Vander Waal ready to take the reins
LARAMIE -- The news of Sean Chambers being lost for the season wasn't exactly exciting to hear for Tyler Vander Waal.
First and foremost, he's a human and a teammate. These quarterbacks share a special bond in the locker room. That's been well documented.
Vander Waal has also been in this position before. After Chambers was lost for the season in 2018 with a leg injury early against Air Force, the redshirt freshman from Elk Grove, Calif., led the Cowboys to an improbable come-from-behind win in the snow over the Falcons.
Even then his mind was on his teammate.
"It sucks. I feel bad for him. You feel for the kid," Vander Waal said on Monday, the same day Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl announced he would be the starting quarterback against Boise State. "That's two season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons. As a player, you hate to see that happen. As a friend, you hate to see that happen.
"I was one of the first guys to text him after his surgery, letting him know if he needs anything, I'm here for him no matter what. I told him I loved him. He congratulated me on the win after the game last Saturday and coming in the second half and playing relatively well. I think that just shows the relationship we have on and off the field. It's more than football players, we're brothers and I'm going to be there for him no matter what."
Now, for the task at hand. You might be hard pressed to find anyone more confident than Vander Waal. He expressed as much Monday.
He hears the criticism. He knows there are doubters.
He knows he's earned some of that, too. As a first-year starter, Vander Waal and the Cowboys offense struggled throughout his eight starts to begin the 2018 season. He was indecisive at times. Admittedly, he put way too much into the small failures like an incomplete pass.
What will be different this time around?
"The mentality I have now is, 'screw it, let's play ball,"' he said. "If one bad play happens, you're going to see me smiling. I'm going to not care about it and I'm going to keep going no matter what ... I'm excited to play my style of football, especially against Boise State."
And what about those Broncos?
Vander Waal was 15-of-25 for 214 yards and a touchdown against Boise State last September in Laramie. That's the positive. The negative -- he was sacked five times in a 34-14 loss.
Once again, what will be different this time around?
"I watched a little bit of the game against San Jose State Saturday and I liked what I saw," Vander Waal said. "They're definitely beatable, I'll say that. We have a chip on our shoulder, being 6-2 right now. We are excited to go down there and really shock them. I don't think they are going to know what's hitting them."
Vander Waal is a competitive guy. Can you tell?
Last season, he completed roughly 50 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,310 yards and five touchdowns. This season, he has played in just two games, completing just 4-of-16 throws for 84 yards and a touchdown. He has rushed the ball just four times for 11 yards.
Vander Waal said he does take some confidence out of the last meeting with the Broncos (7-1, 4-0). He is aware they are a Top-25 team. He has heard the hype.
"It's huge knowing I have that experience against them," he said. "I know what they do pretty well firsthand, just being in that position last year. I'm not too nervous about the game. Everyone says, 'oh, Boise State is bigger, stronger and faster than everyone in the Mountain West. I don't think so. Playing against them last year, I know what they do schematically, I know what they do coverage wise. I think we are going to be out there handling business."
Feeling confident in your new quarterback yet?
He has also heard the other naysayers. Even the one's that pull for his own team. He's heard the season is over with Chambers down.
"No, I don't really buy into that," he says. "There's always a chip on my shoulder. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I'll be ready to play and prepared.
"I'm a completely different football player than I was last season and I think a lot of people don't understand. Like I said, they will have to see on Saturday."
Either way, Vander Waal said he is just happy to be on the field again.
"I feel good," he said. "I'm excited to play and get my opportunity back. We are really capable of beating these guys."