LARAMIE – The homecoming crowd of 20,133 started marching out of War Memorial Stadium in the third quarter.
There was no reason to stick around to see Wyoming, a team that talked about competing for a Mountain West championship during fall camp, solidify its grip on last place in the Mountain Division.
The Cowboys – who were 20-point favorites — fell to 4-3 overall and 0-3 in the MWC with a 14-3 loss to New Mexico on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
“It’s like a broken record,” UW head coach Craig Bohl lamented after another atrocious performance by the offense, which has scored a grand total of three points over the last 10 quarters.
Sean Chambers – who had four turnovers in the 17-0 loss to Fresno State and eight over the previous three games – started at quarterback but was benched after a 1-for-5 start for four yards with an interception.
Levi Williams wasn’t unable to save the day for the punch-less Pokes, who couldn’t keep pace with the Lobos (3-5, 1-3), a team that ranked tied for 129th in scoring (14.0 points per game) and 130th in total yards (253.0 per game) in the 130-team FBS.
The Cowboys were held without a touchdown for the second consecutive game.
“Practice was good. I thought we did a good job this week,” Chambers said when asked what has gone wrong since UW’s first 4-0 start since 1996. “Everybody was buying in and competing and working hard and executing. We had a good week of preparation. I have no idea.”
Williams, who was also yanked in the fourth quarter, finished 3-for-7 for 51 yards.
“That is a question we are desperately trying to figure out,” Williams said of the game plans getting lost in translation after kickoff. “We do execute pretty well in practice, and I felt like honestly we were executing pretty well.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot.”
UW lost the turnover battle 2-0 and had seven penalties for 39 yards.
Isaiah Neyor lost a fumble at the UW 18-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but the defense held and New Mexico’s Andrew Shelley missed a 30-yard field goal.
Chambers was reinserted into the game and threaded the needle to Ayden Eberhardt to keep faint hope alive for the Cowboys on a fourth-and-4.
Four snaps later, Chambers threw an incompletion on fourth-and-8 with 8:31 remaining.
Chambers was sacked on fourth-and-12 at the New Mexico 30-yard line in the closing moments.
UW received the ball one final time with 58 seconds left, but tight end Treyton Welch was injured on a 6-yard reception and Eberhardt made a 26-yard catch to make the statistics look a little better.
Chambers was 11-for-23 for 96 yards. His final incompletion came on a Hail Mary as time expired.
This offense could use some more prayers.
“We need to play clean football,” Bohl said. “We’re frustrated. You sense my frustration. I’m not going to let it spill out, but we’ve got to get better. This tape is not going to be a pretty tape to look at.”
Neyor was unable to hold on to a third-down catch on the first drive of the third quarter and limped off the field after careening into a cart on the New Mexico sideline.
UW had a third-down conversion on its next drive wiped out with both tight end Parker Christensen and left guard Eric Abojei getting flagged for holding.
After a 33-yard punt by Ralph Fawaz, the Lobos had the ball at the UW 42. New Mexico was called for holding, a false start and facing a third-and-21 when quarterback Isaiah Chavez rumbled up the middle for 19 yards.
On fourth-and-2, freshman running back Aaron Dumas burst through the line for a 6-yard gain to move the chains.
Then on fourth-and-1 at the UW 19, Chavez attempted to dive for a first down but was stuffed by nose tackle Cole Godbout and safety Esaias Gandy.
“Defense can always keep you in a game and they kept us in the game for the lion’s share,” Bohl said.
The Cowboys trailed 14-3 at the intermission after a disjointed first 30 minutes that ended with them getting booed off the field as they trotted into the High Altitude Center on a low note.
On UW’s first possession, Chambers missed a wide-open Neyor down the west sideline for what would have likely been a touchdown. The drive ended with Chambers getting intercepted by Corey Hightower.
The student section chanted “We want Levi!” after the shaky start from Chambers.
The Lobos converted a fourth-and-1, and then Chavez connected with tight end Trace Bruckler for a 43-yard touchdown on fourth-and-3 to cash the turnover in for a 7-0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Chavez, filling in for an injured Terry Wilson, had only attempted one pass all season. The redshirt freshman, who also started for New Mexico in last year’s 17-16 win over UW, finished 10-for-11 for 112 yards and the lone touchdown.
It was New Mexico’s first offensive touchdown since the third quarter of a 38-10 loss to Air Force on Oct. 2.
After another poor decision by Chambers on a third-down incompletion, Bohl pulled the plug and inserted Williams into the game in the second quarter.
Williams connected with Neyor for a 38-yard completion but the talented receiver couldn’t keep his balance and went down at the New Mexico 11-yard line.
UW settled for a 27-yard field goal by John Hoyland to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 4:30 remaining in the first half.
The momentum was short-lived as Chavez took advantage of a busted coverage to deliver a 34-yard completion to tight end Kyle Jarvis. Moments later, defensive end Victor Jones was ejected after a targeting penalty against Chavez.
Dumas capped the 8-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left on the clock.
The Pokes were even penalized for a false start on a kneel-down play before the half mercifully ended.
Bohl bit his tongue after this record-scratch of a performance.
“I want to make a couple statements that sometimes you regret,” Bohl said. “And this is kind of where I’m at.”