Saturday, September 6, 2008

Offensive struggles perplexing for Cowboys

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming running back Wynel Seldson looks to get past an Air Force defender on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming offensive coordinator Bob Cole had somewhat of a faraway look when he talked to the media after Saturday’s stunning 23-3 loss to Air Force at War Memorial Stadium.

The architect of the new Wyoming offense probably felt like he had just misplaced his floor plans.

“I’m a little shocked right now, to be honest with you,” Cole told reporters. “I don’t know any other way to explain it. None of us saw that coming. We thought we would be able to do both (run and pass). We were pretty decent as far as running, but we never got in sync. We put the ball on the ground five times and if there was one point of emphasis going into the week, it’s these guys try to strip the ball every single down and they got us five times. We just never got untracked.”

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn summed up the day in six words: “Five turnovers, story of the game.”

The Cowboys had four fumbles -- three by sophomore quarterback Dax Crum and one by senior running back Wynel Seldon -- and Crum threw one interception.

The result ended in either good field position for the Falcons or stopping a nice drive offensively by the Cowboys.

Either way, it turned into disaster for Wyoming, which fell to 1-1 on the season. Air Force, 2-0, broke a 3-3 halftime tie with 10 points in the third quarter and 10 more in the fourth.

“We almost looked like we didn’t practice and that is embarrassing for me because we practiced hard and we practiced effectively,” Glenn said. “You have to look at our team today on offense say, ‘Hey, you guys are not very good,’ and we are good, we have good players. We have to play to our ability. We didn’t today and that is for sure.”

The small but quick Air Force defense didn’t do anything that the Cowboys hadn’t prepared for; the Falcons just executed. The Wyoming offense very seldom executed.

“Looking back at it, we just had so many opportunities and we just couldn’t convert,” Crum said.

Wyoming running backs Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon actually had a good first half and statistically, not bad games as a whole. In the first half, Seldon had 64 yards on nine carries and Moore added 59 yards on nine rushes.

The Cowboys moved the football well between the 20s, but could never finish off a drive by getting the ball into the end zone. One drive in particular ended with place kicker Jake Scott missing a 27-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. After a Ward Dobbs’ interception, Scott converted on a 47-yard field goal, the only score of the game for Wyoming.

“We were running the ball so good, we wanted to try to impose our will on them and kind of lean on them because we had such a big size advantage,” Crum said. “But when it came time for me to make some plays, I just didn’t get it done today.”

Seldon appeared to be on his way to a big game with that strong first half, but he carried the ball just one time in the second half -- and fumbled on the Wyoming 12-yard line. The miscue led to a field goal.

Seldon, who was charged with the phantom fumble and touchdown return in last year’s 20-12 loss at the Academy, had Saturday’s play reviewed by game officials and again had it ruled that his knee was not down.

“That’s on me. I can’t put it in the ref’s hands because nine times out of 10 it is going to stay,” Seldon said. “I take onus on that and I have to stop letting the ball go when I am on the ground.”
As it turned out, that was Seldon’s last time on the field in the game.

“If that’s the move they had to do, I’m just a player and I have no control over that,” he said. “All I can do is keep coming back and try to produce and keep pushing forward.”

Seldon said the Cowboys’ troubles on Saturday came down to the lack of focus. At times, he said they made plays with “good passes, good blocks, good runs.” He said the intensity and passion was there.

Just no focus.

“We have to maintain our focus throughout the game and play by play,” Seldon said. “We can’t get excited about big plays and then take plays off. Air Force is real disciplined and we knew that coming in. If there were any mistakes going to be made, we had to minimize them because they are known to capitalize on those mistakes.”

Last week against Ohio the Cowboys were able to get past a few inconsistencies on offense. On Saturday, those problems came back to bite them.

Both Cole and Glenn said that all has to stop.

“We’re not a bad football team,” Glenn said. “We have some players on offense who are capable. I really liked our game plan coming in here, and you guys have to be saying, ‘Whoa, you did?’ But we can’t turn it over five times; that’s just the bottom line.”

Cole, who was brought in this season to fix a lethargic offense, said it is all on his shoulders. If something else goes wrong, he said, he’ll look in the mirror before he comes down on the players.
“If we don’t play well on offense, I’ll be the first guy to stand up and take responsibility for it. If we do play well, then the kids did a great job and so did the coaches,” Cole said.

The solution? It might be as simple as honing things down offensively.

“Anytime I have been in trouble in this business, you subtract, you don’t add,” Glenn said. “My hunch is that is the way we will go.”

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