Offensive Offense: Cowboys Know Something Has to Change

The first step in addressing a problem is admitting it exists.

The Cowboys have taken step one.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s 27-3 loss at Fresno State, which left the Cowboys with only two wins in seven games this season, there was no attempt to sugarcoat the state of the team.

Not by head coach Craig Bohl.

“It comes down to my job as the head coach,” Bohl said when asked about how to kick start the Cowboys. “We are certainly not where we expected to be. The program has raised expectations.”

The expectations of the coaching staff, the players and fan base haven’t been met.

Crunch the numbers:

n  The Cowboys are averaging 282 yards total offense per game, 128th among Division I schools, last in the MWC.

n  The Cowboys are averaging 135.8 yards per game rushing, 125th among Division I schools, and ahead of Fresno State (132.7, 107th), Colorado State (113.4, 117th), and San Jose State (105.3, 130th) in the MWC.

n  The Cowboys averaging 124 yards per game, 122nd among Division I schools, ahead of UNLV (123.7, 124th) and Air Force (106.8, 126th) in the MWC.

MWC QB Ratings
1. Fresno State 79.2
2. Hawaii 75.2
3. Utah State 74.7
4. New Mexico 74.3
5. Boise 69.4
6. Nevada 51.3
7. Colorado State 49
8. Stan Diego State 44.8
9. UNLV 34.8
10. San Jose State 32.5
11. Air Force 28
12. Wyoming 21.6

And as is the case in most situation where an offense goes flat, the focus turns to a quarterback, particularly when the quarterback is a freshman, which is the case with Tyler Vander Waal, who won the starting job over fifth-year senior Nick Smith in the aftermath of Josh Allen leaving a year early to go the NFL, and become the seventh player taken in the NFL draft, by Buffalo.

And Smith’s time on the field has been virtually non-existent.

The Cowboy, however, not only rank last in the MW with a 21.6 quarterback ranking, but 129th out of 130 Division I schools, ahead of only Rutgers.

“It’s nowhere I want it to be,” Vander Waal said when asked about his self-confidence. “A 2-5 start sucks. I only care about wins, and we’re not winning.

“My confidence level is not low, but it’s not how. Right now, I’m eating a piece of humble pie.”

Vander Waal knows his struggles translate to the rest of the offense.

“Everyone is on a separate page,” he said. “My confidence is not where it needs to be. That causes the receivers not to finish. It causes me to miss easy passes. Like coach Bohl said, we are not clicking on all cylinders.”

For now, Bohl is careful is discussing what’s going to happen at the quarterback situation. He said Vander Waal remains the starting quarterback, but added, “right now with the point production, we have to take a look at everything. You can’t go this stretch without trying to do some things. Anything I would say now would be premature.”

The struggles at quarterback were apparent at Fresno is the way Bulldog defense seemed focus on stopping running back Nico Evans, who despite missing 2 ½ games with bruised ribs, leads the MWC with 670 yards rushing, and 15th nationally. He, however, rushed for a season-low 58 yards against Fresno.

He rushed for a career-high 192 yards at Hawaii, two more yards than in the season opener at New Mexico State, and had 142 yards against Boise State. He also had 89 yards rushing against Washington State, despite departing five plays into the second half with the rib injury.

“We are not able to execute and stay on the field,” said wide receiver James Price. “Both the passing game and running game have shot themselves in the foot. …. Communication is a big piece of it. At times, all 11 guys are not on the same page.”

The problems have become underscored in the last two games, the first time that has happened to a Cowboys offense in 20 years.

The Cowboys only touchdown the last two games came on Carl Granderson’s interception return at Hawaii two weeks ago. They were limited to a field goal, which capped the opening drive of the game, on Saturday at Fresno State.

And that wears on a defense, that saw Fresno State score three of its four touchdowns on drivers that started in Wyoming territory, driving 35 yards in two plays to take a 7-3 lead in the first quarter; 46 yards in 12 plays on its final possession of the first half to take a 13-3 lead, and 47 yards on six plays for a 20-3 lead less than three minutes into the second half.

And on their next possession, they did drive  85 yards for the touchdown – on only six plays, quarterback Marcus McMaryion completing three passes for 65 yards, and rushing the final six yards for the final score.

“It is trying when they are starting inside the 50, but we still have to be the defense, and stop the scoring,” said safety Alijah Halliburton. “We know we have big expectations from a lot of people. We’re not trying to listen to that. We are trying to be the best defense and be as good as we can be.”

The solution?

“Go back to the details, work harder and keep encouraging our teammates,” he said.

Tracy RingolsbyComment