No Time for Self-Pity, Cowboys Have to Regroup in a Hurry After Another Late-Game Failure

Tracy Ringolsby

LOGAN, Utah -- The Cowboy football team typically has what coach Craig Bohl calls a 24-Hour Rule, allowing the coaches and players to relive the most recent game for a day, and then having to flushing it from memory as they prepare for the next game on the schedule.

Not this week.

Not in the aftermath of Saturday's 26-21 loss at Utah State, and not with the Border War on the schedule for Friday night when Colorado State visits War Memorial Stadium in one of the oldest rivalries in college football.

Besides, there is nothing to savor for the Cowboys' in Saturday's game. It left them with a 6-4 record, the four losses coming by a combined 15 points, and all four of them coming with critical late-game mistakes.

Bohl could not conceal his feelings in the aftermath of the latest late-lead that turned into a loss, not only dropping the Cowboys to 6-4, but leaving them at 3-3 in the Mountain West.

“I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth,” Bohl said. “We got beat by a good football team. We had an opportunity to win, and we didn’t get it done. That’s it.”

And in 1 minute, 20 seconds, Bohl was done, knowing that in the aftermath of another one that got away, sometimes the less said is best, particularly when there was no time to rehash with the Cowboys getting back to work in preparation for CSU on Sunday afternoon, instead of the normal Monday resumption of practice.

But then, frustration is not unexpected for a team that is arguably four plays away from being undefeated, and has been able to close out late-game leads in all four losses.

“It seems like each one is getting harder and harder, but we’ve got another game on Friday,” said tight end Josh Harshman. “There’s no 24-hour rule. It starts right now. We’re already on to CSU (Sunday). . . . We’ve just got to keep staying in the fight and hopefully things will turn around.”

The losses have been a slap in the face, particularly with back-to-back late-game failures .

Consider:

-- Saturday at Utah State: Down 26-14 with 11:11 left in the game, the Cowboys took over on thier own 25, and quarterback Tyler Vander Waal capped of the 9-play, 75-yard drive with his second touchdown run of the game, a five-yard scamper.

But ... after the defense held, forcing Utah State to punt with 2:18 to play, and the Cowboys took over on their own 30, Vander Waal, on 2-and-5 from the Utah State 30 with 1:14 to play, threw a game-deciding interception that Utah State's Eric Munoz return to the Aggies 30.

-- Nov. 8 at Boise State: The Cowboys took a 17-10 lead with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter.

But ... First, Fresno State tied the game at 17-17 on Khalil's five-year run with 5:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then, after Boise state's Eric Sachse kicked a 28-yard field goal in the first session of overtime, Cowboys' placekicker Cooper Rothe came up short on a potential game-tying 37-yard field goal attempt, and Boise claimed a 20-17 lead.

-- Oct. 12 at San Diego State: Sean Chambers connected with Rocket Ismail, Jr., on a 19-yard touchdown pass, and then Chambers ran for a two-point conversion to give the Cowboys a 22-19 lead with 6:49 to play.

But . . . San Diego State responded with a 76-yard touchdown drive, capped off by Rayn Agenw's 12-yard touchdown pass, going up 22-19 with 2:09 to play. However, two players after completing a 15-yard pass to Ismail on a fourth-and 10 to keep the Cowboys hopes alive, Chambers was intercepted with 1:20 to play, and the Aztecs ran out the clock.

-- And Sept. 21 at Tulsa: Chambers' 15-yard touchdown run with 5:25 to play put the Cowboys up 21-17. 

But . . .  Tulsa answered with a seven-play, 75 yard drive, taking a 24-21 lead with 3:21 to play  on Shamari Brooks' 19-yard touchdown run, and then, after starting out on its own 45 thanks to a 36-yard Tyler Hall kickoff return, the Cowboys marched to the Tulsa 10, and on a third-and-seven, Chambers rushed to the three, for what would have been a first down, but continued to fight in an effort to score and fumbled the ball way with 50 seconds to play.

“It sucks. We shot ourselves in the foot multiple times. They played well and made plays when it mattered,” linebacker Logan Wilson said. “We can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot like that.”

And it wasn't just in the closing minutes that the Cowboys failed to cash in on chances to take charge at Utah State.

Twice in the first quarter, the Cowboys were inside the Utah State 20, and came away empty-handed. 

On a 3rd-and-12 at the Utah State 14 on their first drive of the game, the Cowboys saw Vander Waal not only sacked for a 16-yard loss, but loose a fumble to eliminate even the chance of a field goal.

And on the Cowboys final drive of the first quarter, the Cowboys facing a fourth-and-one at the Utah State two yard line, and Xazavian Valladay was stopped at the three when the Cowboys opted to go for it instead of kicking a field goal.

“We probably made too many mistakes. I thought our players played hard. We need to play smarter,” Bohl said. “I thought we were uncharacteristic on some things. We normally take care of the football really well, and we had some penalties.”

The Cowboys had suffered only three interceptions in the first nine games of the season, but on Saturday, Vander Waal was intercepted three times, along with being sacked twice. 

A team that average 5.3 penalties per game, accounting for an average 50.6 yards in the first nine games, was penalized nine times for 92 yards.

“We shot ourselves in the foot multiple times," said Wilson. "They played well and made plays when it mattered. We can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot like that."

And the Cowboys can't spend too much time reliving the nightmare in Logan.

They only have five days to get ready for the next game -- Colorado State in the Border War on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.

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