The Vikings, who came in second last year for the program's highest finish, went into the championship round in third place -- but a strong performance in the short "go" let McNeese State (La.) jump two spots for second behind Sam Houston State, which had enough of a lead to hold off the field to win by a margin of 755 to 700 points.
McNeese State accumulated 360 points with its three finalists, while Wyoming got 300 points to separate itself from MVC for third place.
Junior Tanner Aus of Granite Falls, Minn., did his part, ultimately racking up 300 points by scoring in all four of his bareback rides. After settling at third place in the third preliminary round, Aus headed into the championship show trailing Greg "J.R." Vezain of Vernon (Texas) by 14.5 points.
Aus won the short go with an 82.5, the meet's second-best score, but Vezain put up an 80 to fend off the challenge.
In team roping, freshman heeler Ben Runyon of Tallula, Ill., and Southern Arkansas header Justin Johnson missed for the first time all week, their long go score of 28.2 seconds was good enough to finish in eighth place.
Senior Will Crain of Farina, Ill., nabbed a spot in the bull riding finals with his third-place ride of 67 points, but wasn't able to add to that total and ended up in 11 place.
All four of the Vikings' non-finalists wound up in the top 20 at the end of the week. Senior Will Smith, second in saddle bronc riding a year ago, was 17th after completing two of this three rides for 137.5 points -- adding 70 points to the team score.
Sophomore Cody Metsker, who lost his bid for a spot in the steer wrestling finals with a no-score in the third round, finished in 18th place and tallied 5 points. Senior David Clapp didn't have a chance in bull riding, thrown from all three of his prelim mounts, and missed the top-12 cutoff in bareback by 4.5 points with a 204.5 overall score for 18th place.
The Valley women didn't have any qualifiers for the CNFR, won by Montana State, 560 to 430 points over Sam Houston State.
The fourth place was the second-best showing ever for the Vikings, guided by 2011 NIRA "coach of the year" Ken Mason.