‘It’s not the last you’re going to see of him’
LARAMIE -- Wyoming's head coach didn't beat around the bush -- It's not easy to pull a starting quarterback from a game, especially one who also serves as a team captain.
With 10:18 left in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 17-0 blanking at the hands of visiting Fresno State, that's exactly what Craig Bohl did. Levi Williams was inserted into the game, replacing Sean Chambers, who has started all six games this season under center for the Cowboys.
"Anytime you make a quarterback change, it's a pretty major change," Bohl said postgame, "Particularly when you have a captain."
Chambers final stat line was the culprit: 8-of-23 passing, 111 yards, three interceptions and a fumble.
The previous week at Air Force, Chambers completed just 11-of-28 throws for 143 yards. He did toss a 10-yard touchdown to Isaiah Neyor in that 24-14 loss to the Falcons, but he also fumbled the ball twice.
Chants of "Levi! Levi!" rang down from Wyoming's student section. Williams received a loud ovation from what remained of a crowd of 20,002 inside War Memorial Stadium when he trotted onto the field with the offense to try and get something going late against Fresno State.
That was not the way Chambers, a Kerman, California native, envisioned things would go against his hometown Bulldogs.
Bohl announced Monday that reps would be split 50-50 this week between Chambers and Williams. Those two, like they did all spring and throughout fall camp, will once again battle for the reins of this Wyoming offense. The guy who comes out on top will be in the huddle first when New Mexico rolls into town this Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
Still, if you ask fellow captain Garrett Crall, Chambers isn't one to feel sorry for himself and sulk. In fact, the Cowboys' quarterback was the first one at the postgame podium, taking questions from the media.
Was he happy? Absolutely not. But he knows his responsibility.
His confidence, he said, isn't wavering. He knows he can do this. He added he's prepared to fight for his job.
"I think we need to get back to the basics," Chambers said postgame. "It's kind of embarrassing getting shutout and I take that mainly on my shoulders. We need to get back to the basics and start from square one."
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Three straight season-ending leg injuries have cost Chambers the better part of 14 games over the last three years. His teammates have watched him battle back from two fractured fibulas and a torn meniscus in his knee only to come out more confident than the time before.
Leadership. There's no question who that title belongs to in this locker room.
"No one ever has to question whether he's a warrior," Crall said, adding that he knows Chambers will be hearing it from many corners after his latest performance. "He works hard every single day he is here, whether that's in the weight room, the training room or on the practice field. He's working his tail off. He's came here and been given more bad injuries than about anyone on this roster and he's fought his way back.
"It's not the last you're going to see of him, I can tell you that."
Esaias Gandy admitted it was tough to see Chambers get pulled from the game.
"It's hard," the Cowboys' safety said. "I don't know what it's like to be a quarterback. It's a very hard position. Seeing Sean (benched), it sucks."
Bohl said Monday that quarterbacks often receive too much glory when things are going good and too much blowback when it's the opposite. He knows the fanbase is passionate, but wanted to remind everyone that these are college students, not professionals.
"They're doing everything they can to win for the Cowboys," Bohl said.
Crall agreed, adding don't count Chambers out quite yet.
"He wasn't in there in the locker room crying. He wasn't in there moping, either. He wasn't like that on the sideline and he's not going to be like that. That's not who Sean is," Wyoming's senior defensive end said. "He's going to come back Monday and he's going to working to beat New Mexico and that's just how it's going to be from him.
"That's why, you know, if I had to go to war with a guy I'm freaking bringing him with me. The same thing is going to continue."