I am back from my mini vacation so if you missed reading what I think (I am sure you didn’t) I apologize. I am hoping to make it up to you guys with 2 blogs next week. I have a lot of thoughts this week, since I didn’t have anything last week but I decided to just skip the Idaho game as a whole and move on to last week’s game and this week’s match up.
Wyoming (3-1) comes home to host UNLV (1-2) after a gut wrenching loss last weekend at Tulsa. This weekend’s game will be both teams’ Mountain West opener thus marking the start of the most important part of the Cowboys’ schedule. Now, let’s move on.
- Last week’s loss was brutal, no way around it… but there were some positive takeaways.
Now, I know that the game didn’t play out like many would have liked or expected it to and the way it ended was absolutely brutal. The Cowboys went into the game undefeated, but Vegas still had them as the underdog and after everything that transpired they still had a chance to come out with a win.
I obviously didn’t like all of the injuries, but here is what I did like.. I loved how the team kept fighting when they were seemingly helping a Cowboy off the field after every other play. They finished the game on offense without Logan Harris, Trey Smith, Titus Swen, and Xzavian Valladay only played sparingly due to injury. The last man standing in the backfield with Chambers was Casper’s very own Brett Brenton, who is a redshirt freshman. Yet, after spending some time on the bench so Tyler Vander Waal could have a go, Chambers returned to have a huge 4th quarter that included his second rushing touchdown of the game and a 53-yard touchdown pass. He led the Pokes down the field once more with the game on the line and made plays with his arm and his feet and they had a chance. Unfortunately, on third and goal he just tried to do too much rather than play for overtime. Chambers is a young quarterback, but he is smart and has taken care of the football thus far in his career, so I am sure he will learn from this. Wild too think that this is his first loss as a starter. 6-1 to start your career isn’t too bad, now is it?
I know it stung more than a typical loss, but after having some time to gather my thoughts, I actually think I am encouraged. They found a way to get themselves 3 yards away from winning a football game despite all the bad. This team is going to fight and they are going to continue to get better.
- The defensive line is the strength of this defense, all the sudden.
I say all the sudden because this group had a lot to prove and were thought to be the weakness or biggest question mark on defense before the season got under way. They lost a ton of production up front and then they lost arguably their best lineman, Ravontae Holt, before the season started. But this group has made their presence felt early and often.
As a group, they lead a defense that is currently ranked 18th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game with 85 yards/game, 13th in yards per carry allowed at 2.31 per carry, they are tied for 4th in sacks with 18 total, and they are 6th in the country in total tackles for loss with 36. They are led by the veteran of the group, Garret Crall (19 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks) but he has gotten plenty of help. DT’s Javaree Jackson (14 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and Mario Mora (9 tackles, 1.5 sacks) have filled in well for Holt. On the edge Josiah Hall has added 6 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and 2.5 sacks.
But finally, the guy I think I have been most impressed with is DE Solomon Byrd. Byrd, a RS freshman from Palmdale has made his presence felt in the last two weeks. He made his first splash against Idaho when he finished the game with 5 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and his first career sack. As an encore, he completely turned the game around at Tulsa. He finished last week with 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, he forced and recovered a fumble, and even got credited with a pass break up. Byrd, who is 6’4” 243 is showing potential to be Wyoming’s next great defensive lineman.
This kind of production and dominance could be answer to why teams are throwing the ball for a lot of yards. The front 7 is completely taking the run game away.
- The passing offense is the biggest concern for this team moving forward.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this, because everyone has seen it, everyone has an opinion, and everyone knows it is a concern that grows larger each game that there isn’t any obvious improvement. Chambers is having a hard time throwing the football and it isn’t lack of separation by his receivers and I don’t even think it would be fair to pin it on play calling (that’s an entire different conversation that we might need to have).
Chambers is currently 27-71 with for 438 yards in the air and has 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Teams are giving him every opportunity to throw the ball, yet he can’t get it done. I didn’t expect him to light it up, but I didn’t expect him to only complete 38 percent of his passes. Right now, it looks like he is always going too fast, he doesn’t set his feet, and he throws every pass as hard as he can. When he does some of these things right, he gets overly excited and sprays the ball all over the field. Something is going to have to change going forward, but maybe we are already seeing that change. After Chambers got benched in the third quarter and Tyler Vander Waal got an opportunity, Chambers came in and led 3 very solid drives by using both his arm and legs and without a running back. He scored two touchdowns, including his first passing TD of the year and ran another to take the lead. After Tulsa got a quick touchdown to regain the lead, Chambers and his receivers made some big plays to move the ball down to the five yard line and unfortunately Chambers fumbled trying to get into the end zone and win the game.
I hope something clicked for him in that 4th quarter, because his first 15 quarters passing were very very concerning.
- It might be time to add some consistent tempo to the offense.
This is related to #3, but this area of the game is going to make or break the Cowboys’ season. If they want to compete for a MW Championship this year, they have to solve the offensive issues sooner than later.
I know Craig Bohl and his OC Brent Vigen are set on running as much of a pro style offense as they can, but it’s time to adapt to their personnel a little bit more. The fact of the matter is that neither Chambers or TVW are NFL prospects at QB right now and they haven’t shown they are advanced enough at this stage to go through the progressions, make the necessary throws that it takes to successfully throw the ball in this offense.
One thing both of them have been very good at over the last two seasons is running an up tempo, 2 minute style offense. They both seem more comfortable just getting to the ball and playing and not making a bunch of reads or trying to read the defense. There is nothing wrong with that, they are both very young. Chambers’ 3 best drives were the 2 scoring drives and the drive that ended with the fumble. All 3 of these were at a faster pace and didn’t seem to involve much thinking. TVW was the same way last season, he was very good under 2 minutes when he needed to get the ball down the field quickly because the clock was working against them.
Now, I am not saying the Cowboys should go to a 2-quarterback system, but they are both examples of finding more success when they can play faster. I sure hope the coaches aren’t too stubborn and are willing to adapt for Mountain West play… oh by the way, I would not be surprised at all if we did start seeing a little bit more of Tyler Vander Waal going forward.
- The Cowboys have a chance to close out a very strong September.
I am including the Missouri game when I talk about September, and the Cowboys are 3-yards away from going 4-0 in their non-conference slate. The fact is, they fell short and are 3-1, which is a very strong month and at least 1 more win than most experts would have picked before the season. This weekend, the Cowboys go into the second part of their season, the most important part… Mountain West Conference Play.
UNLV comes in at 1-2 and they don’t appear to be a very good football team again. Vegas currently has the Cowboys as 9.5 point favorites. UNLV has produced just 2 winning seasons in the last 24 years and was picked 5th in the West division, only ahead of SJSU. They are a football program that has been searching for answers for a long time, so much so that they hired a high school coach to run their program and his seat is currently hotter than the desert sun that they live under.
Don’t get what I am saying twisted, I am not in any way guaranteeing a Cowboy victory. I have been watching Cowboy football for far too long to ever assume anything is ever a lock. With that being said, the schedule worked out nicely for this to be the game that the Cowboys get to come home to and open their conference season. War Memorial Stadium will again be full and rocking, much like it has during the first two games and the crowd will be in “White Out” mode.
The Cowboys have a big time chance opportunity to end the month 4-1 as they head into their bye before they get into the teeth of their conference schedule. A win on Saturday and then 2 weeks to get the team healthy and ready to compete for a conference championship.
- Alijah Halliburton needs some love; he has been fantastic and just turned in his second 17 tackle game of the season. This dude flies around and makes the defense go. Having him in the back really solidifies a solid defense on all three levels. I already mentioned the d-line but Logan Wilson and company in the middle have been very good all season.
- Speaking of Logan Wilson, what can be said about that guy that hasn’t already been said. He is everywhere on the field. He might be my all-time favorite Cowboy defender to watch play the game. He doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game, he is fast, he is smart, and he is tough! He is currently second in the country for career tackles with 357. That number is currently good for 7th all time at Wyoming and he is only 16 tackles away from passing Gabe Knapton and Chris Prosinski to put him into the top 5. This will be something to watch as the season goes on.
Let’s hear your thoughts! Either in the comments section or on twitter @cdub13