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UW FOOTBALL | FRESNO STATE 17, WYOMING 0

Wyoming Cowboys shut out 17-0 by Fresno State, fall to 0-2 in Mountain West

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Crall vs Fresno State

Wyoming defensive end Garrett Crall tries to bring down Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener during their game Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

LARAMIE – Sean Chambers interrupted the question about his confidence before it was completed.

“It’s not wavering,” Chambers insisted. “I know what I have to do and I can do it well. It’s not wavering.”

The question Craig Bohl will have to answer for himself after a Sunday of reflection: Is Chambers still Wyoming’s starting quarterback?

Chambers threw three interceptions and lost a fumble during the Cowboys’ confounding 17-0 loss to Fresno State on a sun-splashed Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

UW was shut out for the first time since a 45-0 loss to TCU in 2010.

Maybe the program’s struggles in the passing game since Josh Allen left for the NFL weren’t all Brent Vigen’s fault after all.

The Cowboys fell to 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the Mountain West after first-year offensive coordinator Tim Polasek’s unit extended its scoreless streak to six quarters.

UW was blanked in the second half of the 24-14 loss at Air Force in last week’s conference opener.

“We were going to need to win the turnover margin (to win) and we failed miserably on that,” Bohl said after the Pokes were minus-five in that department. “I thought our guys played hard, but we’ve got to play smarter and do a much better job taking care of the football. ...

“Obviously, we’ve got to generate some points. We’re in a real tailspin.”

Chambers continued his recent struggles, finishing 8-for-23 (34.8%) for 111 yards and three interceptions. He also ran for 52 yards and lost a fumble before getting the hook in the fourth quarter after his fourth turnover.

Levi Williams hit Isaiah Neyor on a deep pass play during his first series, but the officials ruled the diving attempt incomplete. UW’s fourth-down conversion attempt on the next play failed.

The Cowboys finally reached the red zone in the closing minutes, but Williams had a pass tipped and intercepted by safety L.J. Early.

It was that kind of day for the offense.

“I need to spend some time with Tim, see what we’re doing, what’s our identity, where we’re misfiring,” Bohl said. “I will say this, I don’t have rose-colored glasses. We’ve got to do a rework. I don’t think it’s just a little tweak here or there.

“It’s always dangerous to reshuffle everything, but I’ll look at the two quarterbacks and we’ll make a call next week.”

The quarterback decision for next week’s homecoming game against New Mexico isn’t as easy as it seems given the respect Chambers commands in the locker room.

The defense held Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, who was averaging 396 passing yards per game, to 15-for-28 for 96 yards and two touchdowns to keep UW in the game.

But no one on that side of the ball was pointing fingers in a somber High Altitude Center after the game.

“(Chambers) came here and has been given more bad injuries than about anyone on this roster. He has fought his way back,” defensive end Garrett Crall said. “This is not the last you are going to see of him, I can tell you that. He wasn’t in the locker room crying, he wasn’t in there moping either and he wasn’t like that on the sideline and he’s not going to be like that.

“That’s not who Sean is. He’s going to come back on Monday and he’s going to be working to beat New Mexico. That’s how it is for him.”

The Bulldogs (5-2, 2-1) did not have any miscues after committing six turnovers in their 27-24 loss at Hawaii two weeks ago.

The 20,002 boo birds in attendance were chirping after three consecutive negative plays — Neyor was thrown for a 6-yard loss on a slow-developing reverse, followed by Chambers getting sacked on back-to-back snaps – in the third quarter.

Then the defense, which had held Fresno State to 111 total yards in the first half, continued to keep the Cowboys within one score as Solomon Byrd came up with a critical third-down sack of Haener.

Chambers’ third turnover of the game – an interception that Malachi Langley returned 33 yards down to the UW 6-yard line – was the back-breaking play.

Haener threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Cropper moments later to make the score 14-0 with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter.

After Chambers’ third interception in the fourth quarter, Cesar Silva made a 41-yard field goal to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 17-0 with 10:25 remaining.

Bohl finally benched the Kerman, California, native, who grew up 15 miles from Fresno.

“The series before we looked at that. Sean had been making some plays,” Bohl said. “I thought about it and we talked about it. Anytime you make a quarterback change, it’s a pretty major change.”

The Cowboys trailed 7-0 at the intermission after losing the turnover battle 2-0 in the first half.

UW’s defense forced a three-and-out on the opening series, but Chambers lost a fumble on the Cowboys’ second snap.

Rome Weber appeared to make a key stop, driving Cropper out of bounds at the 5-yard line on third-and-goal. But after a lengthy video review, the officials called a targeting penalty and ejected Weber from the game.

Haener connected on a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Juan Rodriguez to give the visitors the 7-0 head start.

The Pokes had a promising drive going after a 14-yard reception by Neyor and an 11-yard reception by Xazavian Valladay. Once again, the officials had the crowd grumbling after blowing the whistle on a third-and-11 for a 6-yard sack of Chambers, even though he appeared to have broken free from defensive tackle Kevin Atkins and linebacker Levelle Bailey and was headed up field.

Chambers started moving the chains over the middle to big targets in the second quarter, finding Parker Christensen for 16 yards on third-and-15 and tight end Treyton Welch for a career-long 32-yard reception.

Ayden Eberhardt also had a 13-yard grab on third-and-8, but Chambers’ next pass bounced off Valladay’s outstretched hands and into the arms of Fresno State free safety Evan Williams, who returned the interception 15 yards.

Silva missed a 40-yard field goal with 2:00 remaining in the half, and UW’s John Hoyland misses a 53-yard field goal with 18 seconds on the clock.

UW actually out-gained Fresno State 271-259 in total yards.

“This is the tightest team, the most family-like team, the most loving team I’ve ever been around,” Crall said. “I’ve been around a lot of guys and a lot of teams, but this is the closest team.

“It’s really frustrating for us. The great thing is we’re going to have great attitudes this week and we’re going to go beat New Mexico.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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