Football

Wyoming’s Josh Allen dishes TD passes, potatoes — and declares for NFL Draft

How much do Central Michigan and Wyoming fans know about Idaho? Not much, it turns out.

Central Michigan and Wyoming played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Friday at Albertsons Stadium. Before kickoff, the Idaho Statesman met with fans from both teams and picked their brains about Idaho.
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Central Michigan and Wyoming played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Friday at Albertsons Stadium. Before kickoff, the Idaho Statesman met with fans from both teams and picked their brains about Idaho.

Declared for the NFL Draft and with his hands around the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl MVP trophy, Josh Allen decided to share the spotlight.

The Wyoming junior quarterback reached into the Potato Bowl trophy and tossed the potatoes into the assembled crowd of teammates and fans, capping his final game in a Cowboys uniform Friday with another set of highlight-reel passes.

Allen completed 11 of 19 passes for 154 yards and three first-quarter TDs to lead Wyoming (8-5) to a 37-14 win over Central Michigan (8-5) at Albertsons Stadium.

Allen then quickly put to bed any speculation about his future, declaring himself eligible for the NFL Draft atop the trophy stage on national television.

“I was hoping to kind of wait off and at least spend a day or two thinking about it,” Allen said. “But my teammates knew, and they were chanting, ‘Do it.’ I had to go with what they were saying.”

After missing Wyoming’s final two regular-season games with a shoulder injury, Allen started Saturday on fire. He finished the first quarter 6 of 7 for 104 yards and three TDs. The touchdown passes included a bullet over the Central Michigan safeties for a 23-yard score, and then a scrambling, 11-yard TD pass that showed why NFL scouts are drooling over the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback and why Denver Broncos President John Elway stalked the sidelines.

“If there is any NFL team that’s looking for a competitor out there, you’re not going to find anybody more competitive and more team-oriented than Josh Allen,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “I want to say thanks to him. It was a great win for us, and it’s going to put us in a different position as we move forward.”

Allen drew all the national attention for the Potato Bowl, but Wyoming’s defense set up the potential first-round draft pick with short fields over and over again. The Cowboys forced eight turnovers, a program and Potato Bowl record, with four interceptions, two sack-fumbles and two more fumbles.

That led to a bit of jealousy over the bowl game’s MVP trophy.

“Me personally, I was a little mad he got the trophy,” Wyoming defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan joked. “As the whole defense, we wanted it. But I still love Josh. He still deserves it.”

Central Michigan and Wyoming entered the Potato Bowl at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the FBS in turnovers forced. Wyoming didn’t commit any turnovers Saturday, allowing the Cowboys to overtake the Chippewas with 38 turnovers this season.

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Wyoming defensive end Nela Lolohea forces a fumble by Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris during the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Morris committed six turnovers. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

“The storyline obviously is eight turnovers,” Central Michigan coach John Bonamego said. “You’re not going to win many football games against any decent opponent turning it over that many times. … We just played a very sloppy game today, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.”

The loss snaps Central Michigan’s five-game winning streak and allows Wyoming to finish the year 8-3 in games Allen played. The Cowboys, who earned their first bowl win since 2009, will have to replace Allen next season. But they also return eight starters from a defense that dominated their bowl game and allowed 17.5 points per game this season.

“We’re going to rely on that,” Bohl said. “We’ll leverage that defense, and then we’ve got to make progress with our quarterback and our running game.”

EXTRA POINTS

The Potato Bowl drew an announced crowd of 16,512, the second-lowest in the 21-year-old bowl’s history. The only smaller crowd came in the Humanitarian Bowl’s first year, when a crowd of 16,131 attended the 1997 matchup between Cincinnati and Utah State. … Central Michigan honored graduate and broadcasting legend Dick Enberg with a helmet sticker of his catchphrase, “Oh my!” Enberg died Thursday. … Wyoming finishes with back-to-back, eight-win seasons for the first time since 1987-88. … The Cowboys set a Potato Bowl record by scoring 21 points in the first quarter. … Wyoming had a season-high five sacks and held Central Michigan to 18 rushing yards, the second-fewest in bowl history. … Wyoming improves to 7-8 all-time in bowl games while Central Michigan falls to 5-8.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

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