LARAMIE -- To say Wyoming’s passing game is struggling would be an understatement.
It’s been a particularly tough go of it for quarterback Sean Chambers in his first season as the Cowboys’ full-time starter. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder burst onto the scene as primarily a run threat in the four games he played last season, but all the talk in the offseason from Chambers and Wyoming coach Craig Bohl about balancing out Wyoming’s offense with his arm has rung hollow in the first three weeks of the season.
Chambers had season-lows in pass attempts (12), completions (4), completion percentage (33.3) and passing yards (50) in Wyoming’s 21-16 win over FCS member Idaho last week. Wyoming heads into Saturday's game at Tulsa 128th out of 130 FBS teams in passing offense (81.7 yards per game) and last in completion percentage (39.1). The Cowboys are also one of six FBS teams without a passing touchdown.
During his weekly press conference Monday, Bohl fielded multiple questions about a passing game that’s not executing well in any facet and has largely made Wyoming’s offense one-dimensional -- everything from the contributing factors to how the Cowboys are using Chambers’ skill set to the psyche of his young quarterback, who’s still only played five full college games. Bohl said it’s not to a point where he’s worried all that much about the latter.
“He wants to play really well,” Bohl said. “It’s not a deal where he’s just happy with 39 percent. It’s not like that. I don’t sense a guy where we’re going to need to go send him to a sports psychologist. I think we’re in a better position than that.”
Bohl cited various reasons for the inefficiency after what he described as a meticulous review of Saturday’s game film. Chambers was either hit or pressured a handful of times because of breakdowns in protection up front that Bohl said need to shored up. There were also more drops by a receiving corps that’s combined for just 13 receptions so far.
“As a receiver, you look at every ball and you say, ‘We’ve got to catch every ball that’s thrown our way no matter where it’s at,’” receiver Ayden Eberhardt said. “No matter if it’s contested or not contested. No matter what.”
There were also more happy feet in the pocket from Chambers and some rushed throws, which is causing some of them to go wide, high or short of the intended target. Chambers said after Saturday’s game he doesn’t have a preference as to what sort of plays are called and that he’s “comfortable with whatever they ask me to do.”
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Bohl said he and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen have had discussions about trying to figure out exactly what that is within what Bohl called a “very complexed” offense Wyoming runs. Could that mean screens or more high-percentage passes? Maybe more passes on the move to take advantage of Chambers’ mobility and give him a run-pass option?
Bohl isn’t about to give away the Cowboys’ game plan, but he said there needs to be a happy medium.
“We’re feeding him with a fire hose, and right now he’s probably getting drenched a little bit,” Bohl said. “So I think we need to look at what we do with him, but we cannot go into a shell and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to throw him and the only thing he’s ever going to do is these real simple throws.’ He’s got a strong arm, so we’re going to need to dial up some of the things he does best.”
Bohl said he’s seen Chambers throw the ball better than this in practice and even going back to fall camp. Chambers showed with 25 attempts last season that he’s capable by completing 60 percent of them with three touchdowns, but with defenses beginning to sell out to stop the Cowboys’ running game -- Idaho regularly had eight and sometimes nine defenders in the box last week -- Chambers will need to show it sooner rather than later this season.
“I’m sure if I were playing the University of Wyoming, I’d say, ‘Hey, I’m going to make them have to throw the football.' Because we are efficient at running the football,” Bohl said.
Bohl said he’s still confident in his young signal caller to get it done.
“Expectations are high,” Bohl said, “and I’m still real high on him.”