By Cody Tucker, 7220 Sports
FORT COLLINS, Colo., — “It’s the best energy I’ve felt since I’ve been here.”
That quote from Colorado State quarterback Patrick O’Brien pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
This was what Wyoming’s young signal caller, Levi Williams had to say after the 34-24 Border War loss to the rival Rams Thursday night in Fort Collins.
“It pissed me off, frankly. We should’ve won this game. We shot ourselves in the foot way too many times: stupid penalties, not finishing in the red zone, miscommunication with personnel.”
Isn’t that the truth.
Wyoming was a mess from the word go.
On the third play of the game, Williams lasered a pass right into the chest of Marshaun Cameron. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, he plays for the other team. Thirty yards later, he was in the end zone.
Fast forward five plays.
Williams, standing tall in the pocket, takes a blindside blow from none other than Cameron. The ball popped loose. CSU pounced. One play later, tight end Trey McBride was standing in the end zone. He just caught a 29-yard scoring strike. It was a blown assignment. He was all alone.
Those were the Cowboys first two offensive possessions.
“They came out with their hard hats,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. “They executed really well.”
Bohl’s team didn’t.
Not on offense. Not on defense. Not on special teams.
Everyone shares in the blame as the Rams bolted to the visiting sideline in the dying seconds to swipe the Bronze Boot for the first time since 2015.
“When you play a rivalry game, you need to be on point. We weren’t,’ Bohl said. “I think we need to take a hard look at some of our preparation, take some ownership and have some real honest conversations with where we are at and how we answer and respond.”
Bohl used the word “uncharacteristic” tonight. He was describing his team. He was on the money, too.
Wyoming committed three turnovers. The Pokes were guilty of eight penalties for 83 yards. Some were the bonehead variety. They couldn’t stay on the field on third down, converting just 4-of-15 third downs. There were plenty of missed tackles and assignments, too. The offensive line gave up six sacks. McBride, who was a big focus for the Cowboys’ defense all week, caught five passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
“You name it, we did it in this game,” Williams added.
In this crazy time of COVID-19 protocols, opt outs and just plain absurdity, the team that rolls with the punches and battles through adversity will be left standing in the end. Tonight, Wyoming was without starting offensive linemen Logan Harris and Rudy Stofer.
It showed. CSU tacked on 14 tackles for loss. Bohl said the line got “carved up a little bit.”
Harris is dealing with an illness. It’s not the coronavirus. Stofer’s absence was not disclosed. Ravontae Holt was injured in the second quarter of the win over Hawaii. The big defensive tackle didn’t play tonight. Keyon Blankenbaker was also limited with a hamstring pull.
The Pokes were short-handed. But really, who isn’t?
Thursday was a pure case of not executing with the guys on the roster. It was Murphy’s Law in a nutshell. However, if you are about to start digging this team’s grave, you might want to think twice.
Nevada could’ve ran away with a lopsided victory in the opener. CSU was on the brink of doing that tonight, too.
The Cowboys and their young corps didn’t let that happen.
It’s a loss. A painful one. But this team isn’t waiving the white flag anytime soon.
You have to at least give them that.
Colorado State 34, Wyoming 24
What a catch
The news wasn’t all bad for the Cowboys.
Turns out they have a nice receiving corps to go along with a quarterback that can get it to them.
That hasn’t always been an easy task since a guy named Josh Allen walked off the blue turf in Boise and onto center stage at the NFL Draft. Thursday night, Williams completed 19-of-31 passes for 321 yards. The last time a Cowboy signal caller put up those kind of numbers was in 2017. That was Allen.
Ayden Eberhardt had a breakout game for the Pokes in his home state. He hauled in seven passes for 132 yards. He caught tough balls over the middle, stretched out and slid for others.
Isaiah Neyor, minus an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that likely cost the Cowboys points, snagged three balls for 77 yards. Treyton Welch, the big tight end from Minnesota, added a a pair of catches for 55 yards.
Imagine if this offense can really click — at the same time? They did for most of the night in Fort Collins, unfortunately the hill was too steep to climb and the defense couldn’t get one more stop.
“The yardage was good, but the yardage has to match the score,” Bohl said.
Tip of the cap
Often times I have to remind people — including myself — that there is a team lined up across the ball from the Cowboys.
Sure, Wyoming played poorly tonight. That was Williams’ word. It’s accurate.
But how about the Rams?
They are the ones who played with passion and enthusiasm despite just a handful of cheerleaders in the northwest corner of the end zone inside an otherwise empty Canvas Stadium.
They brought their own juice, as the kids like to say.
Patrick O’Brien stood on the sideline, helmet in hand, for three-plus quarters in CSU’s season-opening loss at Fresno State. Dante Wright, the Rams’ second-leading receiver in 2019 and a Freshman All-American receiver, didn’t even make the trip.
Those two played against the Cowboys. What a difference that made.
O’Brien connected on 18-of-26 throws for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wright caught 10 of those passes for a game-high 146 yards.
“Patrick competed really hard and did a good job,” Addazio said postgame. “He was able to manage the game very well and had some big throws. He had good poise.”
“Dante’s vertical speed was a huge factor in the game,” he added.
CSU’s defense brought pressure all night long, making life miserable for the Cowboys’ makeshift offensive line. The Rams finished tackles. They laid the lumber time and time again, including a punishing blow to Williams late in the fourth.
This quote should be the hardest part for UW fans, players and coaches to swallow.
“We beat our rival and we beat them with physicality,” Addazio said. “Our team showed a tremendous amount of energy, toughness and courage.”
Those are supposed to be traits of a Bohl-coached team.
“I definitely think we just continued to shoot ourselves in the foot tonight,” Wyoming middle linebacker Chad Muma said. “I think, collectively as a team, we just weren’t good enough and really just gave CSU those opportunities tonight and they took them. They outplayed us.
“That’s definitely not our brand of football.”