TUCSON, Ariz. — Stagnant for long stretches of the second half, Ohio's offense got one last chance after a late Wyoming touchdown.
CJ Harris took control, leading the Bobcats to the tying field goal late in regulation and winning touchdown in overtime.
Harris hit Tyler Foster on a 10-yard touchdown pass in OT, lifting Ohio to a 30-27 win over Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl on Friday.
“Emotions were high and I was feeling pretty confident,” said Harris, who threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-33 passing. “It was a one-on-one matchup and I thought I've got to get it to my guy, and Tyler came down with it.”
The Cowboys (7-6) labored offensively after the teams combined for three touchdowns in the first quarter. Andrew Peasley sparked Wyoming's offense, orchestrating a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by Jordan Vaughn's 5-yard TD run with 2:08 left in regulation.
The Bobcats (10-4) had time to answer, and Nathanial Vakos kicked a tying 46-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.
Wyoming's John Hoyland opened overtime with a 29-yard field goal, but Foster pulled down the winning catch over a defender in the back of the end zone.
“Sometimes in life, you put everything out there and the ledger doesn’t fall like you want it to,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “But I thought it was a heck of a ballgame that was going to come down to a play or two here or there, which it certainly did.”
Ohio had a hard time revving up its passing game against Wyoming's defense, relying mostly on the ground instead.
Sieh Bangura ran for 138 yards and scored on a 3-yard run. Harris hit Jacoby Jones on a 34-yard score and pulled out a bowl win in his third start since Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Ohio finished 100 yards under its season average for passing, but had 201 yards rushing.
“We worked really hard to establish that in the third quarter and it paid dividends,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said.
Wyoming, which averages 127 yards passing per game, threw the ball on six of its first nine plays in an opening drive capped by Jordan Vaughn's 17-yard touchdown run up the middle.
Ohio answered by picking apart Wyoming's usually stingy defense, capped by Jones battling Wyoming's Deron Harrell for his TD catch.
Bobcats returner Sam Wiglusz then muffed a punt and Peasley hit Treyton Welch on a 17-yard touchdown pass the next play.
The wild ride smoothed out by the second quarter.
Wyoming all but stopped passing, Ohio struggled to complete passes and the teams traded field goals. Wyoming led 17-11 at halftime.
“I don’t think we were doing a great job sustaining our blocks up front,” Bohl said. “There was penetration and we missed a couple reads.”
Ohio got into a brief offensive rhythm in the third quarter, taking an 18-17 lead. Bangura scored on a 3-yard option right after breaking off a 40-yarder midway through the third.
The Bobcats stuck to the ground game into the fourth quarter and made the plays late to pull out a bowl win in the desert.
Ohio won most of its games this season with an offense that averaged nearly 32 points per game. The Bobcats relied on their defense most of the day before their offense found its form late for the program's fourth 10-win season.
Wyoming labored offensively through most of the second half before Vaughn's late touchdown. The Cowboys left Ohio with too much time and the defense, the Cowboys' strength all season, couldn't come through.
Wyoming was already down several defensive players and lost another one when cornerback Kolbey Taylor was ejected for targeting in the first quarter.
Taylor was hit with a targeting penalty for lowering his shoulder into the helmet of Wiglusz on an incomplete pass.
“It had an impact on us,” Bohl said. “But I just think it’s too punitive. On a play like that, that I think everybody would recognize, go ahead and flag that, but is that something to throw a guy out of the game for?”
Wyoming: One of the nation's youngest teams will have much more experience next season.
Ohio State: The Bobcats hope to have Rourke back and healthy, but may have to replace several defensive players.
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