3 Quick takes: Pokes thrown off by Falcons’ passing attack
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- Chad Muma said the Cowboys didn't prepare for the passing game much over the last two weeks of practice.
Makes sense, right?
Before tonight, Air Force averaged just over six throws per outing. Haaziq Daniels best outing came in a 49-45 home loss to Utah State. That night the Falcons' signal caller completed 6-of-12 passes for 182 yards and a score.
Over the past two weeks, he attempted just six total passes and connected on three of them. Both dominate wins for the Falcons.
That all changed tonight.
It wasn't that Daniels lit it up. He was 7-of-10 for 110 yards. He hit Micah Davis for a 13-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter. It gave Air Force the lead back. This time for good.
"I think there was just miscommunication out on the field when those pass plays kind of showed up," said Muma, who led the team with 11 tackles. "That's kind of really why they had those explosive plays against us."
No, it wasn't the fact Daniels went 4-for-4 through the air on that particular drive, it was the timing of it all.
It was brilliant coaching from the guy who all week refused to call the Cowboys a rival.
Wyoming (4-1, 0-1) forced a punt on the Falcons' final three possessions of the first half. Muma and Co. faced 10 snaps and allowed just 27 rushing yards during that time frame. The Cowboys were starting to gain momentum on that side of the ball. So was the offense, scoring its only two touchdowns with less than five minutes to go in the second quarter.
One staff made halftime adjustments.
The other couldn't adjust.
"In my wildest dreams I would've never thought they'd be able to throw the ball as well as they did," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said postgame. "That, quite frankly, was a changeup for them and it caught us off guard a little bit."
A little bit?
Bohl said the Cowboys had a "dickens" of a time with former Air Force quarterback Nate Romine in the 2016 meeting. They knew he could chuck it. He did, too, attempting 19 passes and connecting on two touchdown passes in a 35-26 Wyoming victory.
Bohl said they he got reports that Daniels was "nicked up." His previous work told a tale of a runner and master orchestrator of the Falcons' vaunted triple-option attack.
Turns out he can throw it a little bit, too. It came just at the right time.
"It changed things a lot," UW cornerback CJ Coldon said. "We kind of expected them to just come out and try something new, we just didn't expected it that many times on that drive. They had us. They ... had us with that pass. We just had to play better."
The big question is: Why wouldn't you prepare for any and everything against this team? Having an extra week to prepare only handed Bohl and his staff extra, valuable time, something that is a luxury during the grind of a college football season.
"We're going to take a look at the scheme," he said. "They exploited it and we didn't answer very well."
They sure did.
And about that extra time?
"This team, hell, you can practice for four weeks in a row, they're going to have some stuff and Troy Calhoun does a great job," he continued. "... We were going to need to get some turnovers. We were going to need to have to stay on the field offensively. We didn't do those things. Now, the passing game is disappointing to me because Air Force typically doesn't pass the ball."
They did tonight.
Calhoun 1, Bohl 0
Air Force 24, Wyoming 14
Speaking of throwing
You can't deny Sean Chambers is a gamer. More times than not, a winner, too.
The redshirt sophomore lost just his fourth career game tonight in Colorado Springs. He has 13 victories. The guy is the leader of this team -- the heart and soul.
Those are undeniable truths.
This is too: 11-of-28 passing, 143 yards, a touchdown and two fumbles. That's a 39% completion rate.
That's simply not getting it done. The man himself will be the first one to tell you that.
"It's just one of those days," Chambers said. "I wasn't at my best."
His coach agrees.
"We're concerned about it," Bohl said of the passing game, which had zero yards through the first 25 minutes in this one. "You know, we certainly need to play (better), but I thought he played a very competitive (game). He made some great plays tonight but some of the things we've got to clean up. Tonight, we were going to need to play well and he was going to need to play well.
"I thought there was things that he did that were outstanding and other things that he did that were subpar."
Isn't that always the case?
Chambers certainly made plenty of plays in the pocket, navigating what seemed like a 60-minute onslaught from the Falcons' front four. He ducked, weaved and made chicken salad out of chicken you know what on multiple occasions.
There were also the times his feet weren't set and reads didn't appear to be made. The cat calls for Chambers' job are falling on deaf ears. They should. That win-loss record speaks for itself. However, this team must get more consistency from its passing game.
The excuses are finished.
This team has the talent at wide receiver, tight end and on the offensive line. Like Chambers always says, they just need to do it.
They certainly didn't tonight.
They are who we thought they were
The keys to beating Air Force aren't hidden in a vault deep inside Cheyenne Mountain.
* Get the Falcons offense off the field
* Stay on the field
* Limit third-and-short
* Play assignment, sound football
* Don't shoot yourself in the foot
Of course, doing all of that above is a bit more tricky than it sounds.
Wyoming showed that all night long.
Air Force (5-1, 2-1) possessed the ball for nearly 40 minutes of this game. The Falcons went on two 15-play scoring drives. They also converted 7-of-13 third-down attempts. On the opening drive of the game -- one of those grueling ones that lasted 15 snaps -- Calhoun's cadets converted three fourth downs.
"It's tough seeing that but you just got to respond," Muma said. "Evidently, the biggest thing is just not to let them get to fourth-and-one or fourth-and-inches and kind of keep that distance."
For the second straight game, Wyoming once again fired plenty of hallow points through it's cleats. The Cowboys were nailed with six penalties for 40 yards, none bigger than the holding call that erased a 19-yard scamper by Chambers on a 3rd-and-18 in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Was it a hold? Wyoming fans on social media certainly didn't think so.
That's not the point.
The Cowboys were nailed with a delay of game penalty to start the game. That's inexcusable. A false start also set the visitors back to start a drive in the second half. Brutal.
Also, for the second straight outing, Wyoming lost the turnover battle. Chambers lost two fumbles. The Cowboys put two others on the ground, too.
Bohl's teams don't often beat themselves. Tonight, that wasn't totally the case either like it could've been at UConn. But he knows -- just like you do -- the main key to beating the Falcons, especially in this place, is playing error-free football.
"We knew we were going to need a play clean and play our best game against Air Force," he said. "... We did a couple of things well, but we were inconsistent."
The Cowboys certainly didn't do that.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players