Chambers gets reins of Pokes’ offense, but what’s changed?
LARAMIE -- Wyoming was at the Missouri two-yard line.
It was third-and-goal early in the second quarter and the home team was already trailing 14-0.
Sean Chambers went under center, took the snap, faked the handoff and ran a bootleg to his right. Streaking -- all alone -- into the end zone was senior tight end Josh Harshman.
"Oh, man," the television announcer said. "I mean, you couldn't draw it up any better if you're an offensive coordinator."
The execution was the opposite.
Chambers spiked the ball into the ground short of the goal line. Harshman laid in the end zone with his head on the turf. The redshirt freshman quarterback could only shake his head as the field-goal team ran onto the field.
Chambers said Monday that his footwork last season was "atrocious."
Aside from rehabbing his left knee and dealing with a worldwide pandemic, that has been the sole focus for the signal caller from Kerman, Calif.
Apparently it's paid dividends.
He was named the Cowboys' starting quarterback once again Monday.
"This offseason, I took a look at my footwork," Chambers told the media. " ... It wasn't good at all. Wasn't good enough. I really emphasized that and got my feet under me. I've gotten my feet to calm down and I focus more. That's the name of the game and what you have to do."
When the Wyoming offense trots onto the field inside Mackay Stadium this Saturday in Reno, it will be 363 days since the last time Chambers went under center.
Ironically enough, his last snap came against this same Nevada team.
With 8:49 remaining in the first quarter, down by that same goal line where he missed Harshman in the opener, Chambers tucked the ball and headed for the right pile-on. Just as he was attempting to stick the ball over the white stripe, a Nevada defender hit him low.
The touchdown counted. The Cowboys were off to a commanding 14-0 lead.
But their quarterback was clearly hobbled.
"There have been some ups and downs with the injury and COVID-19," Chambers said. "There's definitely been some uncertainty there, but to take the field this Saturday is going to mean the world to me. It's going to be fun. It's going to be exciting to get back out there and compete with the guys."
Monday was Chambers' 21st birthday. The gift of becoming the starter was sweet, but the California kid seemed equally excited about what happened the night before.
"You're talking about the Dodgers, right?"
Yes, his baseball team is World Series bound, but all kidding aside, Chambers knows this is a big season for him to prove a couple of things to his critics -- that he can throw with better accuracy, and more importantly, stay healthy.
Chambers is 9-2 as a starter. His two losses -- on the road at Tulsa and San Diego State -- have come by a combined seven points. In eight games, he threw for 915 yards and seven touchdowns while completing just 43 percent of his passes.
To make matters worse, his last two campaigns in Laramie have ended with a season-ending injury. An ankle in 2018 and the left knee last October. Both with him attempting to score on the ground.
"I'm not going to go out there and throw my body around and take unnecessary hits," he said.
Something that will be tough for Chambers -- and Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl -- will be running out of bounds or sliding.
Bohl admits he is old school and doesn't like to see anyone give up on a play. Chambers has proven the same. Bohl has said numerous times throughout fall camp that Chambers looks even faster than he ever was.
Bohl knows his QB can run. Chambers carried the ball 90 times for 567 yards in 2019. He scored 10 touchdowns on the ground.
What can he do this season with his right arm, though?
"He's improved fundamentally in his throwing," Bohl said Monday, adding that every throw a quarterback makes is charted. "Those numbers have improved significantly since last season. His progression reading the play and his delivery is better. He's placing his feet in the right place."
Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen called Chambers and Levi Williams into his office this past August. He wanted the duo to know that the veteran would likely get the start, but that Williams would also see time under center.
Vigen put it as simple as he can.
"We recognize they are two of our better playmakers, period, on offense," he said. "It's in our offense's best interest."
What put Chambers in the driver's seat?
"What he's shown not just in camp, but throughout his career, he deserves to start," Vigen said, adding that Williams "deserves to play."
"Sean started turning a corner, fundamentally. He's not getting out of whack. He had a tendency early to lose his base and move around too much. He really started to progress toward that middle part last year."
That "middle part" Vigen is referring to is the Nevada game.
That day, Chambers completed 6-of-9 throws for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Raghib Ismail Jr. on a perfect over-the-shoulder throw in the end zone from 37 yards out.
On the first play from scrimmage, Chambers floated a pass over the Wolf Pack linebacker right into the arms of a streaking Xazavian Valladay for a 53-yard scoring strike.
His one mistake came inside the red zone early in the second quarter when he tossed an interception. That's after he re-entered the game with that left knee injury listed above. It clearly affected the throw.
Chambers came out of the halftime locker room in street clothes.
Unfortunately for him, that became his gameday uniform the remainder of the season.