LARAMIE – There is no finer illustration of Tyler Hall’s growth than his game-changing interception return for a touchdown during the University of Wyoming’s 23-14 victory at Texas State last Saturday.
Hall trusted what he had seen from the Bobcats earlier in the game and waited for quarterback Gresch Jensen to throw the ball toward the sideline. Jensen’s throw went wide of receiver Javen Banks and right into the waiting arms of Hall, who took it 72 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 20-14 lead – their first of the game.
“I was just about picking up tendencies during the game,” Hall said. “One of the tendencies was that the quarterback didn’t throw too many shots on us on the outside. They pretty much sat down when it was going vertical.
“I trusted it, the quarterback, and I made a play.”
Hall has shown a propensity for making plays during his time with the Cowboys.
The Hawthorne, California, product was an honorable mention All-Mountain West selection as a kick returner during his sophomore campaign. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns that season, including a 95-yarder against Texas State.
Hall again earned honorable mention All-MW honors while playing nickel back during his junior season. He led UW in passes defended from the hybrid cornerback and linebacker position, breaking up nine passes and intercepting one.
Hall also returned the opening kickoff 52 yards. His efforts in this season’s victory at Texas State earned him a spot on the Paul Hornung Award’s honor role, which honors the nation’s most versatile college football players.
Hall’s success is a testament to his willingness to do whatever UW’s coaches have asked of him, defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said.
“He takes it full speed ahead,” the coach said. “He is in the meeting room, in the film room and is always engaged. I’m not knocking the cornerbacks, but you don’t always get that from them.
“(Hall) sees the whole game, where often times other corners just see their own pictures sometimes. If you get a guy like that, you have to make sure you’re using him.”
Playing nickel last season helped Hall gain a better understanding of the game.
“You know certain plays and see certain tendencies,” he said. “That all helps me make plays.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers has completed just 41.2% (14 for 34) of his passes this season. The Cowboys are averaging just 97.5 yards through the air, which ranks 127th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Blame can be spread among Chambers and UW’s receivers, but the bulk of it lies on Chambers, UW football coach Craig Bohl said.
“Some throws (Chambers) had were a little bit errant,” the coach said. “Some throws were not high percentage passes, but some were. (Chambers) has to get his feet settled, take his correct read and get that percentage in the 60s.
“We’re going to keep force-feeding him, but he has to be more consistent with his accuracy.”
Chambers knows turning around the Pokes’ passing offense starts with him.
“I have to throw the ball better, and put it where guys can catch it,” he said. “Sometimes my footwork and mechanics are not up to speed, and that’s what I will be working on this week in practice.”
UW’s receivers have done a better job of catching contested passes, but they also need to be more consistent, Bohl added.
A LOT OF LOOKS
Idaho hasn’t been easy to prepare for, Dickert said.
“I haven’t gone into a game since Boise State with this many personnel groupings and this many plays,” UW’s defensive coordinator said. “There is a lot of offense we will be defending. We have to be efficient and simple, and make sure our guys are playing fast.”
The Vandals have played two quarterbacks during their first two games. That trend should continue for a few more games.
Senior Mason Petrino, the son of Idaho coach Paul Petrino, has completed 34 of 47 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Junior Colton Richardson is 7 for 14 for 59 yards.
Petrino and Richardson present different challenges to the Cowboys.
“Petrino is an outstanding play-maker, he improvises, finds open receivers, dishes the ball off at the right time and is very mobile,” Bohl said. “(Richardson) is a different type of fellow. We have him listed at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds. He has a good arm.
“They have an offense that spreads out and poses all types of problems.”
Sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay practiced Wednesday, but could be a game-time decision Saturday because of an ankle injury. Redshirt freshman free safety Rome Weber (concussion) didn’t practice Wednesday, but Bohl expected him to practice Thursday and play Saturday.
Former WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi also contributed to this story.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.