Players not to blame for Mustangs 0-3 start to league play

The Wyoming Mustangs professional indoor football team’s second season playing in the Champions Indoor Football League has been far from smooth sailing.

The team lost its fourth straight game 56-40 to the Omaha Beef on Saturday in the Wyoming Center at Camplex. The loss dropped the team to 0-4 on the season and 0-3 in league play.

Just four games into the team’s 11-game schedule, the players already have endured an ownership change and a coaching change in the first month of the season. 

Steven Titus bought the team from former owner Keith Russ last month and immediately hired Del Shelstad as the new CEO and general manager. Less than a week later, Shelstad fired former coach Michael Coleman after the team’s 0-2 start.

“We are committed to winning games and bringing a championship to Wyoming,” Shelstad said on the team’s Facebook page after Coleman was fired. “We did not hire this coaching staff and after an evaluation of the first two games we decided to put our stamp on our promise to win. It’s really that simple.”

Coleman’s second loss was to the semiprofessional Dallas Prime. The decision to fire Coleman and his staff was out of pure urgency to salvage the season while they still could, Shelstad said.

Curtis Williams was brought in as the new coach to replace Coleman. Like his predecessor, Williams’ tenure in Wyoming has started with a pair of losses.

Williams isn’t all to blame for the Mustangs struggles since taking over. Just two days after arriving in Gillette, he had the task of facing the defending CIF champions of Omaha. After just one formal practice with his new team, the Mustangs lost 82-34.

Eight days after losing by 48 points, the Mustangs had to turn around and face the Beef for a second time this weekend. Wyoming showed flashes of being a better team but ultimately fell 56-40. 

Penalties and turnovers played a big part in the pair of losses to Omaha. In the two games against the Beef, Wyoming totaled 26 penalties. The team has a league-worst minus 12 turnover ratio after its first four games, according to the league’s website.

Turnovers and penalties are coachable aspects of the game. But with the lack of coaching stability, it’s no surprise the players have struggled to be consistent.

Shelstad and Titus made it clear that winning is the most important thing for the Mustangs. While all hope isn’t lost, the team will need to find ways to win games soon or risk missing the CIF playoffs for the second straight season.

It’s unclear whether Mustangs fans care about winning as much as Shelstad and Titus. Attendance appears to have taken a small dip from last year but Wyoming still leads the league in ticket sales, Titus said. League attendance numbers are not officially recorded or confirmed.

Saturday’s loss to Omaha showed what the players are capable of doing with a little bit of stability. After falling behind 42-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs battled back to make it a 10-point game with just under 6 minutes left.

The comeback attempt ultimately failed, but the players showed plenty of heart to avoid another blowout loss to the same team. If there’s anyone in the Mustangs organization that deserves support from the community, it’s the players.

After all they’ve been through already this season, it’s the least the community can do.

The Mustangs (0-4, 0-3) will return to the field for another home game this weekend. Wyoming will host the Rapid City Marshalls at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in the Wyoming Center at Cam-plex.