Vander Waal moving past ‘Cardinal sin’
LARAMIE -- Tyler Vander Waal couldn't even watch the throw.
For one, he was hammered from behind by a Utah State defender. Secondly, he knew where its final destination was. He let the crowd confirm his suspicions.
The sophomore tossed his third interception of the game right into the arms of Eric Munoz. with less than a minute remaining on the clock. Vander Waal rolled all the way to his right before heaving a pass across his body right down the middle of the field.
Utah State 26
Vander Waal didn't have much time to sulk. Head coach Craig Bohl was on the field, in his ear before he even rose to his feet.
"He told me it was a cardinal sin to throw across my body like that into traffic," Vander Waal said. "That's something I learned when I was like 6 years old."
Bohl was in no mood to chat about the play after the game in Logan. In fact, he didn't even exercise his 10-minute "cooling off period" that all teams and coaches are afforded after a game. He didn't mention Vander Waal by name. He didn't need to. The frustration was all over his face.
Monday was a different story.
"I was very frustrated by that. I think you guys could tell," he said at his weekly press conference in Laramie. "We've got to clean it up. That's not us."
No one knows that more than Vander Waal.
"From a quarterback perspective, that one throw is always going to haunt me," he said. "Going back to drive before, the touchdown drive, I had all the confidence in the world. I was telling (the team) we are going to win this game.
"I was trying to make a play. As soon as I let it go, I definitely knew. That's one throw you always want back."
Vander Waal has now completed 39-of-75 passes for 429 yards ad a touchdown. He is completing 52 percent of his passes. But the three interceptions and a fumble at Utah State is still fresh in his mind.
Admittedly, he had a rough night Saturday. Messages and comments were pouring in on social media. Fans were not thrilled with his performance. They let him know it, too. Sunday, a day that is typically reserved for the Cowboys self-imposed "24-hour rule," Vander Waal said he got back to work. Yes, he watched the film. Yes, coaches told him he needs to throw it away in that moment.
Vander Waal can be easily described as a gunslinger. He takes chances. Even Bohl said he can't "Brett Favre" the ball down the middle of the field like that.
"I definitely think it's the mentality, playing carefree, loose, trying to make plays, but there's a time to throw it away -- that should've been the time," he said. "I need to learn don't make a bad play worse. It stung, especially seeing what people said on social media and what I was told through Twitter. You have to have thick skin and turn the page."
Vander Waal says his confidence is not shaken. If you recall, last season Wyoming lost to Utah State then faced Colorado State the following week. Vander Waal lost the starting job. Sean Chambers orchestrated a 34-21 victory over the Cowboys Border War rival in Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins.
That was a weird night, Vander Waal admitted. He has never been a back-up before. He stood on the sideline and watched Chambers dissect the CSU defense to the tune of 116 yards passing and two touchdowns. The true freshman also rushed for 101 yards and a score.
"It was tough," he said. "It was the first game I've run onto the field not the starter. To see Sean go out on that field, being on the sideline was new for me. It was kind of a reality check. It was humbling, to say the least. It made me find myself. It was taken from me. Whats my identity? Football is not fun on the sidelines. That really challenged my love for the game."
Did he even feel like he was part of the victory that night?
"I definitely enjoyed it. It was a big team win," Vander Waal said. "I've learned the hard way, it's not about me. This is a team sport. No matter what, I'm here for a reason. One guy isn't going to lose the game. One guy isn't going to win it.
"I was excited for Sean, especially being first start. He played so well in a big game like that."
Bohl was asked Monday whether or not true freshman Levi Williams might see some action under center for the Cowboys when the Rams come to town Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. He didn't exactly squash any rumors.
"Were looking at all our options. That's something we do," Bohl said. "That's a legitimate question and I'm not going to give you a straight answer."
For now, Vander Waal is the guy. And it's his turn to get a crack at the Rams. Like he was in his first two starts of the 2019 campaign, he is "chomping at the bit" to face the Rams.
It's another opportunity to win, he said.
But he knows this one means something much more serious.
"I'm excited," he said. "Knowing how special this game is to the state, the fans, the university, to really everyone involved in Wyoming football, to hold that boot up the end of the game -- that's the goal."