Wyoming, following a Las Vegas Bowl victory over UCLA last December, entered this season with huge expectations. The Cowboys were included in some preseason top 25 lists. The coaches, players and fans in Laramie felt a Mountain West Conference title was a strong possibility.
A 4-1 start to the season — with the only loss being at Florida — only magnified the expectations.
But Saturday afternoon in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Wyoming coach Joe Glenn could only shake his head and wonder how a potential championship season fell apart so quickly. Utah's 43-13 victory was the Cowboys' fourth straight loss.
It was easily the most lopsided.
"I didn't see that coming," said Glenn, whose team fell to 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the MWC. "I thought it would be a close game. I'm basically in shock . . . I never dreamed this game could be a 30-point rout."
So what happened?
Glenn was at a loss for answers.
"We are in a funk," he said. "We're just not getting it done. Shock is the word."
Wyoming entered the game leading the MWC in total defense — giving up an average of 339 yards per game. Utah torched the Pokes for 563 yards.
"And they didn't even have their No. 1 guy," said Glenn, referring to injured Ute running back Quinton Ganther, who sat out the game.
Sophomore quarterback Brian Johnson led the Ute offensive with 384 yards passing and four touchdowns to go along with 67 rushing yards and another score.
"They had great protection and a big offensive line and we just couldn't get to (Johnson)," said Cowboy defensive end John Flora. "He had plenty of time to sit back there and pick us apart."
Wyoming's consecutive conference losses to TCU, New Mexico, Colorado State and Utah have the Cowboys doubting themselves.
"It seems like we mentally aren't tough or something," said Flora. "We just can't get it done."
Added running back Wynel Seldon, "It's going to be tough (the final two games of the season) because of all the high expectations we had."
Wyoming still has a chance to finish bowl eligible with victories over BYU next week in Laramie and San Diego State on Nov. 19. Of course, becoming bowl eligible doesn't automatically mean they would be invited to a bowl.
The MWC has three bowl agreements and as many as six MWC teams could still qualify.
"It's tough, but we have to stay positive," said quarterback Corey Bramlett. "We want to finish out on a good note." "Hopefully we can get something going against BYU," said Flora. "We are playing for pride now and trying to go out with a winning record."