The Wild Sam.
That’s what one of my colleagues called the running of redshirt freshman Sam Stratton as he played some at quarterback in UW’s 36-14 loss to No. 7 Boise State Saturday at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Stratton was a quarterback in high school, and a good track athlete. He’s been the scout team quarterback in practice, along with being a back up receiver and holder on field goals and extra points.
No, true freshman quarterback Brett Smith didn’t get hurt. Nor did he do anything wrong. UW didn’t do much on offense in this game, and Stratton provided a bit of a spark, albeit mostly when the game was already decided.
And, I didn’t think it was a case that UW gave up so it just put Stratton in there. Sure, it’s wise not to subject Smith to too many hits, and this partly helped there. It’s another potential wrinkle UW can use, and teams will have to prepare for.
The Cowboys had only 191 yards of total offense, and only 78 passing by Smith. Both season-lows. They just couldn’t do much offensively against a Boise State defense with eight senior starters. If UW could have hit a few deep passes, or a few medium-ranged passes over the middle, maybe the run game would have opened up more. But it didn’t.
Even though coach Dave Christensen and several players said the 46-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown with one second left before half didn’t deflate the team, it certainly sparked Boise State as it scored on its first three possessions of the second half.
But as I wrote for Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, that Hail Mary could have been prevented if UW could have got a first down on its final possession of the half. And, if senior punter Austin McCoy could have had better than a 23-yard punt. Heck, if UW would have let the ball bounce a little longer, maybe there wouldn’t have been time for that last play? Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Boise State may not have played like the No. 7 team in the country at all times, but it did what it had to. And, it showed UW is not ready for that just yet. Like against Nebraska and TCU, there is progress and hope, but it’s just not there yet.
There was disappointment with the loss among the players and coaches, but they immediately turned their attention to next week’s Border War at Colorado State.
As for bowl possibilities, it continues to be cloudy for UW but its looking more like the Independence or New Mexico bowls. Nevada losing at Utah State today could mean a UW-Nevada New Mexico Bowl if the Pac-12 puts two teams in BCS bowls. Stanford and Oregon still could do that. Air Force’s win over CSU makes it bowl eligible, and the Independence Bowl knows it can sell tickets for the Falcons with an Air Force base near by. Sounds like the Independence Bowl could be a tough sell even for its board members to take UW based on the ability to sell tickets.
Air Force could be a wild-card pick for the Military or Kraft Fight Hunger bowls since both had ties with Army and Navy, but neither are bowl eligible. However, I have been told the Mountain West and/or the Independence Bowl must release Air Force to consider it for a bowl not tied within the league. That could be said for all the bowl-eligible teams in the MW.
But in the end, the Las Vegas Bowl holds all the cards, no pun intended. If it takes TCU and Poinsettia takes Boise State, then the dominoes should fall to UW to the Independence or New Mexico bowls. It is sounding like the Poinsettia in San Diego, isn’t high on taking hometown San Diego State, especially now that Boise State seems to be there to take. The executive director for the New Mexico Bowl is a San Diego State graduate, but he knows he can’t use that in who he chooses. It would help if Air Force goes to a non-binding MW bowl, or if TCU or Boise State somehow get into a BCS bowl game.