Gangi shines for Wolf Pack in loss |

Gangi shines for Wolf Pack in loss

by Joe Santoro
Special to The R-C
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 |

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 in front of a crowd of 18,877 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-43 passes as the Wolf Pack scored all 34 points over the final three quarters.

“We just all came together on offense,” tight end Jarred Gipson said. “Ty Gangi did an amazing job.”

“(Gangi) was a lift for our entire offense,” Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian said. “They rallied around him very well.”

Wyoming running back Brian Hill rushed for a career-high 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 scored two touchdowns for the Wolf Pack (3-5 overall, 1-3 Mountain West), who have now lost four of their last five games.

Gangi and the Wolf Pack matched Wyoming touchdown for touchdown after the first quarter. The Pack even recovered an on-side kick with 38 seconds to go and had one final chance to tie the game, however, Gangi’s pass was intercepted by Wyoming’s Logan Wilson near midfield.

“I wish I had that last pass back,“ Gangi said. “I think I did well, but it wasn’t good enough. I hate to lose.“

Wyoming led 21-13 at halftime as Hill carried the ball 16 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Hill, 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.

“He’s exceptional,” Polian said of the 6-foot-1, 219-pound junior. “I told him after the game that I thought he should go pro.”

Hill’s second touchdown was from two yards out, giving Wyoming a 14-3 lead. The 92-yard, eight-play drive featured a 54-yard pass down the middle from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Tanner Gentry to the Wolf Pack 6. Allen, who was 8-of-12 through the air for 135 yards for the game, also had a key 17-yard run on third-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, quickly showed that this was not the same Wolf Pack offense that scored just 10 points in a 14-10 loss at San Jose State last week. The 6-foot-2 sophomore played just three full drives in the first half and led the Pack to points all three times.

His 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 Butler for 15 yards and a first down to the Wyoming 41-yard line on a screen pass and also found 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 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 third-and-10 pass. Gangi 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 third-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.

“I was proud of the way our guys kept fighting,” Polian said. “There was resolve on our sideline. Our guys kept competing right through to the end. But in the end it just wasn’t enough.”

The Wolf Pack have a bye on their schedule this week before heading to New Mexico on Nov. 5 in Albuquerque.

Wyoming will host Boise State Saturday in Laramie, Wyo.