Despite demotion, Tyler Vander Waal committed to Wyoming
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s offense has undergone a transformation with Sean Chambers at the controls.
Since the true freshman took over at quarterback 10 quarters ago, the unit has scored eight touchdowns. The Cowboys have put up 24.6 points (six more than their season average) and 404.3 yards a game (86 more than their season average), including season-highs in both categories during a two-game winning streak that still has Wyoming clinging to hope of a third straight bowl game.
Wyoming is sustaining drives better than it has all season by largely staying ahead of the chains on the legs of Chambers and Nico Evans, who’ve each rushed for more than 100 yards in the last three games. It’s opened things up on the rare occasions the Cowboys throw the ball with Chambers completing 61 percent of his passes.
Tyler Vander Waal has had a front-row seat to it all.
It’s a voluntary position taken by Vander Waal, whom Chambers replaced in the second half of the Cowboys’ 24-16 setback to Utah State — their fourth straight loss at the time. It would’ve been easy to check out mentally after losing his starting job, but Vander Waal said not supporting his successor would’ve been both selfish and hypocritical of him.
″(Chambers) was supportive of me,” Vander Waal told the Casper Star-Tribune. “And I think all the quarterbacks are really supportive of each other. I think it speaks a lot to just how close the quarterbacks are. I don’t care who’s playing. I don’t think we care who’s playing. As long as we’re having success and getting the job done and winning games, that’s all that matters.”
That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy for Vander Waal and his competitive nature to watch from the sideline, but he understands why head coach Craig Bohl benched him eight games into the season.
Even with the threat of Evans, the nation’s second-leading rusher, Wyoming’s offense rarely found balance with Vander Waal under center. The Cowboys ranked last in the Mountain West in yards, points and passing yards through their first seven games and were converting on third down less than 30 percent of the time — the worst clip in the FBS.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” Vander Waal said. “I look at it as it’s what’s best for the team. It wasn’t all about me. I wasn’t getting the job done, so we put the next guy up. Sean’s getting the job done.”
Vander Waal completed just 50.2 percent of his passes in the first eight games, tossing more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3). He was sacked 20 times, a combination of a young offensive line struggling to protect him and him admitting he held the ball longer than he should’ve at times.
With the offense going 10 straight quarters without a touchdown heading into the second half against Utah State, it became as much of a mental hurdle for Vander Waal as anything physical. Chambers came on for good after Vander Waal threw an ill-advised interception with Wyoming backed up inside its own 10-yard line on the first play of the third quarter.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just confidence,” Vander Waal said. “I kind of lacked confidence. I’d get in my head a little too much. I’d miss a throw and I’d get down on myself, and that would affect the next three or four throws.”
But Vander Waal has stayed engaged, taking all the mental reps he can now that he’s the backup while offering support along the way. Amid the team’s celebration at Canvas Stadium following Wyoming’s third straight Border War win over Colorado State on Oct. 26, Vander Waal found Chambers in the corner of the South end zone and congratulated him on his three-touchdown night as part of the Cowboys’ 34-21 victory.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say a cheerleader for Sean because Sean doesn’t necessarily need a cheerleader, but he’s been a really good teammate,” Bohl said. “I think that’s an indication of our football team. There’s not guys out there that have a selfish agenda. We appreciate Tyler, and there may come a time when his services are needed. He’s prepared for that.”
Vander Waal is staying ready knowing he’s one play away from being back under center, but he’s also got a future to think about should Chambers finish the season as the starter. With both of them being freshmen, would Vander Waal look for more consistent playing time somewhere else?
Right now, Vander Waal said that’s not the plan.
“I’m fully bought in,” he said. “I don’t really care who’s playing as long as we’re winning games.”
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com