Chambers gets hook, comes back with vengeance
TULSA, Okla., -- Once again, things were heading south on Sean Chambers and the Wyoming offense.
Trailing 17-7 late in the third quarter, Craig Bohl did something a number of fans have been clamoring for -- he benched the redshirt freshman.
As Tyler Vander Waal loosened up on the sideline, No. 12 stood stoic, staring at the field with his helmet resting near his hip in his left hand. No one stood near him.
Who could blame them?
"He's a competitive guy," Bohl said after the Cowboys fell to Tulsa, 24-21, Saturday afternoon at H.A. Chapman Stadium. "The look that he had in his eye when I pulled him out was not one of warm, fuzzy pleasure. It wasn’t. But this isn’t a warm fuzzy game."
Chambers had completed just 5-of-16 passes to that point for 69 yards. This, of course, is nothing new. Through three games, the Kerman, Calif., product had just 18 completions.
But on this day, punt after punt, Bohl finally made the call.
"During the course of that, yeah, we needed to spark something," Bohl said. "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."
When Vander Waal got ready to run on the field for his first series, there was Chambers, patting him on the back and leaving him with some words of encouragement.
Vander Waal, who started the Cowboys first eight games in 2018, was under center for two possessions. He rifled in a nice completion to Raghib Ismail Jr. that was called back on a holding penalty. Then, he looked in Ismail's direction again, tossing one up for the senior which he leaped up and grabbed for a 21-yard gain.
Unfortunately for Vander Waal, that was his lone completion. He finished 1-of-6 passing.
Chambers was reinserted and quickly delivered, hitting Ayden Eberhardt in stride for a 53-yard touchdown to put the Pokes to within three points with 11:03 to go.
"He came back out throwing the ball really well, moving the offense and scoring touchdowns," Eberhardt said of Chambers. "He responded really well. That’s got to be obviously as tough spot, but in the huddle, when Tyler went in, he was cheering everyone on, saying 'we got this, let's do this.' He was kind of helping everyone out.
"He's a great leader. I didn’t expect anything else."
On Wyoming's next possession, Chambers orchestrated a six-play, 92-yard drive that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown dash from the QB. It was his second rushing touchdown of the day.
And more importantly, it put Wyoming in the lead, 21-17, with 5:25 remaining.
Still, that wouldn't be enough.
With 3:21 remaining, Chambers and Co. got the ball back once again. This time, they trailed, 24-21. The Cowboys just needed a field goal to force overtime. Chambers had other ideas.
On a 3rd and nine, he hit Dontae Crow over the middle. The Sheridan product races down the sideline and even broke a few tackles. With less than a minute left, Wyoming had the ball on the Tulsa 10. It was a chance to score the go-ahead points and salt the clock away.
Chambers took the snap, made his reads, and began to drift to his right. Then, he took off. It became apparent that he couldn't score. Blue jerseys were swarming. He tried anyway.
Instead of having the ball inside the 5-yard line and trotting out one of the best place kickers in the nation, Chambers went for broke, diving for the end zone. He was hit by Tulsa linebacker, Cooper Edminston. The ball popped out.
Game over. Winning streak over.
Bohl was asked after the game if he planned to stick with Chambers next week after his 9-for-25, 193-yard performance.
The coach didn't like that question.
"You keep on saying Sean," Bohl said, pointing out that the offensive line, receivers and tight ends all share in the blame for the Cowboys' poor passing attack this season. "I saw a lot of dropped balls today. I get it, but I'm not going to put all this -- and not have you put all this -- on Sean. I get it, he needs to improve. I'm going to stick up for him."
Bohl said that he has no doubt pulling Chambers was the right thing to do in the moment. He was also pleased with how he responded.
So, in other words, expect to see No. 12 behind center when UNLV comes to town Saturday night for the Mountain West Conference opener.
"I appreciated how Tyler went in," Bohl said. "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."