Quick takes: The effort is there … the results aren’t
SAN JOSE, Calif., -- "The effort and the resolve are there."
So are the same ol' mistakes, turnovers, poor decision making and, worst of all, results.
Craig Bohl certainly appreciated his team's intentions Saturday afternoon inside the heart of Silicon Valley, and he should -- it was admirable -- but in the birthplace of high tech and innovation, the bottom line is all that matters.
For Wyoming, that now includes four consecutive losses.
"We got to coach them up better, we have to encourage them a little bit more and put ourselves in better positions," Wyoming's eighth-year head coach said after the Cowboys fell to the Spartans, 27-21. "I think sometimes -- and we'll look at the tape -- we'll gnash our teeth because of a lack of execution here and there."
Here, there, everywhere.
And that was no more apparent then on the Cowboys final drive of the day.
Coming off a a four-play, 49-yard touchdown drive and a lightning quick three-and-out by the defense, Wyoming took over at its own 25-yard line, trailing by just six points, with 1:50 remaining on the clock.
This was the visitors chance to silence the doubters. This was their shot to pull one out of the fire.
How did they respond in this potential season-saving moment?
The Cowboys beleaguered front five allowed back-to-back sacks by Cade Hall and lost 15 yards of field position in the process. The next two snaps concluded with consecutive incomplete passes off the right arm of Levi Williams, who was starting his first game of the season due to ineffective play at the quarterback spot.
That was their answer.
"You know, it's extremely disappointing," said Williams, who completed 12-of-22 passes for 129 yards to go along with two touchdown passes and a pair of interceptions. "We've got a lot of super seniors on this team that I felt like I let down. You know, we're really frustrated."
Entering this one, Bohl emphasized the need to win the turnover battle. This would've been the week to do it, too. SJSU was minus-11 in that department, the worst mark in college football.
Now, the Spartans are minus-9 after snagging a pair of picks, just their second and third interceptions of the season.
Wyoming, once again, forced zero.
There were also the head scratching moments like when the Cowboys took over with 1:10 left in the first half at their own 27-yard line with three timeouts remaining. Xazavian Valladay ran into the pile on first down. Williams did that himself on second. On third down, the redshirt freshman quarterback evaded pressure and ran out of bounds short of the sticks. That stopped the clock. SJSU got the ball back with 44 seconds to go.
The lack of aggressiveness there, especially for a team that needs to make the most of every possession, is downright maddening.
Speaking of crazy decisions.
Who could forget about the broken play on the first snap of the fourth quarter? You remember that one. Williams, in the shot gun, looking to handoff to ... nobody. He was dropped after a 1-yard gain. The next play, a 4th and 4, went incomplete.
How about Williams rolling left to the short side of the field on a 4th-and-2 late in the fourth quarter. That was the 15th play of a drive that started at the Cowboys' 1-yard line. Valladay accounted for 34 yards on the ground on that possession. Titus Swen added a 23-yard burst. Williams also rolled up 15 rushing yards.
That throw on fourth down had no chance. Yes, Ayden Eberhardt hauled it in -- albeit out of bounds -- but that call just sets the table for failure.
Those two turnovers on downs were daggers.
Today, this loss can't be pinned directly on the offense like the last two.
The Cowboys' defense also got caught off guard by SJSU signal caller Nick Nash, who gashed the visitors on the ground for 112 yards on just 11 carries. He eluded pressure time and time again. He got to the second level, made a guy miss and was into the wide open.
"Yeah, he's impressive," UW linebacker Chad Muma said. "He's faster than what we thought heading into the game. Originally, on film, we weren't too sure about his speed. We knew he was elusive in the pocket and that he could scramble and run well. He really showed it today."
SJSU (5-4, 3-2) finished with 388 total yards in the win. That included 238 on the ground.
The most disheartening part -- two of the Spartans touchdown drives came right after the Cowboys (4-4, 0-4) found the end zone.
They always had an answer.
"I feel like they put us in a position at the end of the game to be in it and keep it close," Muma said of the offense.
Haven't heard that in a while.
The players we spoke to postgame -- Williams, Muma and Rome Weber -- all assured us that they would be ready for the Border War next Saturday in Laramie. Bohl echoed those same sentiments.
I believe them, too.
The effort is not the issue. The execution -- along with a number of other ailments listed above -- are.
San Jose State 27, Wyoming 21
Who's the QB?
Bohl isn't committing to Levi Williams.
Believe me, I asked -- twice.
"Well, I purposely avoided that question," Bohl said. "You know, I'm going to be frank with you -- I want to look at the look at the tape ... So, I'll stand on that. I can understand why you asked that. Understand why I gave you the answer."
Williams did toss a pair of touchdowns Saturday. One was a perfect deep ball into the arms of Isaiah Neyor from 54 yards out. The other also went to Neyor. Unlike so many times this year, the quarterback gave the 6-foot-4 wide out a chance. He came down with it in the end zone.
Consistency wasn't there for Williams throughout the afternoon. He missed high on a number of passes early. His two interceptions were the ugly kind. The first one he scrambled to his right and threw it across his body into triple coverage. The cardinal sin of quarterbacks. The second, he heaved up in the general direction of Neyor. That's typically a fantastic idea. Not when it's 10 yards short of its target.
Sean Chambers had seven games to cement this gig. It started about as good as it could. Wyoming won its first four and he led a pair of game-winning drives. The turnovers came fast and furious over the last three games. They were unsurmountable types.
Williams should get the start Saturday against Border War rival, Colorado State.
Was he great Saturday? No. But he needs time. This was just the third healthy start of his career. Let's see what the kid can do.
After the loss, Williams faced the media and took all the blame for this one. He said he wasn't good enough. He said he let the team down. He vowed to be better.
He sounded like a leader.
"I don't feel like I played very well," Williams said. "You know, those two turnovers were really bad, really costly and frustrating for me. It's just me trying to make a play when there's not one to be made. I just need to eat the ball. Those are on me.
"You know, this loss, I feel like is on me. You know, points came out of those turnovers. We were close there at the end, but I blame this loss on me."
Up-tempo the way to go?
When Wyoming went to a hurry up, things started clicking offensively.
Too bad for Bohl and Co. it was too little, too late.
Pinned at their own 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys ditched the huddle and started making plays, especially on the ground. Valladay broke a pair of runs. So did Swen. Quickly and effectively, the visitors marched 18 yards on 15 plays.
The drive ended with a turnover on downs, but for the first time all day, the Spartans were on their heels.
Wyoming's offensive line was showing glimpses of its prior dominance, too.
Will this be a common theme going forward?
"When that did occur there we were able to begin to dent them in the running game," Bohl said. "We were able to not substitute and go right back the line of scrimmage. We had softened that front up. They couldn't substitute and that's what really gave us some ability."
"I think there are times that it can be good, but what really made it successful was our pad level was lower than their pad level and that allowed us to get some gains," Bohl continued. "So, I'm cautious to say, OK, we're going to be upbeat, fast-tempo team if you're not being able to do something successful. It was good, it worked and it did give us a shot to win. But it wasn't enough."
Williams said he's unsure if up-tempo is the answer for this struggling offense. He said he will be doing his homework and seeing what worked on the plane ride home.
"Like I said, I don't feel like our offense did bad," he said. "I feel like I just put us in a really deep hole with those two turnovers, pressing too much and trying to do too much. It's on me."
Bohl might be hesitant to commit to a full-scale change, but if he does, we've seen the faced-pace offense work this year. It worked in the dying seconds against Montana State, Northern Illinois and UConn.
Those were all Wyoming wins.