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5 takeaways from the Wyoming Cowboys' 14-3 loss to the New Mexico Lobos

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NCAA Football: Wyoming vs New Mexico

Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay fights for yardage in the Cowboys' game against New Mexico on Oct. 23 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

LARAMIE – Social media can be an awful place.

It can also put a smile on your face when used properly.

This Twitter post from “Wyolaskan” humorously summed up the mood of the homecoming crowd after Wyoming’s 14-3 loss to New Mexico on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium:

“When I die, I want my casket carried by the Wyoming Cowboys football team, so they can let me down one last time.”

Here are five takeaways from the Cowboys’ (4-3, 0-3 Mountain West) third consecutive loss to open conference play:

1. What else does Craig Bohl need to get over the hump?

UW has some of the best football facilities in the country with the High Altitude Center and the Indoor Practice Facility.

The average attendance this season at War Memorial Stadium through four games is 22,652.

Bohl, in his eighth season on the High Plains, is the highest paid head coach in the MWC with a $1.59 million salary.

Laramie is obviously not the easiest place to recruit to, but UW and the paying customers have given the program the support it needs to compete for conference championships.

So far there is little bang for all those bucks with the Pokes occupying the Mountain Division basement by themselves after allowing the Lobos (3-5, 1-3) to snap a five-game losing streak at UW’s expense for the second consecutive season.

“We’re in a rut right now and we’ve got to get out of it,” Bohl said.

2. The answer to question No. 1: Competent QB play

Sean Chambers’ regression since the Ball State game and Levi Williams’ inability to convince the coaching staff that he should be the starter in practice led to a dysfunctional quarterback rotation against New Mexico.

Chambers (11-for-23, 96 yards, interception) and Williams (3-for-7, 51 yards) were outplayed by Isaiah Chavez, who was New Mexico’s third-string quarterback a few weeks ago and had only thrown one pass all season before finishing 10-for-11 for 112 yards and a touchdown and a team-high 49 yards rushing.

After giving Chambers the first seven starts, including all three MWC losses, perhaps it’s time to give Williams all of the first-team reps in practice and allow the 6-foot-5 third-year sophomore to attempt more than seven passes in a game.

“We’ve just got to eliminate the bad football,” Williams said.

3. The Pokes are wasting a pretty good defense

Jay Sawvel’s unit wasn’t perfect.

UW’s defense had a busted coverage that led to Chavez’s 43-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Trace Bruckler. Defensive end Victor Jones was ejected for targeting.

And the Lobos’ touchdown with 29 seconds left in the second quarter changed the complexion of the game.

But New Mexico – which changed its offensive approach with Chavez running the option – was still held to its season average of 14.0 points per game, which ranks last in the FBS.

Linebackers Easton Gibbs (11 tackles) and Chad Muma (10) led the defense in stops with Garrett Crall (nine) and Cole Godbout (seven) also playing well along the offensive line.

The only area Sawvel’s defense needs to show dramatic improvement in to help this team get back on track is creating turnovers again. After returning three interceptions for touchdowns through the first three games, the Cowboys have not forced a turnover in three MWC games.

“We need to get the ball to the offense more,” Gibbs said. “We have to hold a higher standard of getting more turnovers. We can’t just be complacent just sitting there and getting off the field. A big part of turnovers goes into field position, and we haven’t been giving (the offense) good field position at all.”

4. Rocky horror picture show

Bohl’s friend Rocky Long isn’t very friendly on game day.

UW’s head coach was 1-3 against Long when he was the head coach at San Diego State, including the loss in the 2016 MWC championship game.

Bohl is 0-2 against New Mexico since Long returned to Albuquerque as the defensive coordinator.

The Cowboys have scored a grand total of 19 points in the last two meetings with one touchdown and five turnovers.

“I applaud Rocky for staying in coaching,” Bohl said after UW averaged 3.9 yards per play. “Quite frankly, I wish he would have taken the day off.”

5. Plenty left to play for

All is not completely lost for the Pokes in 2021.

UW still has a chance to defeat the reigning MWC champions this Saturday at San Jose State before attempting to get the Bronze Boot back from Colorado State on Nov. 6 at War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys could also defeat Boise State for the first time on the blue turf. The Broncos have already lost three home games.

If the offense stops shooting itself in the foot, perhaps the team can get the Bridger Rifle back from Utah State.

And the Mountain Division is an absolute mess.

The Aggies (5-2, 3-1), who were picked last in the preseason poll, are alone in first after the Rams (3-4, 2-1) botched a game-winning field goal with a Keystone Cops routine in Logan.

UW’s chances of winning the division are slim and none, but there are plenty of opportunities to get bowl eligible and send the seniors, super and regular, out on a winning note after last year’s miserable 2-4 finish.

“There’s nobody in that locker room that’s not trying. I don’t question the effort,” Bohl said. “We need to get a better plan, and we have to execute a better plan.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn


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