LARAMIE -- Tucker Gleason didn't stand a chance.

Toledo's quarterback hauled in the late fourth-quarter shotgun snap, took a subtle two-step drop and patiently waited for his running back to throw a block before tucking the ball under his right arm.

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He took off, riding the coattails of Jacquez Stuart into what appeared to be a gap forming in the left side of Wyoming's defensive front.

It was a mirage. The desert has been known to produce those on occasion.

Stuart whiffed at the oncoming defender. So did the Rockets' right tackle.

Sabastian Harsh pounced.

"Before that play I remember Cole Godbout saying, 'Watch the draw,'" he recalled. "Then it was in the back of my head. I was just lucky to be able to get to that play."

The sophomore defensive end swallowed up Toledo's signal caller three yards behind the line of scrimmage. The celebration that followed -- a fist pump and a pair of head butts -- was warranted.

That snap came on a 3rd-and-9, the guys from Ohio camped out at the Cowboys' 37-yard line with 4:50 to go in regulation. A gain on the play likely leads to a field-goal attempt. Three more points, at the time, seemed insurmountable. Wyoming's offense had found the end zone just once all afternoon.

Instead, the Toledo punt team trotted onto the field, its defense asked to hang on to a 15-13 lead.

That didn't happen.



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After a 26-yard completion from Andrew Peasley to Ayir Asante to start that final possession, Evan Svoboda stepped under center and led the Cowboys on an 11-play, 61-yard drive, culminating in a game-winning 24-yard field goal off the right foot of John Hoyland.

Wyoming would claim a 16-15 victory in the Arizona Bowl.

"It was definitely an awesome moment, for sure," Harsh said, his trademark grin beaming. "Just being able to impact the game was definitely super cool."

Harsh capped that outing in Tucson with two tackles, none bigger than the last. Aside from an 80-yard touchdown jaunt by Stuart in the second quarter, the Cowboys limited the Rockets to just 64 yards on the ground on 18 attempts. Gleason also tossed a pick into the arms of safety Isaac White. Six other passes were batted down.

Harsh credited that domination with the communication coming from of the entire defensive unit.

With a slight head shake, he also openly wondered if he would ever even get to that point.

The Scottsbluff, Neb., native suffered a broken left knee cap just days before the start of the 2022 campaign. It was a particularly gruesome injury, his patella splitting wide, horizontally.

The tears that puddled in Harsh's eyes following that announcement told the story.

Coaches raved about the 6-foot-3, 242-pound pass rusher all offseason. He was the unofficial MVP of camp, his name often sliding off the tongue of former head coach Craig Bohl.

This was supposed to be his time.

It would have to wait.

The second guessing began. So did the grueling rehab sessions and growing doubt. That followed him into last fall. A setback -- Harsh needed to have a wire removed from his surgically repaired knee in August -- only added to his anxiety.

Despite playing in the season opener, where he registered four tackles and a pass breakup in a 35-33 upset win over Texas Tech in double overtime, the lack of trust between Harsh's brain and knee persisted.

Harsh tallied 50 tackles as a first-time starter, 29 of which were solo stops. He was also credited with three quarterback sacks.

One of those came in front of 100,000 fans, crammed inside Austin's Darrell K. Royal Stadium. Wyoming brought an outside safety blitz. The Longhorns' right tackle bit, leaving a massive hole for Harsh to cruise through before crudely dumping Quinn Ewers for a 10-yard loss.

Texas, then the third-ranked team in the nation, was forced out of field-goal range. The score remained tied at 10-10 with 10:42 remaining in the third quarter.

There were glimpses of what could be, but admittedly, Harsh still couldn't get out of his own head.

"Run wasn't a problem, but bending the corner and trusting my leg, like really getting the hard angles that it takes to get around a tackle, there's just a lot of stress on my leg," said Harsh, who missed a key Mountain West matchup against No. 24 Fresno State for precautionary reasons. "There were times I would think, I don't know if I can bend like that."

His coaches knew it was a constant struggle for Harsh. They also said some of his most impactful plays didn't show up on the stat sheet.

"He's a unique athlete, for one thing," rookie head coach and Harsh's former defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. "I mean, he's a great kid. You really appreciate the battle that he had coming back from the knee injury. The way he played this last season, he made a lot of really good plays for us as the season went on."

Brian Hendricks agrees.

"I think he did a really good job," Wyoming's defensive ends coach added. "It took some time, one, to gain confidence in his physical ability. He had been riddled with injury in the past -- it was a bad injury -- and in fall camp, he had a little bit of a scare. So, I think the mental block and being able to trust that your body is fine kind of took him some time to play fast and play confident. I think as he started to knock out game by game by game and learning from his good, and from his bad, he gained confidence, too. So, by the end of the year, I think he started to hit his stride a little bit."



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Harsh hopes all that turmoil is a distant memory now.

His weight hovered around 225 when he stepped foot in the facility this winter. Now, the scale reads: 240. Film study has provided visual proof of strength and weakness. Harsh said his base is stronger than ever, his feet planted firmly underneath him. He's holding run blocks. Those chest punches delivered courtesy of offensive tackles are no longer knocking him off course.

Mentally, Harsh added, he's in a good space. His smile again is ever present, whether he's on the sideline or standing shirtless last Saturday afternoon in front of a television camera, his teammate's signatures scribbled in black marker all over his chest and back.

Harsh is no longer focused on a bulky black knee brace or stabilizing white tape jobs that begin at his thigh and wrap tightly down to his ankle. More importantly, his mind is no longer playing tricks.

"I'm way out from all those injuries now," he said. "Shoot, I'm back to just playing. It's finally fun again."

University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

During the summer of 2021, counted down the Top 50 football players in University of Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.

The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.

This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining 7220's Cody Tucker are Robert GagliardiJared NewlandRyan Thorburn, and Kevin McKinney.

We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is fairer.

Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter: @7220sports - #Top50UWFB

Gallery Credit:

- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

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