LARAMIE – Consider the first public viewing of the University of Wyoming’s “reengineered offense” a success.
Leading the Cowboys for the first time as UW’s offensive coordinator, Tim Polasek gave fans a sneak-peak at what appears to be a far more dynamic unit than it has been in recent seasons at Saturday afternoon’s spring game.
The Brown team, led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Chambers, emerged victorious over the White team 30-17. But with all eyes on the offense’s overall look and creativity, Polasek’s scheme earned rave reviews from his players, regardless of what the game’s final score was.
Five wide receivers were spread out in an empty formation on the first play from scrimmage. There were wide receiver jet sweeps and deep shots off play-action down the field. After throwing a single touchdown pass all of last season, UW quarterbacks combined to throw four Saturday.
The times are a-changin.
“It definitely (felt different),” Chambers said. “We just have a little bit different swagger coming out. We want to be ahead of the chains, and we’re going to throw the ball on first down. And if that’s coming out on the first play of the game throwing the ball and sending a message, I think that’s what we should do.”
On a picture-perfect afternoon at a War Memorial Stadium filled with eager fans, Chambers and redshirt freshman Levi Williams made their respective cases to take the reins of UW’s offense.
Chambers – playing for the first time since breaking his left leg last October in the season opener – looked largely sharp for the Brown team, completing 8 of 13 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Williams also shined at times for the White squad, completing 10 of 17 passes for 132 yards, including a perfectly placed 34-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to freshman Will Pelissier. Williams started the final five games of the 2020 season following Chambers’ injury.
UW quarterbacks completed just 46% of their passes in 2020. In Saturday’s spring game, Williams and Chambers hit 60% of their throws. While each quarterback took a few lumps, including fourth quarter interceptions for both, each has shown progress this spring, according to UW coach Craig Bohl.
Bohl said he expects to release a depth chart sometime next week, though nothing will be “etched in stone.”
“There was a little bit of a mixed bag (for the quarterbacks). I thought some of the throws that I thought should have been fairly easy completed balls were not, and then there were some throws that were challenging throws that either receivers made a play or they made a couple nice throws,” Bohl said. “We’re improving, we talked about improving our passing game. The efficiency on some of the shorter stuff needs to improve, but I certainly saw some explosive plays in the passing game, which is encouraging for us.”
The Brown team finished the afternoon with 315 yards of offense while the White team racked up with 255.
Both Chambers and Williams had their share of highlight throws during the game. Chambers’ first touchdown pass came on the Brown team’s first drive of the game, a 40-yard strike up the seam to redshirt junior running back Xazavian Valladay. Valladay, a member of the All-Mountain West team each of the past two seasons, ran untouched to the end zone.
Chambers’ second touchdown pass was a strike just short of the goal line to freshman Joshua Cobbs. Cobbs managed to wiggle his way out of a group of tacklers and into the end zone for the 7-yard score in the second quarter.
Not to be outdone, Williams made a few jaw-dropping throws of his own, including the 34-yard strike to Pelissier on fourth-and-5. Williams injured his shoulder during the second game of the 2020 season against Hawaii and admits that, by the end of the season, his arm strength was at about 50 or 60%.
On Saturday, Williams had all the zip on his throws he needed and then some. Williams said he feels he’s made a solid case to be the first man under center Sept. 4 against Montana State.
“I’m a competitor, and I want to play. I want to do what I know I can do,” Williams said. “There’s times where I’m not in and I’m like, ‘Man, I could have made that throw’ or something like that. But you know, that’s just selfish. And I know Coach (Polasek’s going to) put in the best guy.”
Before making any commitment on who his starting quarterback would be this fall, Bohl said he wanted to watch the film of Saturday’s game before making any knee-jerk reactions. Overall, however, he was pleased.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks that are good players that can be successful in the Mountain West,” Bohl said. “It’s always dangerous to make a blanket statement without watching the tape, but I was certainly pleased with the explosive plays.”
It wasn’t just the quarterbacks who starred in UW’s new-look offense, however, as the two teams combined to run for 220 yards. The star of the ground game was sophomore Titus Swen, who finished with six carries for 85 yards and another 71 yards on one reception for the Brown squad.
Swen opted out of the 2020 season but looked as strong as ever Saturday.
“Titus possesses some excellent skill, and you saw his explosiveness,” Bohl said. “There’s things that he has to do to become a complete back, but he’s an emerging back. And we’re certainly excited about his play out there.”
There is still a lot for UW to sort out in the coming weeks and months. But after a disappointing 2020 campaign that left a bitter taste in his and his players’ mouths, Bohl felt his team made strides over the last few weeks.
“I thought we made progress during the course of the winter, and it showed up during spring. Our guys have been competitive, disciplined, and now it’s time to take the next step forward,” Bohl said. “But overall, I would give this a pretty doggone good grade.”
BROWN 30, WHITE 17
White…… 3 7 7 0 – 17
Brown…… 7 7 9 7 – 30
BROWN: Xazavian Valladay 40 pass from Sean Chambers (John Hoyland kick), 6:02. Drive: 10 plays, 78 yards, 5:48 elapsed
WHITE: Luke Glassock 37 field goal, 0:00. Drive: 12 plays, 64 yards, 6:07
WHITE: Will Pelissier 34 pass from Levi Williams (Glassock kick), 3:03. Drive: 9 plays, 82 yards, 4:40
BROWN: Josh Cobbs 7 pass from Chambers (Hoyland kick), 0:19. Drive: 4 plays, 84 yards, 2:39
WHITE: Wyatt Wieland 19 pass from Jayden Clemons (Glassock kick), 6:44. Drive: 10 plays, 89 yards, 5:10
BROWN: Hoyland 37 field goal, 2:01. Drive: 10 plays, 55 yards, 4:43
BROWN: Zaire Jackson 1 fumble recovery (Hoyland kick failed), 0:18
BROWN: Titus Swen 55 run (Hoyland kick), 2:529. Drive: 1 play, 55 yards, 0:12
First downs 15 15
Rushes-Yards 33-97 23-123
Passing Yards 158 192
Total yards 255 315
Comp-Att-Int 13-23-1 10-17-1
3rd down conversions 5 of 12 3 of 7
4th down conversions 2 of 5 1 of 1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 3-38 1-5
Time of Possession 26:37 21:17
RUSHING: Jayden Clemons 4-56, Joseph Braasch 8-44, Jeremy Hollingsworth 10-32, Gavin Beerup 1-(minus 1), Levi Williams 7-(minus 2), Ryan Marquez 1-(minus-25)
PASSING: Levi Williams 10-17-1 132; Jayden Clemons 3-4-0 26; Ryan Marquez 0-1-0 0; Gavin Beerup 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING: Will Pelissier 4-70, Wyatt Wieland 3-25, Chance Hofer 3-19, Ryan Marquez 2-39, Jeremy Hollingsworth 1-5
TACKLES (solo-assist-total): Charles Hicks 3-3-6, Easton Gibbs 2-4-6, Miles Williams 1-4-5, Cole Godbout 3-1-4, DeVonne Harris 2-1-3, Blake Harrington 2-1-3, Cameron Stone 1-2-3, Wyatt Ekeler 2-0-2, Connor Shay 1-1-2, Azizi Hearn 0-2-2, five players with one tackle
SACKS: Cole Godbout 1-7
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Cole Godbout 2-8, Teagan Liufau 1-6, Blake Harrington 1-4, Garrett Crall 0.5-1, Miles Williams 0.5-1
INTERCEPTION: Cameron Stone 1-0
RUSHING: Titus Swen 6-84, Trey Smith 7-31, Xazavian Valladay 3-13, Isaiah Neyor 1-11, Josh Cobbs 1-10, Ayden Eberhardt 1-(minus 4), Alonzo Velazquez 1-(minus-6), Sean Chambers 2-(minus 14)
PASSING: Sean Chambers 8-13-1 172; Hank Gibbs 2-4-0 20.
RECEIVING: Tyrese Grant 2-38, Ayden Eberhardt 2-14, Titus Swen 1-71, Xazavian Valladay 1-40, Trey Smith 1-9, Josh Cobbs 1-7, Parker Christensen 1-7, Treyton Welch 1-6
TACKLES (solo-assist-total): Mathew Posas 6-0-6, Brady Bohlinger 4-2-6, Sabastian Harsh 4-1-5, Buck Coors 3-2-5, Claude Cole 3-1-4, Brent VanderVeen 3-0-3, Zaire Jackson 3-0-3, Oluwaseyi Omotosho 3-0-3, Read Sunn 3-0-3, Jack Boyer 2-1-3, Mario Mora 2-0-2, Ayden Eberhardt 1-1-2, four players with one tackle
SACKS: Oluwaseyi Omotosho 1-9, Jack Boyer 1-9, Claude Cole 1-3
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Oluwaseyi Omotosho 2-12, Jack Boyer 1-9, Sabastian Harsh 1-6, Claude Cole 1-3, Brent VanderVeen 1-1, Read Sunn 1-1
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Zaire Jackson 1-0
INTERCEPTION: Zaire Jackson 1-0
PASS BREAKUPS: Mathew Posas 3, Zaire Jackson.