Article written by the Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jamaal Williams and the BYU Cougars are a good fit in San Diego bowl games.
Once a staple of the Holiday Bowl, the Cougars won their second Poinsettia Bowl on a rainy Wednesday night thanks mostly to Williams.
The senior gained 210 yards on 26 carries and scored once, and Tanner Mangum ran for a touchdown and threw for another to lead BYU to a 24-21 victory over Wyoming.
It was the sixth 100-yard game for Williams this year and the second time he gained more than 200. He ran for a career-best 286 against Toledo.
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. He also scored a touchdown in the Cougars’ 23-6 Poinsettia Bowl victory against San Diego State in 2012.
“It felt like almost the same because I scored in both of them,” Williams said. “It just brings back a whole bunch of memories, and in the same end zone, too. It just brought back a whole bunch of memories of my freshman year, but I was still in the game.”
He praised his blockers, particularly wide receiver Jonah Trinnaman, for springing him on his scoring run.
“Honestly it was just great offensive line blocking and the tight ends and Jonah. Jonah is the man,” Williams said. “That man had the best block in the world. I wanted to celebrate right there before I even scored.”
Williams fell short of the Poinsettia Bowl record of 228 yards by San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman in 2010.
Wyoming, which lost to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship game Dec. 3, finished 8-6.
“It was a play or two here or there,” coach Craig Bohl said. “To go from two wins last year to where we are now, it’s been a change of culture.”
Brian Hill, who ran for 1,767 yards this season, didn’t play the first quarter.
“That was my decision and that is all I’m going to say,” Bohl said.
Hill scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter and finished with 93 yards on 26 carries.
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 left 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 pickoff of the season.
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.
Hill scored on a 4-yard run for Wyoming in the third quarter.
LOSING THE HANDLE
With a heavy rain falling in the first quarter, Wyoming punter Ethan Wood fumbled the snap and teammate Dalton Fields recovered at the Cowboys 3.Two plays later, Mangum scored on a 3-yard run. The Cowboys also botched the hold on a field goal attempt in the third quarter.
While this was the senior season for Williams and Hill, Mangum will be back next year as a junior. For the Cowboys, they hope this breakout seasons sustains them for several seasons.