Quick takes: The broken record keeps on spinning
LARAMIE -- New Mexico was supposed to be the Cowboys' sacrificial lamb today.
Danny Gonzales' team limped in with five straight losses and no offensive touchdowns in the last two games. The Lobos rolled up just 69 yards of total offense in last week's blowout loss in Albuquerque.
That's the worst outing in the 23-year history of the Mountain West Conference. It confirmed the Lobos placement at the bottom of the FBS standings in total offense.
That's 130th out of 130 teams.
The Lobos haven't been competitive. That came right from the mouth of their head coach this week. He started six true freshmen in Laramie. He has just three sophomores on his roster. Gonzales will be the first to tell you this season was bound to be a frustrating one.
This was supposed to be a get-well game for Wyoming.
The Cowboys entered on a two-game losing streak. A skid of six straight scoreless quarters accompanied it. The visitors were starting a back-up quarterback, Isaiah Chavez, who completed just one pass on one attempt this season.
Las Vegas oddsmakers dubbed the home team a 20-point favorite.
New Mexico was supposed to be just what the doctor ordered.
Now, that dubious distinction of being the whipping boys of the league might just belong to the Wyoming Cowboys, a team that was supposed to compete for a Mountain West championship this fall.
We heard all the title talk. We heard about re-engineering the offense. We heard that this was the year.
News flash: it isn't.
Craig Bohl likes to say the price of poker has gone up.
The Cowboys are folding right before our very eyes.
"I don't quite have a clear answer," Wyoming's eighth-year head coach said of his team's inept offense.
Today, once again, Sean Chambers turned the ball over on the team's opening drive. That was an interception right into the hands of Corey Hightower. The redshirt sophomore now has four interceptions in the last two weeks to go along with three fumbles.
Twice, Isaiah Neyor was missed on would-be, walk-in touchdowns.
The Cowboys committed seven penalties in this one. We used to preface those by saying "uncharacteristic." Not anymore.
Bohl put it perfectly in his postgame press conference.
"You know, it's like a broken record," he said. "It's discouraging."
It sure is.
Despite all of those head-scratching stats above, Chambers got his seventh start under center this season. He responded by completing 11-of-23 passes for 96 yards and a pick. He also fumbled late in the fourth. That was pounced on by his right guard, Logan Harris.
Levi Williams was eventually inserted in the game midway through the second quarter. He marched the Cowboys 62 yards on nine plays. He hit Neyor with a 38-yard strike. Unfortunately for Wyoming, the redshirt freshman wide receiver mistimed his jump because he didn't know the defender fell down.
He didn't need to jump at all. Yet another one of many missed opportunities for this bewildered offense under first-year offensive coordinator, Tim Polasek.
So, what's the answer? Do you have one because Bohl, the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West, and his players sure don't seem to.
"You know, that is a question that we're desperately trying to figure out at the moment," Williams said.
They talk about playing a clean, error-free game. That definitely hasn't been the case, but that doesn't rack up yards -- and more importantly -- points. Watching Wyoming attempt to move the ball has been a painful experience. No one looks comfortable or confident. They can make a 5-yard out route look like an algebra quiz.
"We're frustrated. You sense my frustration," Bohl said. "I'm not going to let it spill out, but we've got to get better. You know, this tape is not going to be a pretty tape to look at."
Dreams of winning the program's first conference title since 1993 were all but dashed against Chavez and the visiting Lobos.
At this rate, just winning another game will be a tall task.
This all reeks of 2005.
You remember that nightmare don't you? The Cowboys won four straight that season, including road victories over Ole Miss and Air Force. Then came the TCU debacle. Wyoming turned the ball over seven times that afternoon inside War Memorial Stadium. The Horned Frogs longest offensive drive was 19 yards in a 28-14 win.
The Cowboys didn't win again, dropping their last six.
That would sure be a shame if this campaign goes down that path. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
"I don't know," Chambers said when asked how the Cowboys can turn this thing around. "It's going to have to be one guy or everybody stepping up and doing something and just saying we're sick and tired of this feeling after Saturdays."
New Mexico 14, Wyoming 3
The QB quandary
Levi Williams was clearly frustrated in the postgame press conference.
It's not hard to see why, either.
Not only did he not get the start today, he was yanked after a fumbled exchange between he and Neyor on a sweep with nearly 14 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Williams said he put it right in Neyor's sternum. Upon further review, he did just that.
So, why the quick trigger?
"You know, it was frustrating because I felt like I executed pretty well," said Williams who completed just 3-of-7 passes for 51 yards and rushed for an additional 23.
Williams was asked if it's hard to get in a rhythm under center with the uncertainty of who the quarterback would be on a certain drive.
"I mean, yeah," he said bluntly. "I wouldn't say it's impossible, but it's hard. I feel like it's hard on the guys, too. They don't know who's going in or what's going on. But yeah, it's hard."
I asked the redshirt freshman if he felt like it was truly an open battle in practice this week?
"I mean, I guess. I don't know," Williams said. "I have a lot of questions after today's game, so we'll see."
And finally, I asked him if he thought he was good enough in practice last week to be named the starting QB?
"I don't know. I mean, it's not up to me, ultimately."
Williams isn't happy. Who could blame him?
Did he light it up today? No. Was he a detriment to the team? Also, no.
This mess can't all be pinned on the signal callers, but it's a glaring issue that's not going away anytime soon.
Always the diplomat, Bohl said his staff will analyze the QB spot again this week. He said last week he looked at the body of work and who could be more effective throwing the ball down field. Bohl said Chambers "demonstrated better skill sets" to do just that.
This will be a storyline worth paying attention to this week and beyond.
Catching the Cowboys off guard
New Mexico's offense made the transition from predictable to potent today in Laramie.
That, Gonzales said, was part of why his team walked off the high plains with a 14-3 win.
It all starts with the triple option, something the Lobos haven't shown much of since Bob Davie was canned after the 2019 season. Chavez nearly ran it to perfection, too.
"I'm sure they did not prepare for it," Gonzales said postgame. "We haven't shown but five or six triple option plays all year and all we ran, for the most part, was triple option and some play-action stuff."
Imagine switching things up when one thing obviously isn't working.
Crazy concept, huh?
Bohl knew Rocky Long would have his defense prepared for this one. He always seems to. Long, the Lobos' defensive coordinator, is now 5-1 against Bohl all-time. But who saw this coming from the visiting offense, which averaged an FBS-worst 254 yards per outing?
"We found a way to win and (the offense) did a nice job of controlling the ball," Gonzales said. "That was a team win today."
Chavez completed 10-of-11 passes for 112 yards and a perfectly executed 43-yard touchdown pass to tight end Trace Bruckler on a 4th-and-3. He also rushed the ball a team-high 16 times for 49 yards. His long of 19 came on a 3rd-and-21. New Mexico picked up it's third conversion on as many attempts.
The Lobos held the ball for more than 34 minutes in the win.
"Isaiah did a nice job with some handling of the stuff we did, and that gives us the best chance to win," Gonzales said. "... It doesn't matter who the QB is, what we did today gives us the best chance to win."
Though the Cowboys' defense has been it's strength this season, opposing coaches are finding ways to make things happen. Northern Illinois pounded the rock, UConn utilized a hurry-up offense, Troy Calhoun and Air Force started throwing the ball and Fresno State, like Montana State in the opener, used a perfect balance of running and throwing.
These losses certainly can't be pinned on Wyoming's defense, but it makes you wonder why other teams are so successful at making adjustments while the Cowboys can't seem to get out of their own way?
"Credit to New Mexico," Williams said. "They did a good job, but I mean, we ultimately lost us the game."
Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium
- Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium