Turning point, unsung hero and what’s next for UW football
LARAMIE — Wyoming lined up in a unique offensive formation.
Sean Chambers was in the shotgun. He was flanked by a pair of teammates -- Brett Brenton on his left, Rocket Ismail Jr. on his right. Xazavian Valladay was directly behind Chambers.
Keegan Cryder snapped the ball, Chambers put the ball in Ismail's belly, keeping his eyes downfield.
No. 6 was behind the linebackers. Chambers saw him.
And he didn't miss.
The redshirt freshman quarterback floated in a perfect pass right into the awaiting arms of Valladay. The sophomore tailback turned up field and was in the clear. 53 yards later he was standing in the north end zone of War Memorial Stadium.
Oh, and this was the Cowboys first play from scrimmage.
Watch this beauty unfold:
"That’s been in the repertoire for a while," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said with a smile. "We thought it could go well. It did better than we thought."
It took a whole nine seconds for Wyoming -- a 14-point favorite, according to Las Vegas -- to take a lead on the visiting Nevada Wolf Pack (4-4, 1-3). They never looked back. In fact, they buried Nevada with the run and the pass.
Yes, the pass. You heard that right.
Early in the third quarter, Wyoming (6-2, 3-1) surpassed its season high through the air with 221 yards. Chambers, who only played the first half and suffered an undisclosed injury, completed 6-of-9 for 158 yards and two touchdown passes.
His second scoring strike was an absolute dime right into the hands of Ismail in stride from 37 yards out.
Bohl did not comment on the severity of Chambers' injury, only stating that he hopes to have him back over the bye week.
“Very disappointed," Nevada head coach Jay Norvell said. "We have to play better offensively. The last two weeks only scoring three points, our defense is going to get warn down and we have plenty capable guys to put the ball in the end zone. We just have to find a better grove and get the ball in the zone more, take some pressure off the defense.”
Tyler Vander Waal entered the game early, but took the reins full time in the second half. He tossed a 25-yard touchdown strike to Jackson Marcotte on the Pokes first drive.
That was the true back-breaker.
Wyoming 31, Nevada 3
This one goes out to a guy with a team-first attitude.
That guy is Vander Waal.
The sophomore quarterback is obviously in a bit of an awkward situation. After starting the Cowboys first eight games in 2018, Vander Waal was benched for Chambers late in the Utah State game. Chambers has been the starter ever since.
All Vander Waal has done in that time is be a great teammate and ready to go in whenever he is called upon.
Saturday was that day. With Chambers in the medical tent, the Elk Grove, Calif., product entered the game and didn't miss much of a beat. The numbers weren't all that impressive -- 3-for-10 for 63 yards -- but Vander Waal did laser in a touchdown pass to Marcotte on the first drive of the second half.
Bohl raved about the sophomore during his post-game press conference.
"Certainly we are confident (in him)," Bohl said of Vander Waal. "He led us to a lot of wins (last year). We really appreciate how Tyler has handled Sean playing. He's been a really supportive player for Sean ... When his number was called, I thought he answered the bell."
Chambers' injury status is unknown at this time. Vander Waal will be the man under center if Chambers isn't ready to go when the Pokes visit the Boise State Broncos in two weeks.
He's been in that position before.
You might recall when Chambers suffered a season-ending leg injury early against Air Force last season. Vander Waal came in to freezing conditions, with the Pokes trailing and led Wyoming to an unbelievable 35-27 come-from-behind victory over the Falcons in the snow.
He went 14-of-26 for 225 yards and tossed a pair of touchdowns.
Today, he showed that he is more than capable if the Pokes are in a pinch.
"I guess not. I didn’t know that was a penalty. What I heard, that was a veteran, so whoever that was, shout out to that guy. Thank you for serving our country and everything. I kept it simple."
— Wyoming senior wide receiver, Raghib Ismail Jr., after being assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for giving a high-five to a Wyoming fan in the back of the end zone after his second-quarter touchdown catch.
A well-deserved break. And what a perfect time for Chambers, who was in sweats on the sideline during the entire second half with an ice pack on his left knee. The biggest question coming off the bye week is will the Cowboys see some starters return to the lineup? Will running back Titus Swen be back for the stretch drive? How about Alonzo Velazquez? Trey Smith? Eric Abojei? We likely won't know any of that until right before kickoff in Boise, Idaho, Nov. 9.