LARAMIE — Wyoming coach Craig Bohl wasn’t ready to officially name a starting quarterback following the Cowboys’ spring game Saturday, but it seems like only a matter of time before Sean Chambers retains the title.
Bohl opened up the competition between Chambers and Tyler Vander Waal when Wyoming started spring practice in March, but a healthy Chambers has largely picked up where he left off last year before a broken leg cut his season short. Bohl praised Chambers’ passing after leading the Gold team to a 14-9 win over the Brown in an abbreviated game that lasted less than two hours at War Memorial Stadium, adding the redshirt freshman played well overall after coming into the day as the No. 1 quarterback.
“You can look at that any way you want to, but that’s kind of how I see it,” Bohl said.
In other words, it would be a shock if anybody other than Chambers gets the nod whenever Bohl decides to make his decision official — one that’s coming sooner rather than later.
“I think I did everything in my power,” Chambers said when asked if he felt like he’s solidified himself as the starter.
As has been the case throughout the spring in order to prevent injuries, neither Chambers nor Vander Waal were allowed to be taken to the ground Saturday, putting an emphasis on the passing game. Chambers, a dual threat, showed he can be more than a weapon in the running game with perhaps his best scrimmage of the spring through the air.
Chambers was 9 of 16 for 135 yards and had the only passing touchdown of the day. He went 4-for-4 on that scoring drive and found C.J. Johnson over the middle for a 19-yard score to cap it, putting the Gold team up 14-6 with 3 minutes left in the second quarter.
It was a much crisper outing for Chambers than Wyoming’s first open scrimmage in Casper on April 13 when he completed just 5 of his 15 passes. He connected on three of his first five passes Saturday, finished 7 of 11 for 104 yards in the first half alone and didn’t turn the ball over.
“Night and day,” Chambers said. “It was a better scrimmage in all parts, especially my part. I thought I threw the ball better and was more consistent today.”
Vander Waal also came out in rhythm for the Brown team, connecting on five of his first seven passes. He led a seven-play, 75-yard drive early in the second quarter that ended with walk-on Austin Clemetson’s 1-yard touchdown run to answer the Gold team’s first touchdown.
But he completed just 7 of his final 18 attempts to finish 12 of 25 through the air for 122 yards. With Wyoming’s offensive line depth decimated by injuries this spring, both quarterbacks spent a lot of time trying to elude pressure and either throwing on the run or scrambling to pick up whatever yardage they could.
“I think it’s a been a good competition. Whoever comes out on top, it’s his starting position,” said Vander Waal, who started the first eight games last season before Chambers took over. “If I’m a starter or I’m the backup, either way I know my role on this team. If I’m the backup, I’m only one play away. If I’m the starter, I’m only one play away from being benched just like last year. I just have a positive mindset going into whoever he names the starter.”
The running game didn’t produce much with Xazavian Valladay being held out as a precaution. Jeff Burroughs, a fullback by trade, led the Gold team with 50 yards on 16 carries while receiver Dontae Crow’s 55-yard burst on a speed sweep was enough to be the Brown team’s leading rusher.
The game’s only points in the second half came on a Cooper Rothe field goal as the teams combined for just 280 yards of offense in the final two quarters, each of which was just 8 minutes long. Braden Smith, who’s competing to replace Marcus Epps at free safety, intercepted walk-on quarterback Ryan Marquez and returned it just outside the red zone to set up Rothe’s 52-yarder.
The teams combined for six sacks, which are counted any time a defender gets in close vicinity of the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage since the quarterbacks aren’t live. Claude Cole had three for the Gold team while defensive tackle Mario Mora had two for the Brown team to go along with three tackles for loss.
“I thought Sean had a good day,” Bohl said. “We didn’t operate with our top running backs, but I appreciated those guys out there. I thought there was some pretty good, aggressive defensive play.”