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Wyoming's O-line needs to lead turnaround for slumping Cowboys

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LARAMIE – A video of Frank Crum serving up an offensive line pancake last Saturday went viral this week.

During the play, New Mexico freshman linebacker Cody Moon jumps up in the air anticipating a Levi Williams’ throw to the right side of the field.

As Williams turns to the left to go with his second read, Frank Crum – Wyoming’s 6-foot-7, 314-pound right tackle – plants Moon into the turf at War Memorial Stadium.

The highlight is a reminder of the potential of the Cowboys’ offensive line, which has been a disappointment after being billed as the strength of the team by head coach Craig Bohl in August.

The violent block is also the perfect visual of how frustrating this stretch of three consecutive losses, including the inexplicable 14-3 debacle against the Lobos, has been for UW’s veteran team that had planned to compete for the Mountain West championship.

“In the game of football, adversity hits,” Crum said. “You don’t know when or how it’s going to happen. The things that we can control are just being positive, looking at this tape, seeing what we can improve on and moving forward to San Jose.”

The Cowboys (4-3, 0-3 MWC) had their moments during the 4-0 start with late drives to beat Montana State and Norther Illinois, followed by a dominating 45-12 victory over Ball State.

Those three non-conference opponents are now a combined 16-5 in games not involving UW.

There was even a dynamic offensive flurry in the second quarter of the conference opener against Air Force, including a 74-yard run by Xazavian Valladay and two quick touchdowns to tie the score 14-14 at the intermission.

Over the last 10 quarters, the Pokes have failed to score a touchdowns and have only put three points on the board via a 27-yard field goal by John Hoyland.

Against New Mexico, Sean Chambers missed a wide open Isaiah Neyor for what would have been a long touchdown. Then when Williams did connect with UW’s No. 1 receiver down field for 38 yards, Neyor stumbled before reaching the end zone.

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

“You always hear about the game being a game of inches. If we’re one inch closer on some of those balls, we’re talking about a whole different story right now offensively,” said UW wide receivers coach Mike Grant, who also has the title of passing game coordinator. “We’re taking some shots that we haven’t taken in the past, just kind of building that chemistry between the QB and the receivers.”

Bohl announce Tuesday that Williams will start at quarterback against San Jose State on Saturday at CEFCU Stadium (2 p.m., FS2).

The Cowboys are hoping the 6-foot-5 third-year sophomore, who struggled in relief of Chambers in 2020 and during the last two home games, can rediscover some of his magic from the Arizona Bowl when he passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Georgia State.

“The days of winning a game three-to-nothing are pretty long gone,” Bohl said. “So our point total has got to improve, and we’re addressing that.”

Bohl said he understands why the focus is on the quarterback situation, but the turnaround on offense needs to begin with a more efficient running game.

UW averaged 3.4 yards a carry and 118 yards per game on the ground in the back-to-back home losses to Fresno State and New Mexico.

“Obviously, when you score three points it’s hard to have an identity,” Bohl said. “We did a better job knocking people off blocks, but that needs to be sustained better this week.”

Bohl "profoundly disappointed" but working to turn Wyoming Cowboys season around

The Spartans (4-4, 2-2) are allowing 22.8 points (51st in the FBS), 126.8 rushing yards (37th), 222.4 passing yards (60th) and 349.1 total yards (45th) so far this season.

Chambers and Williams haven’t been able to balance UW’s offense during the game of QB musical chairs the past two games.

“I think we’re really close, I think the plays are out there and I think we have the players and coaches to do it,” senior wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt said. “It’s just coming down to executing during the game and making those plays happen. I think we just need to get the ball in the end zone once and that will open up the floodgate.”

Crum appreciates the attention his pancake block received this week, but he would prefer Williams and the skill players get back into the end zone and bump him out of the spotlight this week with a win over the reigning MWC champions.

“That (play) obviously blew up a little bit on social media,” Crum said. “My focus isn’t too greatly involved with what’s going on on social media with that. It’s cool, but I’m focusing on San Jose coming up.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn


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