Bridger’s Rifle will spend one more year in Utah
Wyoming’s 4 turnovers were too much to overcome
The Cowboys played hard but were unable to overcome 4 turnovers included a critical interception with the Pokes driving for the potential winning score. Xazavian Valladay put in another blue-collar effort with 114 yards on 25 carries. Aside from the 3 interceptions, the Cowboys had one of their best showings throwing the ball this season led by Josh Harshman’s 6 catches for 76 yards and Austin Conway’s 5 catches for 64 yards.
There were stretches during the game where Utah State quarterback Jordan Love torched Wyoming’s pass defense but the Cowboys forced 2 turnovers and did a good job of forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. Given the number of turnovers from the Pokes offense, the fact that Wyoming even had a chance late in the game is a testament to how well Logan Wilson and the rest of the defense performed.
It’s time to meet Levi Williams
After the Boise State game, I wrote that the Cowboys were going to be fine with Tyler Vander Waal at quarterback down the stretch. That was until I saw the turnover party he threw in Logan on Saturday. The fumble in the red zone and the final interception to seal the loss could be chalked up to trying to do too much. The other 2 interceptions are hard to make an excuse for. Given the way the door closed on him last season with Sean Chambers taking over, I can see how he might have been in a situation where he was just “trying too hard”.
At this point in Vander Waal’s career, I think we know what we can expect from him this season. He has been an excellent teammate but the reality is that the offense really struggles to move the ball when he’s under center. We’ve seen this throughout two seasons. Vander Waal is certainly not the one to blame as Josh Allen, Nick Smith, and Chambers have also struggled in this offense but Allen and Chambers ability to run the ball made the offense effective. It’s not time to write him off but it is time to see what else the Cowboys have.
Levi Williams is a true freshman from Texas who was recruited by TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Houston. A coaching change at Houston presented Wyoming with a chance to bring him in. He’s listed as a pocket passer but he accounted for 1,230 rushing yards with 16 rushing TD’s in his senior season. The Cowboys have a very young team with a bright future but the team is out of contention for the conference title and needs to find one more win to ensure a bowl birth. With the new redshirt rules, what’s it hurt to see what he can do? Perhaps Williams will even show enough to give Chambers a run for his money next season. If anything, it gets a young player meaningful game experience with no consequence of losing a year of eligibility.
The Offense Wasn’t A One Man Show
I’ve been waiting for Conway to have a huge game in his final season and he was a big part of the game plan against the Aggies. In addition to his six catches, he had 2 rushing attempts and looked great on punt returns. He is far too talented to be as underutilized as he has been this season. Brett Brenton took advantage of his opportunity adding 22 yards on four carries and a catch for 5 yards. Valladay even got an opportunity to run out of the Wildcat on the first drive of the game. While the overhaul to the offense wasn’t as comprehensive as many would like, it’s clear that Vigen and his group were attempting to add new wrinkles.
Mountain West Officiating Leaves Much To Be Desired
The Cowboys didn’t lose because of poor officiating but it’s becoming to be a glaring problem for the league. Utah State was called for a phantom pass interference early when the defensive back used the sideline perfectly. Tyler Hall was penalized twice for pass interference on plays where he was guilty of running the Utah State receiver’s route better than the Utah State player, Essias Gandy was called on a late hit out of bounds in a play where he didn’t hit the returner and a relatively weak holding call was enforced on a long punt return from Austin Conway that took great field position from the Pokes on their final drive. It’s easy to hate the officials because nobody recognized when they do a good job but these inexcusable mistakes keep piling up with no consequences.