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Wyoming QB Sean Chambers to miss rest of season with injury
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Wyoming QB Sean Chambers to miss rest of season with injury

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Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers warms up ahead of the Cowboys' game against UNLV on Sept. 28 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. Chambers will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

LARAMIE — Sean Chambers has statistically been Wyoming’s most valuable offensive player, but the Cowboys will have to go through November without him.

Chambers will miss the rest of the season after his knee injury turned out to be more severe than originally thought, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said Monday. Tyler Vander Waal will take over as the Cowboys' starting quarterback beginning Saturday against No. 21 Boise State.

Chambers took a hit on his left knee at the tail end of a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Nevada on Oct. 26. Chambers watched the second half from the sideline in street clothes after briefly returning in the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 31-3 win.

Chambers didn’t practice last week and watched Tuesday’s practice with a brace on his knee. Bohl said at the beginning of last week an MRI of Chambers' knee revealed no ligament damage and added Monday it wasn't a meniscus injury but rather other cartilage damage.

"We were hoping for the best, but once the doctors got in there, they found that they need to do some repair," Bohl said. "The outlook long-term is very optimistic, though. We're encouraged about that."

It’s deja vu for Chambers, who has sustained his second season-ending injury in as many seasons. He took over as Wyoming’s starter nine games into last season and played two full games before breaking his fibula.

Chambers accounted for 595 yards and five touchdowns in 11 quarters last season, setting the tone for what was to come. He’s had a hand in 48.8 percent of Wyoming’s yards from scrimmage and 63 percent of its offensive touchdowns. He’s the Cowboys’ second-leading rusher (567 yards) while his 10 rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth-most among all Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks.

And while it’s primarily been a struggle through the air for Wyoming, Chambers had made strides in the passing game in recent weeks. Chambers is completing just 43 percent of his passes on the season, but he’s completed them at a 62.5-percent clip in the last two games, including a 6-for-9, 158-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Wolf Pack as Wyoming threw for a season-high 221 yards.

Chambers’ carries dropped to 11.2 per game this season after he averaged 19.6 in the three full games he played last season (his injury occurred on Wyoming’s first offensive series against Air Force), though Bohl said Monday that's probably still too many. Chambers has three more rush attempts (149) than pass attempts (146) through the first 12 games of his career.

At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Chambers’ running style comes with a heavy dose of physicality, which he displayed on the touchdown run against Nevada when he powered through two defenders to reach the front pylon. Chambers said earlier this season he embraces that part of his game, and Bohl said the coaching staff isn’t going to try to change his unique approach

Bohl said Monday he may have to reassess that going forward.

"Whether that means how we reshape some things and what we do with him, that’s an offseason conversation," Bohl said. "I think the question you have is very fair because, believe me, I’ve been asking that to myself. And you see last year he played four games and this year eight, and he hasn’t been able to finish. He’s an ultra-competitive guy, and our team feeds off that. So you don’t want to lose that."

Now the offense is once again at the controls of Vander Waal, who began last season as the starter. The redshirt sophomore started nine games a season ago and finished the game against Nevada, completing a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jackson Marcotte to cap the Cowboys’ first drive of the third quarter.

More of a true pocket passer than Chambers, the 6-4, 220-pound Vander Waal brings a more traditional style to the position. The production has also been vastly different with Vander Waal behind center. The third-year sophomore is completing just 47.3 percent of his passes for his career with six touchdown passes against four interceptions, but Bohl said the playbook won't change "a whole lot" with Vander Waal behind center.

Bohl also didn't rule out true freshman Levi Williams getting some playing time the rest of the way. Bohl said Williams' progress will be monitored this week during practice, though he added Vander Waal will get a majority if not all of the snaps going forward.

"I think my passing game is more developed than Sean's, and I think that's where we're going to have to make some checks and balances with that," Vander Waal said. "But running the ball, I don't think we're going to change too much. We're going to continue to run the ball effectively, and I think we're going to do some quarterback runs with me. I think I'm more than capable of running the ball."

Vander Waal finished 3 of 10 passing against Nevada and was just 4 of 17 through the air in his last start, which came in Wyoming’s season finale at New Mexico last year. The Cowboys are counting on Vander Waal to raise his level of play the rest of this season, something they’ll need starting with their trip to Boise State on Saturday.

There are still trips to Utah State and Air Force on the schedule as well as one more home game against Colorado State on Nov. 22. All of those teams rank in the top 5 in the Mountain West in total offense while Boise State, Air Force and Colorado State also own three of the league’s top 5 scoring offenses. CSU is the only one left on the schedule outside of the top 5 in scoring defense.

"I think I'm in a different place than I was last year mentally and even as a quarterback leadership-wise, too," Vander Waal said. "I'm just ready to go out there and show people what I'm capable of, and I think a lot of people could throw in the towel looking at our next four games, and we can go 0-4 because we're playing four good teams. But I think we're not going to skip a beat offensively. We're going to be ready to go."

Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.

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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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