Craig Bohl offered one of his intriguing yet wise lines while addressing the media late Friday night.
“There’s an old adage that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships, and I believe that,” the sixth-year University of Wyoming football coach said.
There’s no debating the latter half of that statement. It’s hard to imagine UW’s offense spiking ticket sales, either.
Friday night might have offered a positive glimpse into what the future holds.
UW soaked up its fourth straight Border War win over Colorado State as the tunes of “Sweet Victory” filled the chilling air at War Memorial Stadium. Players and fans alike stormed Jonah Field to get a close-up of the Bronze Boot, which will stay in Laramie for the fourth straight season.
Yet the underlining twinkle in a star-filled sky was a kid relishing a moment he had only heard whispers about in the days – weeks? – prior; a youngster who grew up more than 1,000 miles from Laramie and the Border War.
Surely he’d be able to cherish the moment Friday night with his teammates from the safety of the sideline and not on the field of battle.
We’d later find out that wasn’t the plan.
Keeping the game off the shoulders of a true freshman probably would be the preferred thought process of any coach across the country.
Yet there Levi Williams stood.
Ready. Waiting. Fearless.
The injury to redshirt freshman starting quarterback Sean Chambers hurt, no doubt. Watching sophomore backup Tyler Vander Waal try to jumpstart an offense that has, for the most part, provided more yawns than “ahhs” was tough to stomach. Not having workhorse running back Xazavian Valladay at full strength also added another wrinkle to an offense that prides itself on the ground game.
UW’s offense has been bullish on staying the course – leaning on a heavy running game without mixing in a consistent passing attack. To be fair, offensive coordinator Brent Vigen has attempted to install an air attack. Yet it’s failed miserably. Too many times receivers have dropped passes that would have gone for big plays – it happened again Friday. And too often the Cowboys connect on a big pass play only to revert back to the run, which, arguably has become somewhat predictable. And, too often, throws are overthrown or underthrown.
“People know it and when you do it, it breaks their will,” Bohl said of the running game.
True. And UW does that better than most teams. The downside is it has cost the Cowboys too many times this season. (See: San Diego State, Boise State, etc.).
No, the Canyon, Texas, product wasn’t slinging it all over the field Friday night. But his energy was a refreshing breath of air.
The plan entering Friday night’s game was for Vander Waal and Williams to split reps. They did that for most of the game until Vander Waal went down with what later was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain in the third quarter.
Whenever Williams was leading the offense, the Cowboys seemed to have some extra pep in their step, if you will – another gear they went to.
All Williams did was shine.
“You never know when you’re going to go in,” said Williams, not a whisker on his face. “When I went in, I just took advantage of what I had.”
His 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave UW a 14-7 lead. The first score of Williams’ career held up as the game-winner. He bulldozed his way through a bevy of Rams defenders for 19 yards – breaking tackle after tackle, refusing to go down to the frost-covered turf – to tie a bow on what was a remarkable performance.
“I didn’t want to go down, that’s for sure,” said Williams, who rushed 13 times for 49 yards and a touchdown and completed both of his pass attempts for 25 yards. “I knew we needed a first down to win the game and, what it comes down to is it was my will against his will. I guess my will prevailed.”
The former Texas prep standout is beginning to prove why Bohl plied him away from Houston – the program Williams originally signed with before Cougars head coach Major Applewhite was fired last December and West Virginia’s Dana Holgerson took over the program.
“Certainly he wasn’t going to be completely one-dimensional,” Bohl said of Williams’ UW debut Friday. “It’s not like ‘Wildcat.’ He can throw the football. And we’ll look at, as we get ready for Air Force, what other things we can do with him.”
Williams can throw it. And throw it well.
Sure, we didn’t see it during the 15 snaps Williams took against CSU. But this is a kid who threw for more than 3,200 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior for Smithson Valley in the suburbs of San Antonio in Class 6 – the largest classification in Texas high school football.
Friday night, Williams had fun. He smiled, laughed and celebrated with his teammates.
He also arguably saved the game and, perhaps, the Cowboys’ season.