Ohio wants to cap its successful turnaround season with a victory in the Arizona Bowl while Wyoming seeks to end its tumultuous year with its fourth straight bowl win in Friday’s game in Tucson, Ariz.
Ohio went from 3-9 last season to 9-4 this year, earning Tim Albin MAC Coach of the Year honors in his second season.
Fourth-year quarterback Kurtis Rourke was selected the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year while running back Sieh Bangura was chosen the conference’s Freshman of the Year.
Rourke will not play in the Arizona Bowl because of a torn meniscus and ACL suffered last month. He passed for 3,256 yards (completing 244 of 353 attempts) with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions.
CJ Harris is his replacement. He has passed for 393 yards while completing 32 of 64 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
Bangura has rushed for 940 yards on 107 carries with seven touchdowns.
“This team has brought me, our staff and the Bobcats fans so much fun and joy this season,” Albin said. “We can’t wait to take this show on the road to take the next step on our journey together.”
Wyoming (7-5) qualified for its second consecutive bowl game and third in four seasons.
The Cowboys are coming off a 30-0 loss at Fresno State last month to end the regular season.
“I’m so thankful that we got a bowl opportunity and for us to get this bad taste out of our mouth and play better,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said after the loss to Fresno State.
Wyoming will be without top rusher Titus Swen, who finished the regular season with a team-high 1,039 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
He was dismissed from the team last month for violating team rules. The junior entered the transfer portal shortly after being cut from the team.
The Cowboys have three other players who have rushed for at least 300 yards, including quarterback Andrew Peasley with 330 yards on 70 carries.
Dawaiian McNeely has rushed for 356 yards on 63 rushes and D.Q. James has ran the ball 40 times for 346 yards.
But both McNeely and James are injured and not expected to play. Fourth-string running back Joseph Braasch (91 yards on 29 carries) is slated to start.
Wyoming is 9-8 in bowl games with victories in their last three, including a 38-17 win over Georgia State in the 2019 Arizona Bowl.
Bohl, who’s in his ninth season as head coach at Wyoming, is 3-1 in bowl games with the Cowboys.
He shares a past with Albin, who is coaching in his first bowl game.
Bohl was the defensive coordinator at Nebraska from 2000 to 2002, the same time frame Albin was a graduate assistant with the Cornhuskers. Albin was also the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at North Dakota State in 2004, when Bohl was the head coach of the Bison.
“Craig Bohl has been a friend and mentor to me for over 20 years,” Albin said. “He builds teams just like ours: tough, competitive and relentless. The game will be a great challenge for our players and an exciting conclusion to our season.”
Ohio, which has a bowl record of 5-8, and Wyoming have faced each other twice previously in a home-and-home arrangement in 2007 and 2008.
Wyoming won both — 34-33 at Athens, Ohio, in 2007 and 21-20 at Laramie, Wyo., in 2008.
“I’m just glad we get one more shot at (ending with a win),” Wyoming All-Mountain West first-team linebacker Easton Gibbs said. “I’ll just come out looking to finish strong and kind of put a cap on what I think has been a good season for us. I’m looking forward to that.”
–Field Level Media