3 Quick takes: Pokes fall to Tulsa … but not without a fight
TULSA, Okla., -- Well, it finally happened.
The dropped balls, misfires, missed tackles, questionable play calling and an inability to get off the field on third down finally doomed the Cowboys Saturday in muggy Tulsa.
Wyoming has been swaying on a tight rope through three games. Today, Golden Hurricane winds beat them up, discombobulated them and dropped them safely in the loss column.
That 3-0 record that everyone has been clamoring about is over.
However, it's not all doom and gloom from H.A. Chapman Stadium, where "16,246" fans witnessed Wyoming's first blemish. This team might be short in a number of categories -- heart isn't one of them.
Sean Chambers, despite his inconsistencies and lack of production through the air, never gave up.
He got benched late in the third quarter.
It was a message from head coach Craig Bohl. Not just to Chambers, who finished the day 9-of-25 for 193 yards and a touchdown, but to his team as a whole.
All Chambers did was drive the Cowboys 92 yards in six plays to give them a 21-17 lead with just 5:25 to go. The redshirt freshman took off from the 15 and scampered into the end zone. It was his second rushing touchdown of the day.
"During the course of that, yeah, we needed to spark something," Bohl said about inserting Tyler Vander Waal. "We needed to spark some emotion. We needed to spark change. Sometimes change for change is not always the best response, but I do think change shook some things up. I think our football team rallied back. I appreciated how Tyler went in, and I really appreciate how Sean went back in and competed.
"At that time, we were in the doldrums. We weren’t doing anything. That was my decision and I do not second guess that decision. I thought we responded well after that."
What did Chambers do when he was relegated to the back-up role?
"He was in the huddle when Tyler went in, cheering everyone on, saying 'we got this, let's do this.' He was kind of helping everyone out," said wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt, who caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Chambers early in the fourth quarter. "He's a great leader. I didn’t expect anything else."
Vander Waal was also seen on the sideline, celebrating those touchdowns that appeared to give the Cowboys just enough to escape Tulsa with a perfect non-conference record.
It wasn't meant to be.
Heart and determination can sometimes be a detriment. It was on the Cowboys' final offensive play when Chambers bowled his way to the two-yard line with under a minute to play. Instead of going down, the big signal caller tried to do too much. He fumbled the ball right into the hands of Reggie Robinson.
That's the same guy who blocked a Cooper Rothe field goal in the first quarter. That kind of stings, doesn't it?
It was the first loss of Chambers' career as Wyoming's starting quarterback.
Bohl delayed the inevitable. Referees told him the ball was out. He didn't want to believe it. He made them take a second look anyway.
The Cowboys winning streak has seemingly been on borrowed time. The deficiencies on both sides of the ball were just too glaring to overlook. The one stat they don't keep is effort. This team has that in spades.
It will likely get this team to a bowl game and keep them in contention throughout the season.
Bohl wasn't about to sugarcoat it -- his team got punched in the mouth Saturday afternoon in Tulsa.
Trey Smith was in street clothes and on crutches after the game, Tyler Hall was down on the turf for an extended amount of time and Torrington product, Logan Harris, is currently in a local hospital after taking a hit to the head that led to him leaving the field in an ambulance.
Garrett Crall went down, so did Titus Swen.
Wyoming's running backs were so beat up, Brett Brenton, a walk-on from Casper, carried the ball three times for nine yards.
If everything went as planned, Xazavian Valladay would not have played, giving his tender ankle and extra week to fully heal. Nope, instead, he was inserted in the third quarter.
"We got beat up," Bohl said. "There was some smacking going on out there. That was a physical game."
Bohl did not have an update on Harris, only saying that he is in a local hospital and doesn't know for how long. Monday, expect a black and blue injury report.
What if I told you before this game that the Cowboys would have seven sacks, force a fumble, breakup nine passes and record 14 tackles for loss.
Well, of course, you would say Tulsa would throw for 354 yards, convert 3-of-5 fourth downs and win 24-21.
Solomon Byrd led Wyoming with 2.5 sacks, giving him 3.5 in the last two weeks, and added the same number of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. This unit was thought to be a possible "weak link" heading into the season. Instead, they have racked up 18, which as of 7:09 p.m. CST, is the most in the nation.
"I'm just doing my job," Byrd said post game. "Really, I've just been playing more."
He was in no mood to talk about individual stats. Neither was Alijah Halliburton, who led the world in tackles Saturday with 17. He even added a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith is probably smiling in an ice bath as we speak. He spent a lot of time on the turf today.