It was a career to remember for Wyoming's Josh Allen, a quarterback who made a name for himself in a short time.
After Allen burst upon the scene last season, this season was set up to be his last in college. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder was expected to turn pro after this season, considering he graduated from UW last week. He and the Cowboys toppled Central Michigan, 37-14, in Friday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.Allen is one of the biggest reasons why the Cowboys (8-5) played in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1987-88. It is no surprise UW lost its last two games, which Allen missed due to his shoulder injury.
Allen also is a big factor in the Cowboys winning 16 games over the past two seasons, compared to six the previous two.
He has come a long way since the fall of 2015, when he arrived at UW as an unknown junior-college transfer who looked the part of a big-time college signal-caller.
Allen's first start and first extensive playing time for UW came Sept. 12, 2015, against Eastern Michigan in Laramie. Extensive may not be the best word to use, however, as Allen lasted only 13 plays before he broke his right clavicle in seven places and was lost for the season.
Allen's brief time in that game -- and even the play where he got hurt -- showed a glimpse of what was to come over the next two seasons.
Allen led UW to a touchdown on his first offensive series. On his second series, and on his last play, he ran 24 yards for a first down to the Eastern Michigan 20-yard line. Allen thought about sliding as linebacker Jason Beck converged on the play. Instead, he decided to lower his shoulder and try for more yards.
A mistake, for sure, but it also showed Allen's mindset and attitude toward the game.
There are too many memorable moments from Allen to list in the space provided here. But after his final game, here is a look back at the top five plays Allen made at UW that defines him as a quarterback, a football player and a competitor.
5. at Utah State, Oct. 14, 2017
The Cowboys trailed 23-19 midway through the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-1 from the UW 46-yard line, Allen ran an option play to his right.
With a Utah State defender draped all over him, Allen had enough strength to pitch the ball to junior running back Nico Evans, who gained six yards and a first down. A lot is made of Allen's arm strength, and deservedly so, but his overall strength is also impressive, and may have shined brightest in that instance.
On the next play, Allen completed a 19-yard pass to junior tight end Josh Harshman, and then threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver C.J. Johnson for what proved to be the game-winning score with 3 minutes, 45 seconds to play.
A safety a little later sealed UW's 28-23 victory.
Allen's throws to Harshman and Johnson were nice, but not as nice or impressive as the strength he showed to get the pitch off to Evans.
4. vs. Northern Illinois, Sept. 3, 2016
This was the season-opener for both teams. Kickoff was after 10 p.m. MT due to a weather delay, and the game didn't end until 2:35 a.m. because it went into triple-overtime.
Allen rolled up 315 yards of total offense, including 19 of 29 passing for 245 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
But it was the final play of the game that stood out most:
Northern Illinois missed a 38-yard field goal to the left to start the third overtime. UW's first four plays were runs by running back Brian Hill. On third-and-4 from the Northern Illinois seven-yard line, Allen rolled to his right, then ran all the way across the field to his left and dove into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown and a 40-34 victory.
"It was one of our run-pass option plays. Coach told me to be smart about it, and I probably should have thrown it away," Allen said after the game. "I looked back, and our guys were there. I trusted them, so I cut it back, made a guy miss, found a hole and dived in."
Allen has 770 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in his UW career, but that run and touchdown against Northern Illinois was the best of his career.
3. vs. San Diego State, Dec. 3, 2016
This was a pass, but definitely not one of Allen's best. In fact, it was one of his worst.
The Cowboys jumped out to a 10-0 lead over the Aztecs in the MW championship game in Laramie. San Diego State cut the lead to 10-7 late in the first quarter.
On UW's first offensive play after San Diego State scored, Allen was intercepted by cornerback Demontae Kazee at the UW 26.
It looked like Kazee would return the interception for a touchdown. However, Allen not only tackled Kazee short of the end zone, he forced a fumble. The ball crossed the plane of the goal line and went out of bounds. No touchdown for San Diego State, and UW got the ball back from the touchback.
UW lost the game 27-24 and had the ball twice late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie for win the game. UW lost the ball on downs both times.
Allen was 14 of 31 for 248 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, and was sacked four times. It wasn't Allen's best game, but what he did in turning a San Diego State touchdown into a turnover showed his grit and competitiveness.
2. at Nebraska, Sept. 10, 2016
How many times did we see Allen scramble to his right and rifle a throw to wide receiver Tanner Gentry for a big play last season?
Too many to count.
The most impressive was in UW's second game of the 2016 season at Nebraska, where Allen rolled to his right and threw a dart to Gentry in the back of the end zone with eight seconds left in the second quarter to cut Nebraska's lead to 17-7 at halftime:
That throw showed Allen's arm strength and athleticism. It also showed how good of a receiver Gentry was, and how much he meant to Allen and the entire offense. The Allen-Gentry combination connected for 14 touchdowns that season.
Unfortunately, the Nebraska game turned out to be forgettable for Allen and the Cowboys. UW lost 52-17, and Nebraska outscored UW 28-0 in the fourth quarter. Allen had six turnovers in the game (five interceptions and one fumble), all in the second half. Allen threw three interceptions and lost a fumble on UW's final four possessions of the game.
But that throw by Allen and catch by Gentry was beyond extraordinary, and was one of many to come that season.
1. vs. Colorado State, Nov. 4, 2017
This was Allen's final home game.
What better way to end it than with a win over UW's biggest rival in what will go down in history as the "Snow Game"?
Rain quickly turned to wet, heavy snow as the game started, and in no time the field was covered.
UW trailed 13-9 with 7:09 to play, and had the ball at its own 31. On the first play, Allen completed a 17-yard pass to senior fullback Drew Van Maanen, who dove to catch the ball and suffered stingers in both of his shoulders. In all honesty, the catch was better than the throw.
UW capped the drive six plays later with a three-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Kellen Overstreet to take a 16-13 lead with 4:21 to play. All six of the plays were runs, including two by Allen for 11 yards.
The Cowboys' defense held the Rams on downs, and they got the ball back at their own 27 with 2:38 to play. A couple of UW first downs and the game was over.
Allen carried the ball four yards on a second-and-five play. Colorado State called a timeout facing a third-and-one. Everyone who stayed through the snow in War Memorial Stadium knew who was going to carry the ball on the next play.
Allen gained two yards and a first down. After he was tackled, Allen sprung to his feet and signaled first down and was quite animated.
UW got another first down thanks to two Overstreet runs to beat its Border War rival 16-13 and keep the Bronze Boot traveling trophy for the second consecutive year.
Allen led UW with 60 rushing yards, and in horrible conditions to throw the ball, he was 10 of 20 for 138 yards.
"It is up there -- if not No. 1, it is No. 2," Allen said about where that game ranked in his career. "With these conditions, and the first time I actually played in the snow, this will be a game talked about for a long time here."
Allen also will be talked about for a long time in UW and Mountain West circles.
As far as school records go, Allen is tied for fourth in touchdowns responsible for (54), fifth in touchdown passes (41) and eighth in both passing yards (4,912) and total offense (5,682 yards).
There hasn't been such a polarizing figure for UW football as Allen in recent memory, or perhaps ever -- at least not in this day and age of social media, analytics and national exposure to both college and professional football.
Many hope Allen provides more memories with one more game today. That's certainly what Allen is aiming for.
"I owe a lot to coach Bohl for extending me the offer to play at the University of Wyoming, and I felt like I owed it to my teammates," Allen said. "These are my brothers, and missing the last two games killed me.
"Getting back on the field was something I felt I needed to do."
This article is written by Robert Gagliardi from Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.