LARAMIE – The winning formula for Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl is fairly straight-forward: when the Cowboys (4-2 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) create turnovers and hold onto the ball, they win. When they don’t? Games like Saturday’s against San Diego State happen.
In a 26-22 loss to the Aztecs, UW was unable to force any turnovers while surrendering the ball twice, once via interception and the other by way of a fumble. In four wins this season, the Cowboys have a plus-eight turnover margin. In two losses to SDSU and Tulsa, their turnover margin is negative-two.
Saturday’s game at San Diego State was UW’s first this season in which it lost the turnover battle.
“We did not really go after the ball like we had been, either through interceptions or causing fumbles,” Bohl said at his weekly news conference Monday. “We were going to probably need to be at least plus-one.”
This week’s homecoming matchup against New Mexico (2-4, 0-2) could provide a bounce back performance for the Cowboys. The Lobos are minus-10 overall this season in turnover margin, including an Oct. 4 game against San Jose State where they turned the ball over six times and forced just one turnover.
“When we play well, we get the ball and we hold onto the football,” Bohl said. “So, we have to do that as well.”
New Mexico enters Saturday’s matchup at War Memorial Stadium on a three-game losing streak. On the season, the Lobos surrender just under 39 points per game. Outside of a 17-10 loss against Liberty, New Mexico has surrendered at least 31 points in every game.
The Lobos also give up 391.7 passing yards per game, which ranks last in the nation.
“They have given up some big plays on the back end, so we need to exploit that,” Bohl said.
A porous New Mexico secondary could be just what the doctor ordered for UW’s passing game, which ranks 127th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams at 115.3 yards per game. The Cowboys’ team completion percentage (36.5) is last in the country.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers is currently completing 38.1 percent of his passes but leads the Cowboys with 430 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
“We’re in the midst of having to play games and try to win games. You have to do the best you can with what he has and what he has around him … to try to score more points than the other (team),” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. “And that might not always look pretty.”
Despite less-than-stellar passing numbers, Chambers remains confident. Quarterbacking is about more than stats, he said.
“The only stat I look at is if we win or lose. That’s the only stat I care about, really,” Chambers said. “It doesn’t matter about anything else. It doesn’t matter if we score seven touchdowns in a game. The stat that really matters is the W, the L and the win column.”
During Monday’s news conference, Bohl told the media he felt the referees officiating in UW’s loss at San Diego State was overly “conservative.”
UW was flagged six times for 70 yards while the Aztecs were penalized five times for 40 yards.
“I can get myself in pretty hot water, but I can tell you I thought the referees called the game pretty doggone conservatively,” Bohl said. “That may be the soundbite that’s out there, but I thought they were consistent. But yeah, there were some pretty conservative calls, and that’s just how the game comes out.”
Bohl did not let officiating be an excuse for the Cowboys’ loss, however.
“Let’s be real clear: San Diego State beat us,” Bohl said.”
Injury woes continue
Bohl made sure to credit the players who were able to take the field for the Cowboys on Saturday. But he is aware that, no matter how well a backup performs, injuries to the starting lineup can be tough to overcome.
“Sometimes it’s not about the X’s and O’s, “ Bohl said. “Sometimes, it’s about the Jimmies and the Joes.”
The Cowboys entered last weekend’s contest at San Diego State with a plethora of injuries, including a concussion to junior right guard Logan Harris.
Saturday saw additional casualties, as sophomore offensive guard Eric Abojei suffered a left knee injury against the Aztecs and will likely miss “several weeks” according to Bohl. Freshman running back Titus Swen, currently listed as the team’s No. 2 running back, is questionable for Saturday’s game, Bohl said. Harris is still in concussion protocol, per Bohl, but the team is “hopeful” he can play against New Mexico. He is listed atop the team’s latest depth chart.
“Eric (Abojei) is going to be missed,” Bohl said. “But we’ll put the next guy in there.”