A Glimpse At the Future on Saturday Gives Cowboy Fans Reason for Hope
The Cowboys got a glimpse of the future on Saturday afternoon.
And the review?
The future is now.
Freshman quarterback Sean Chambers, who was supposed to red-shirt this year, got a quick introduction to game-time in the first half of the Cowboys 24-16 loss to Utah State, and then found himself on display for the homecoming crowd at War Memorial Stadium for the bulk of the second half.
His offensive play card was limited in light of the fact he had primarily run the scout team during practice, but there was a rejuvenation of a sluggish offense, which had failed to score a touchdown in the 10 quarters prior to a Nico Evans 53-yard jaunt with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter.
And there is every reason to think Chambers will have a major role in the Cowboys offense from this point on.
“He is a very competitive kid,” linebacker Logan Wilson said of Chambers. “Coach (Craig) Bohl told us in high school he would jump over players. You don’t see a guy being recruited to play college football do that. He is a very competitive kid and has a bright future.”
Things were not perfect. Chambers’ first-half playing time was cut short when on his second snap from center he fumbled the ball away. In the second half, though, he returned without a hesitation. Now, it was mainly a ground game, but the threat of Chambers forced Utah State’s defense to be more honest in its defense instead of focusing so much on Nico Evans.
The result? The Cowboys had two players rush for 100 yards in a game for the first time since Brett Smith (138) and Shaun Wick (116) against New Mexico on Oct. 12, 2013. Evans, after gaining 35 yards on 15 first-half carries, rushed for an additional 103 yards on 10 second-half carries. And Chambers? He finished with 100 yards on 19 carries.
And while he only threw five passes, he completed three of them and covered 62 yards.
“Sean came in and controlled the huddle",” said Evans. “That says something about a young guy. When he first came in he fumbled, and with a young guy you expect them to be shake, but he wasn’t. All the guys rallied around him.”
For Chambers, it just came naturally.
“It happens to everybody,” he said. “Tom Brady fumbles. You block it out and go out and play football.”
When he didn’t play was on the last possession of the game, after the Cowboys took over on their own 25, down by eight points and with 1:45 to play. Bohl and offensive coordinator opted to go back to Vander Waal, knowing Vander Waal has handled those two-minute situations well, including a game-winning drive against Wofford with less than two minutes to play.
This time, though, he threw four incomplete passes. There was no stunning comeback.
There, however, was no reason to second-guess.
Given the lack of experience Chambers had in a college game, and the fact his primary duties this fall had been on the scout teams, throwing him into a now-or-never situation made no sense.
What does make sense, though, is to have him back on the field in the next couple of weeks.
In what role, Bohl wasn’t saying, but it would not be a surprise if Friday night at Colorado State the Cowboys have Chambers at quarterback to open the game.
“We’re certainly going to look at that,” said Bohl. “I learned a long time ago to make decisions like that right after a game in a press conference is pretty short-signed, but I can tell you he did a lot of good things.”
And when Chambers take the field this time, he will be running a more balanced offensive game plan in light of having time to prepare for the opportunity.
“We certainly need to open up the play book more,” said Bohl.
How much more?
“Anytime you have a true freshman. . .. we have a complicated offense,” said Bohl. “It’s a pro style offense, so we’ll look at things. … I think we have two really competitive guys.”
And Bohl, the coaching staff, the team, and the fans know the season has been a struggle, but the schedule takes a turn in a direction that should provide the Cowboys a reason for hope in the next four games.
While the first four conference games featured three teams rated ahead of the Cowboys — Utah State, Fresno State and Boise State — the remaining four all have a lower rating than Wyoming — Colorado State, San Jose State, Air Force and New Mexico.
It sets up to provide an opportunity for a late-season rally that would get the Cowboys bowl eligible if they win all four and finish 6-6.
With the new NCAA rules, a player can still be considered a red shirt if he plays four or fewer games. It would seem like the Cowboys could play Chambers the next three games — at CSU and at home against San Jose State and Air Force.
If they win all three. …
With a bowl possibility at stake. …
And if Chambers has progressed. …
Red-shirt be dammed.
A strong finish to a season that had such a slow start, and a trip to a bowl, would make it worth putting Chambers back on the field, and not worrying about what could happen come 2022.
Chambers is on board.
“I an find doing what they ask me to do,” said Chambers. “They have a good plan. They are smart coaches. … I’m a team guy. If I have to burn the redshirt to go to a bowl game, I will do it. Wyoming is a football state and the fans like to see us go to a bowl.”
It would be a Cowboys first — three consecutive Decembers with a trip to a bowl.
It would a just reward for a senior class that has helped establish a base with real expectations for Cowboys success.
And it would be a down payment on the future for not only Chambers but the entire Cowboys’ program.