Cowboys found the end zone three times in the last 4:32 of the game, starting with Vander Waal's 5-yard score.
"We didn't do enough to win the game," Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said. "And that's with us, and that's also a credit to the opponent."
Air Force: The Falcons are now 1-5 in road games this season. Their only road win was a 41-35 victory at UNLV on Oct. 19.
Wyoming: The Cowboys kept their hopes of becoming bowl eligible alive although at a high price in losing their starting quarterback.
The temperature was 19 degrees with a wind chill of minus-4 degrees and light snow falling when the game kicked off in War Memorial Stadium.
Air Force: The Falcons close out their regular season on Thanksgiving Day at home against Colorado State.
Wyoming: The Cowboys finish their regular season at New Mexico on Saturday.