LARAMIE – Following a five-turnover performance in a shutout loss to Fresno State, the University of Wyoming is reevaluating its offense – including the starting quarterback position.

Sophomore signal-caller Levi Williams entered the game for junior starter Sean Chambers during the fourth quarter of the defeat, and the pair will compete throughout practice this week to see who takes the first snaps Saturday.

Chambers compiled 162 total yards in the loss to the Bulldogs, but threw three interceptions, lost a fumble and completed less than 35% of his passes. Williams completed 1 of 7 passes for 32 yards, with an interception during the Cowboys’ only trip to the red zone.

Regardless of who was behind center, the offense struggled mightily as a whole. And with the Pokes stretching their scoreless streak to six quarters, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl knows that adjustments are necessary – whether it be schematically or from a personnel perspective.

“Offensively, the proof is in the pudding,” Bohl said. “When you don’t score any points at all, and really don’t threaten, you have to take a hard, critical look.”

Bohl said the Cowboys would likely name a starting quarterback around kickoff on Saturday, with Chambers and Williams set to split repetitions evenly at practice. In previous weeks, Chambers had received 60-70% of the reps at quarterback.

Chambers completed over 58% of his passes during UW’s 4-0 start. During the last two weeks, though, he’s been held to back-to-back season lows in passing yards, while completing 37% of his throws and turning the ball over five times.

Williams had not seen the field this year prior to last week’s game. He started five games in 2020, throwing for 877 yards on 49.6% passing with one touchdown and three interceptions while dealing with a shoulder injury.

“We’ll take a critical look,” Bohl said. “We’ve looked at a lot of things, with completion percentage and things like that. There are a lot of decisions that go into making a decision of who your starter is and when to insert another player ...

“I had both of those guys in my office (on Monday) and had candid conversations with them. I’m very transparent with them, and they’re both all-team guys. They both know we need to play better on offense, and we’ll name a starter probably right at game time.”

Regardless of who the starter is Saturday, junior tight end Treyton Welch and sophomore receiver Isaiah Neyor are confident in whoever gets the first snap.

“They are very similar in so many different ways, as far as drive and as far as running the ball and passing the ball,” Welch said. “They’re both really talented quarterbacks, and they’re both good at reading the field and making plays. I don’t think there are many differences between the two.”

Added Neyor: “(I was) catching footballs from Levi last year, and catching footballs from Sean this year, so no matter who the quarterback is, we’re going to have confidence. There is a lot of confidence in our guys, and I believe in both of them, no matter what.”

While the Cowboys’ struggles in the passing game – they rank 10th in the Mountain West in passing offense, 11th in yards per attempt and last in completion percentage during league play – are no secret, Bohl also notes that there are plenty of other areas for improvement.

“We certainly need to play better (at quarterback), and those guys recognize that, but there’s a whole host of things we need to get better at,” Bohl said. “We need to maintain the line of scrimmage and finish our blocks better, receivers need to catch the balls that are catchable, and our backs need to find some good creases.”

Other evaluations

Bohl acknowledges the need to “tweak” some aspects of the offense, but also notes that drastic changes during the middle of a season can be disruptive.

The coach did not hint at any potential adjustments to the starting lineup outside the quarterback position. However, he did emphasize the importance of getting more production from the offensive line, which has allowed seven sacks over the past two weeks, with the Pokes recording just one run of more than 20 yards.

“The biggest thing is we really need to finish off our blocks on the offensive line,” Bohl said. “We have an experienced veteran offensive line. With that, though, there needs to be an increased level of detail. When we engage a block ... (we need to) finish that block off.

“Many times, that’s the difference between a three-yard gain and an eight-yard gain. Way too many times during the course of this game, we were in third down-and-long.”

Bohl also said the coaching staff needs to do a better job of putting the offense in positions to succeed. The Cowboys have driven into opposing territory eight times in the past six quarters, but have yet to finish off a scoring drive during this span.

“We’re also going to look at where we need to place the ball,” he said. “We need to emphasize the things we can do well, and we also need to recognize that this New Mexico defense is a stingy defense. We have to be able to go through and surgically look at what things we can emphasize to our best ability to move the ball down the field and score some points.”

Still room for improvement

Despite holding the No. 3 passing attack in the country to 300 yards less than its season average, UW still believes it can get better on the defensive side of the ball.

In particular, the Pokes would like to create more turnovers.

Wyoming entered the Air Force game atop the Mountain West in turnover margin and ranked No. 5 nationally in takeaways. The last two weeks, though, they’ve lost the turnover battle 7-1.

“Over on defense, I thought, by and large, we played fairly well,” Bohl said. “That was a prolific offense. Their quarterback went into the game completing 70% of his passes, and I don’t think he was close to that.

“We were disappointed we didn’t come up with some takeaways, but holding them to 17 points is within the goal posts. If you said at the beginning, could you do that and win the game, I would’ve said we’d have a reasonable chance.”

Added senior linebacker Chad Muma: “It’s just getting those turnovers. Once we secure those tackles, maybe have some guys strip at the ball a little more. It’s always hard to get interceptions, it always depends on what coverage we’re in, but it would be huge to get some more turnovers on defense to put our offense in better positions.”

Staying together

Just minutes removed from a second straight double-digit loss, senior defensive end Garrett Crall stepped to the podium at the postgame news conference and preached the closeness of this UW team, as well as the fact that the season is far from over.

Bohl said he isn’t surprised by his veteran leader’s assessment, noting that there hasn’t been any division within the team despite its recent setbacks.

“We’ve talked about team unity, and that you win as a team and lose as a team,” Bohl said. “That comes back to some bedrock character. Our players recognize that we’re pulling for each other. When you start getting fractions of a divided football team, whether it be subgroups, or the receivers don’t think you’re passing the ball well enough, or the defense is mad at the offense or you’re mad at the place kicker, you really get a fractured locker room.

“This league will challenge us with everything we have, and it’s imperative that we’re unified. It doesn’t surprise me the feedback you’ve gotten from Garrett. I think if you asked a number of our players, that’s what you’d have. At no time did I hear any pointings or grumblings.”

Junior cornerback C.J. Coldon says this cohesiveness will be key as the Pokes attempt to turn a corner this weekend.

“It’s very big,” Coldon said. “We have to stay together. We still have a winning record, and that’s the bright side of things, but we’re trying to get a win this week so we can enjoy Victory Monday.”

Josh Criswell covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at jcriswell@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @criswell_sports.

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