BYU holds off Wyoming to win Poinsettia Bowl, 24-21

Jamaal Williams rushes for 210 yards as Cougars end 3-game bowl losing streak

SAN DIEGO (ABC4 Sports) - Kalani Sitake is a winner in his first game as BYU's head coach.

Jamaal Williams rushed for 210 yards on 26 carries and Tanner Mangum ran for a touchdown and threw for another to lead BYU to a 24-21 victory over Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl on a rainy Wednesday night in San Diego.

It was the sixth 100-yard game for Williams this year and the second time he gained more than 200. Williams finishes his career with 3,901 yards, the most in BYU history.

"For him to be healthy, he's going to have a great future," head coach Kalani Sitake said about Williams. "We wanted him to be healthy for this game, so we sat him for a couple weeks, and I think it paid off."

With BYU (9-4) leading 17-7, Williams gave the Cougars some breathing room when he broke a 36-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter. That TD was set up by Dayan Lake's interception of Josh Allen. The interception came one play after BYU's Micah Hannemann was ejected for targeting after a helmet-to-helmet hit on the sliding Allen.

Williams is BYU's career leader with 3,901 yards rushing. 

"I'm nothing without the line," Williams said. "You can't run the ball without the line, you can't do a lot of things without the line. You can't pass without the line. They really need more credit than what we do. We just run behind them and find the holes and stuff but they the ones that open the holes, they the ones moving the people in the ground every down, you know, going against dudes, like, every down, hand-to-hand every time. I don't think they get enough credit."

Wyoming, which lost to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship game Dec. 3, finished 8-6.

Wyoming's Josh Allen brought the Cowboys back with touchdown passes of 9 and 23 yards to Tanner Gentry in the span of 3 1/2 minutes late in the game. The 23-yard scoring pass came with 2:11 and pulled the Cowboys to 24-21.

Wyoming got the ball back one final time, but Allen tried a pass across his body into double coverage and it was intercepted by Kai Nacua, his sixth pick of the season.

"He's a great player, he believes in his teammates," Sitake said about Nacua. "We needed a big play and he came through. He's been doing that all year long. I'm just happy he made that play for us."

This was the renewal of a rivalry that began in 1922 and ended when the Cougars left the Mountain West after the 2010 season.

Mangum ran for a 3-yard score late in the first quarter and then threw a crazy 5-yard touchdown pass that bounced off two Wyoming defenders before Tanner Balderree grabbed it to give BYU a 17-7 lead.

Mangum started in place of Taysom Hill, who strained his left elbow Nov. 26 against Utah State. Mangum completed just 8 of 15 passes for 96 yards with an interception and a touchdown pass.

Wyoming outgained BYU 373 to 312, but the Cowboys had all kinds of trouble on special teams. Punter Ethan Wood fumbled a snap that the Cougars recovered to set up Mangum's touchdown run.

Then, Wyoming could not execute a field goal attempt in the first half that would have cut into BYU's lead.

BYU, appearing in a San Diego bowl game for the 13th time, also won the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012, 23-6 over San Diego State.

After a 1-3 start, the Cougars finished the season winning 8 of it last 9 games, while Sitake became the first coach in BYU history to win his first bowl game.

"We've got great young men and great coaches," Sitake said. "We've got a great fan base that believes and supports us all the way. I'm glad the seniors were able to go out with this bowl win."


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