Tuck’s Takes: Bohl’s ‘green light’ won’t soon be forgotten
LARAMIE -- Where does the confidence come from to put the game in the hands of a quarterback -- one making his first-career start, no less -- who has completed just three balls all night, including a pair of interceptions?
That was my opening question for Craig Bohl tonight.
Wyoming's ninth-year head coach, who was in zero mood -- initially -- to answer that inquiry, offered up this postgame explanation.
Bohl: "So, what would've been the other opportunity? Talk to me."
Me: "You were in field-goal range."
Bohl: "Field-goal range? Did you see the snap before on the extra point? How'd that look?
Bohl: "OK, so we can play chess all day long. And I'm disappointed for Jayden (Clemons). I mean, Cody, you know, we had X number of time, I told (offensive coordinator) Tim (Polasek) let's try and score a touchdown if we can. And believe me, that's not scripted, but I'm going to be real guarded here. OK, so if you want to come after somebody, you come after me."
Me: "I'm not trying to come after anybody."
Bohl: "Come on."
Me: "I'm just curious what went into the thinking?"
Bohl: "That's what went into the thinking."
Did that clear up that controversial final call for you?
Let's rewind a bit here.
With 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys trailing 20-17, Clemons tossed his second interception of the night into the arms of JL Skinner. That appeared to be the final nail in Wyoming's coffin, not to mention chances at taking the lead atop the Mountain Division.
Boise State's job -- run out the clock.
With just under a minute to go, George Holani took an innocent enough looking handoff and ran into the pile. Before the running back's knee touched turf, the ball popped loose and right into the hands of Wyoming's defensive end DeVonne Harris, who rumbled 44 yards down to the Broncos' 21-yard line.
Somehow, someway, this miracle run for the youngsters in Laramie wasn't quite complete.
Then, just like that, it was.
Clemons, who finished the day 3-of-16 for 30 yards through the air, playing in place of an injured Andrew Peasley, took the shotgun snap, calmly looked to his right and fired a throw toward the end zone. Joshua Cobbs was the intended target. Skinner had other ideas.
It was a cruel twist of fate. From the peaks of the Laramie Range to the depths of Hell's Half Acre.
Still, the question remains, why did Bohl and Co. decide that was the right call to send in for a struggling rookie signal caller?
"I want to be clear on this that I gave the green light on that play," Bohl said. "Did it come out and was it executed the way we thought it would be? No. Obviously not. I gave Tim the light to say, 'OK, take one shot, let's try to score, if we don't hit it then we're going to kick a field goal.'
"That was the logic. Jayden is going to learn."
The reasoning is understandable. You have a chance to win this thing in regulation. You live and die with these decisions, though. That's why Bohl gets paid the big bucks.
Clemons was thrown into a tough spot tonight, facing the top defense in the conference with everything riding on the outcome of this game. This was a guy who ran the scout team at this time last year. Wyoming isn't even in this position without the former walk-on leading the team to a 14-13 come-from-behind win last Saturday in Fort Collins.
Does he need to be better? Yes. Is this loss squarely on him? No.
Clemons, who has been called an unquestioned leader of this team, stepped behind the podium to answer questions after this one. You know, like leaders tend to do.
"I don't really know how to process it or put it into words," an emotional Clemons said. "The biggest thing on my mind is, I feel like I have to do more for my team. They trusted me and I feel like there were plays out there I could've done better. I could've made more plays, not had us in that situation. It sucks, I can't go back and change the past but one thing I need to improve on and do better on is that.
"... I was going in to win. I was going to take that shot. If we make that catch, it's a different story."
Clemons' teammates have already started to rally behind him.
"I think one thing is you just can't put it on him. I mean, it's a team game," UW linebacker Easton Gibbs said. "That's the biggest thing, he's just got to keep his head up. He came in, he did well, he made all the checks he needed to do. He hung in there. It's a tall (task) to ask, you're coming into a game that's for the Mountain side of the conference and, you know, he's never started a game before.
"... It's not on him. It's a team loss and it's a team game."
Parker Christensen said he just spoke to Clemons before facing the media.
"He probably thinks right now that everything's on him and it's not," UW's sophomore fullback said. "You know, there's multiple times in the game where we could have done something different. It shouldn't have come down to those last few plays. I told him to keep his head up.
"... It's not on one guy. I mean, we're a team."
Bohl admitted there will be some sleepless hours ahead. I'm sure he will replay that final throw in his mind over and over again.
This one will likely be talked about for years.
Fans will remember a gutsy effort from an young and hungry yet injury-riddled team who arrived way ahead of time. They will remember Titus Swen, gashing the Broncos to the tune of 212 rushing yards, including an 83-yard touchdown jaunt to give the Cowboys a 17-13 lead late in the third quarter.
They will remember a defense, playing without its two starting tackles, holding Boise State to just 20 points and forcing two turnovers.
This one will ultimately be remembered, though, as the one that got away. The time Wyoming received a last-minute gift in the form of a miracle fumble and promptly tossed it away on a throw -- better yet, a play call -- that shouldn't have happened.
This one stings. It should. Moral victories aren't cutting it around here any longer.
“I’m disappointed for Jayden. I’m going to love him up. He’s hurting," Bohl said. "If you want to be critical, be critical of me, don’t be critical of him ... There are tons of emotions in our locker room right now. There are guys upset, hurt -- coaches, players and
FINAL: Boise State 20, Wyoming 17
* Wyoming finished this game 1-for-10 on third down. That, coupled with just 30 yards passing and three turnovers, it's amazing this team was even in this game let alone had the ball on Boise State's 21-yard line with 45 ticks remaining. How did that happen? The Cowboys defense was solid. Yes, they gave up plenty of big plays in this one, but ultimately they didn't break. The Broncos average 30 points per game. That's the best mark in the conference. Tonight, they scratched and clawed for 20. "They were good," Bohl said. "I thought our guys played hard. We had some glitches in there for a while -- and tackling -- but then that got shored up as well. We had a whole lot of different guys out there playing."
* Will Peasley be ready to go Friday night at Fresno State? “We think he will be available," Bohl said. "He started the concussion protocol this week and had progressed to the point where he was cleared for some activities. He was on the sideline today with a headset on and helping as much as he could.”
* For the first time in his UW tenure, Swen raced past 200 yards on the ground. He did that on just 19 carries, too. “Titus obviously played very well and, beyond him playing well, the offensive line played well," Bohl said. I thought Titus certainly had one of his better games." That was the sixth time -- the third instance this season -- the junior has rushed for more than 100 yards.
* Just 17,345 showed up tonight at War Memorial Stadium for this big showdown. Not great numbers. Television has made it way too easy to kick back in the recliner, grab a beer and gripe on Twitter. Those TV dollars pay the bills. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.
* Hard to believe this was the 10th-coldest game in program history. The thermometer read 24 degrees at kickoff. I've spent a lot of hours myself on those metal bleachers. It was definitely cold, but 10th all time? Still hard to believe.
* There's a question amongst people in the journalism game these days. Is it OK to be extra critical of players because of NIL and what that means when it comes to being an amatuer athlete? My stance: No. When someone struggles, the stats typically bear that out. No need to pile on. Did Clemons have a bad night? Absolutely. It happens. I hope the point got across that I am not shifting all the blame to him, but why coaches would put him in that spot when he was clearly struggling. Clemons is a competitor. All of these guys obviously are. You know he wants that throw back. That's sports.
* I know it's a broken record -- and it does nothing to soothe what you are feeling tonight -- but can we take a moment to appreciate that this team was playing for a chance at the top spot in the division on Nov. 19? It can't be overstated enough just how young this roster is. Tonight was senior night and just two true seniors -- Eric Abojei and Miles Williams -- played their last game inside this venue. The future should be very bright for this group.
* Marco Machado and Zach Watts were also honored during senior day. Both have eligibility remaining. I asked Watts last week if this was it. He said his focus was on winning.