It was bizarre and wild, what happened at the end of the game.
Jalen Claiborne, eyes sparkling was laughing in the corner of the end zone. A handful of Idaho football players were throwing wild punches toward anyone - the only way of dealing with their frustration. And a small thicket of Wyoming who had made a trip to Moscow, Idaho overpowered the stunned sounds of disbelief coming from thousands of Idaho football fans who were still trying to pick up their jaws off the Kibbie Dome floor.
"If you give me 13 ugly wins a year, I'd take them," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said after it was all over.
So ended a Saturday night football game between Wyoming and Idaho - two teams that had yet to win a game all season.
"We needed this," Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith said.
The game was a back-and-forth slugfest that flew through five lead changes before Wyoming ended it for good with a 25-yard pass from Smith to Jalen Claiborne on the first play of Wyoming’s overtime drive. The Cowboys won 40-37.
It was the team’s first overtime game since the New Mexico Bowl in 2009. More importantly, it was the team's first win of the season that looked to be headed nowhere fast.
Things started out well for Wyoming. The Cowboys thrived with the return of Brett Smith, the team’s starting quarterback who had missed the last game due to the lingering effects of a concussion. Smith had been frustrated about having to sit out against Cal Poly - the game that ended in Wyoming’s third loss in a row. He said that motivated him to return. And it showed.
Smith completed 23 of his 35 passes for 365 yards and five touchdowns - a career high. He threw every touchdown pass to a different target. They included Chris McNeill, Brandon Miller, Justin Berger and Dominc Rufran. McNeill ended his day with 219 receiving yards - a career high for him as well.
But no throw of Smith’s was as important as the ball he lofted to Claiborne in overtime.
"I didn't know Jalen had those kind of hops," Smith said after Claiborne pulled the ball down. "He looked like Rocket Man going up their and getting it. I'm glad I put it up there."
The happiness Claiborne's catch created - for now - overshadows the fact that Wyoming had every right to lose Saturday’s game. While the offense hit on all cylinders at times - rolling up 445 total yards - the Cowboys’ defense continued a season full of struggles.
Idaho quarterback Dominique Blackman torched Wyoming’s secondary. He completed 34-of-46 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns. The Vandals - a team that was averaging less than two yards per carry - ran for 203 yards against the Cowboys as well.
Time and time again, the Cowboys defense was overpowered.
But when it counted most, it made stands.
"There were some crucial stops in that second half," Christensen said.
Idaho had the ball first-and-goal on the one yard line early in the fourth quarter. The Vandals led 27-20, and were about to go up by 14. Blackman dove ahead, and freshman linebacker Siaosi Hala’api’api knocked the ball free. Cowboys linebacker Ghaali Muhammad recovered. Less than minute, Wyoming scored to tie the game, then again to take a 7-point lead with 3:37 left to play.
The Wyoming defense collapsed, as it had most of the game, in Idaho’s final drive in regulation. Blackman threw his final touchdown pass to his teammate, Mike Scott with zeros left on the clock. The PAT was good and the game went into overtime.
There was no rest for Wyoming’s defense. The Vandals got the ball back and started from the 25-yard line in overtime. On third down, Cowboys defensive end Mark Willis made the sack that forced Idaho to settle for a 49-yard field goal.
It wasn't enough in the end. Smith had one more touchdown pass to throw.