Three takes: Wasted opportunities piling up on Pokes
BOISE, Idaho -- There was 2:47 remaining in the first half.
An eternity -- and then some -- in today's game.
Wyoming had three timeouts and all the momentum after marching 76 yards on eight plays -- two passes and six runs -- and tying the game at 7-7 on the previous offensive drive. Titus Swen capped that possession by bulldozing into the end zone from seven yards out.
The defense followed with a quick three-and-out. Chad Muma and Jordan Bertagnole busted through the Broncos' front and brought down George Holani for a two-yard loss on a 3rd-and-1.
That stop gave the visitors even more juice.
So, what did Craig Bohl and Co. do with all of those luxuries at their disposal?
We've seen this scenario play out before. This year, in fact. Instead of moving the ball downfield or being aggressive with three chances to stop the clock, Bohl and first-year offensive coordinator Tim Polasek chose the conservative route. He did the same thing in a narrow win over UConn and a 27-21 road loss at San Jose State three weeks ago.
Xazavian Valladay took the first two handoffs of that drive Friday night and picked up just five yards. Swen took it to the outside and turned the corner on 3rd-and-5. It appeared the sophomore running back picked up the first down on a last-second lunge. Instead, his right knee scraped the blue turf inside Albertsons Stadium.
An official review confirmed that.
Even if Swen had secured the first down, the Cowboys already wasted nearly two minutes of precious time and were still at their own 28-yard line. Scoring obviously wasn't a priority.
With just 52 ticks remaining in the half, Boise State's rookie head coach Andy Avalos and his young, energetic staff gave the Cowboys an education in how to operate a quick-strike offense in the year 2021.
Hank Bachmeier didn't mosey onto the field for a wasted possession and a couple of kneel downs. Oh no. The Broncos sophomore signal caller was interested in points. A tie at the break was adequate for one coaching staff, unacceptable for the other.
By the way, this free teaching lesson began all the way back at Boise State's 12-yard line.
No worries there.
Against a soft zone, Bachmeier easily picked apart the No. 4 pass defense in the country. His top target, Khalil Shakir, snagged the first three passes of that drive, rolling up 44 lightning-fast yards. UW free safety Isaac White was the victim on the first pass. Nickelback Keyon Blankenbaker found himself chasing Shakir on the next two.
Bachmeier, who completed 23-of-32 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown on the night, connected on two more throws, moving the Broncos to Wyoming's 26-yard line with just enough time to bring out the field-goal unit.
That drive -- 52 yards on seven snaps -- took just 49 seconds. Boise State didn't use a single timeout.
Bohl eventually did.
He emphatically asked officials for three straight as Jonah Dalmas lined up for a 43-yard attempt. The "ice" job of the Lou Groza semifinalist was laughable.
Just ask him:
Dalmas made the kick look easy, chirped at the Wyoming bench, did a celebration with his teammates and gave the Broncos a three-point lead at the half.
Here's what Bohl had to say about that swing of momentum.
"It was still going to be a one-possession game at that time," he said.
On the surface, that's true. But we all know when it comes to this current version of the Cowboys' offense, even three points can be insurmountable. After Bohl reviews the game tape, surely he will see just how impactful this turn of events really was.
The Cowboys, who were successful on only 3-of-10 third-down snaps, had just 10 offensive possessions in this contest. Boise State held onto the ball for 33:34 and converted 7-of-15 third-down attempts.
The home team put together five drives of seven plays or more, including four that chewed up more than four minutes of the game clock. The Cowboys punted seven times and finished with four three-and-outs.
Boise State ran 70 plays. Wyoming, 47.
In a nutshell, in this day in age, every possession has to matter. Air Force and New Mexico suffocated the Cowboys in the same ways. You would think they would've learned by now.
Of course, Boise State also received the kick to open the second half.
Of course, Bachmeier and Co. went straight down the field -- 12 plays, 54 yards, 6:09 off the clock.
Of course, Dalmas connected from 38 yards out to extend the lead to six.
Yes, coach, that's still a one-possession game -- but that's not the point. As former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards once famously said, "You play to win the game."
Boise State did just that. Wyoming's staff, once again, took the cautious, stubborn route. That, coupled with an untimely fourth-quarter interception and eight back-breaking penalties, cost the visitors a shot at accomplishing something that hasn't been done in the history of this program -- win in that building.
The wait continues.
Boise State 23, Wyoming 13
Watching wide receiver Isaiah Neyor haul in a pass between the corner and safety and outrace the entire Boise State secondary for a 74-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining Friday night was a thing of beauty.
The freshman showed off his wheels and found the end zone for the fifth time in three weeks.
He's a true gamechanger.
But that begs the question -- why on earth is Neyor not playing a bigger role in this offense?
True, this isn't a new query. And you have to give some credit to Polasek and the Cowboys offensive staff for targeting him nine times in Boise. He paid them off by catching six of those for 126 yards and that long strike.
Still, it could've -- and should've -- been more.
Even his "drop" was an acrobatic display of athleticism. He leapt over the defender and for a brief second actually had both hands on a ball that was thrown behind him. He nearly came down with it. The other throws landed nowhere near him.
Wyoming hasn't had an impactful receiver like this since 2016. Tanner Gentry hauled in 72 balls from Josh Allen for 1,326 yards and added 14 touchdowns that season.
With just two games remaining, Neyor is on pace to finish with just 38 catches for 705 yards and 10 touchdowns. Before you ask, I realize that No. 17 isn't under center anymore. Consistency in the passing game has eluded Levi Williams and Sean Chambers throughout their careers in Laramie.
Allen, as you know, wasn't always accurate, either. Gentry helped cure a lot of those ills with miraculous catches on a weekly basis. One would have to believe Neyor could also serve as a safety net for current Pokes signal callers.
We won't ever know if we don't see it.
Just when you thought the Cowboys' self-inflicted wounds were behind them, they get flagged eight times and get dinged for 50 yards.
We all know Albertsons Stadium is loud. It's arguably the toughest place to play in the Mountain West Conference. But the false starts -- and an unforgivable delay-of-game call following a holding penalty that just erased a 15-yard catch by Valladay -- are starting to define this team.
One of those jumps, on the opening drive of the game, erased a third-down conversion. If you've read this far, you know that was a problematic area for the Pokes all night. The second possession was also derailed by a false start.
Boise State's second offensive series of the game ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Bachmeier to tight end Riley Smith. It never should've come to that. The Broncos lined up for a 26-yard field goal. Dalmas, like he did three times Friday night, hammered it through the uprights.
Then the flags hit the turf.
Wyoming cornerback Azizi Hearn lined up offside. What was once a 4th-and-2 from the 9-yard line and a successful field goal, was now a first and goal from the four.
That can't happen.
Not on the road. Not in that place. Not ever.
"We knew we were going to need to play well and clean to have an opportunity to win," Bohl said. "We were not able to do that. I think the jumps offsides had a big impact and put us behind the sticks. That's not our MO."
Statistically speaking, Wyoming is one of the least penalized teams in the country. The Cowboys are 37th overall in the FBS, averaging under five penalties per game. It's not necessarily the amount of yellow hankies flying, it's the situations and timing that have been so crucial.
For a team with so much experience -- Wyoming returned 95% of its roster from 2020 -- the miscues are unacceptable. It was pointed out numerous times during the national telecast the Cowboys conservative offense can't overcome self-imposed setbacks.
They can't. That's the sad reality right now.
Wyoming had one last chance to comeback in this one. Valladay found a crease and bolted 21 yards down to the Broncos' 30-yard line with 11:43 to go in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys trailing by six.
But, once again, there was laundry on the field.
Wide receiver Joshua Cobbs was nailed for a holding penalty on the outside.
Wyoming's next snap came all the way back at its own 45-yard line. Williams rolled to his right and tossed it into the flat in the direction of tight end Treyton Welch. The throw was behind him. Welch got one hand on it and inadvertently tipped it right into the awaiting arms of Dimitri Washington, who returned the interception to the Cowboys' 13-yard line.
Andrew Van Buren bullied his way into the end zone in from 12 yards out two snaps later.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players