April 4, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Saturday marked the second scrimmage of the spring for the Wyoming Cowboys, but the first major scrimmage, consisting of 85 total plays. For the second time in three days, the Wyoming offense won the scrimmage against a Cowboy defense that has been hit by injuries in spring drills. The offense's win on Saturday was by a final score of 51-23.
"We moved the ball, but again we need to get in and look at the film to evaluate just how well we played," said head coach Dave Christensen. "We have a number of defensive guys out right now with injuries, so it isn't probably a true indication of where the offense is at. But I am pleased with the progress we are making in implementing the offense, learning the entire system and getting the plays called and executed."
Because of the lack of depth due to injury, Saturday's scrimmage was cut back from an original scrimmage planned for 120 plays to a scrimmage of 85 plays.
The first-year head coach continues to be pleased with his team's work ethic.
"I've said it before this spring, but I will say it again, the kids are giving great effort every single day," said Christensen. "That to me is the most important thing we've seen thus far since we've been here."
When asked if anyone or any one position stood out in Saturday's scrimmage Christensen expressed his pleasure with the play of the the skill positions on offense.
"I think the running backs are doing a good job of running hard," said Christensen. "Once we got going, I thought (James) Caraway started hitting the holes a little bit better rather than dancing behind the line of scrimmage. I feel good about that position right now.
"We're down a couple receivers with injury, but we had a couple of the younger guys step up and makes some plays there.
"The quarterbacks played better and protected the ball today, so that was good to see we didn't turn the ball over much. They (the quarterbacks) are all getting better each day. There is a lot for a quarterback to pick up in this offense. I believe it's difficult to see how quarterbacks will react unless you put them in a live situation, so we felt at this time we needed to pull the blue jerseys off them and see what they could do when the heat was on. I think they are responding well. "
The offense scored four touchdowns on the day -- three rushing TDs and one through the air -- and kicked three field goals. The first of the day's four touchdowns came on a James Caraway one-yard plunge on the second series of the scrimmage for the No. 1 offense. That series pitted the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. Karsten Sween led the offense on a 75-yard drive that included three first downs.
The next five series saw the defense strengthen. The No. 2 defense limited the No. 2 offense to only one first down on its next series. The No. 2 offense faced off in its next series against the No. 1 defense, and the defense held them to a three-and-out series highlighted by a sack of Dax Crum by senior defensive end Mitch Unrein. The third straight defensive stand saw the No. 1 defense hold the No. 1 offense to a three-and-out that featured a sack of Sween by redshirt freshman defensive end Corey Orth.
Sween led the offense on a 33-yard drive in its next series, but that drive stalled at the defense's 32-yard line. Following a third three-and-out series by the offense, Crum and the No. 2 offense would record the offense's second touchdown of the day.
Crum led his group on a 65-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back James Davis. Davis' TD was set up by a 28-yard pass from Crum to Travis Burkhalter that put the ball on the one-yard line the previous play.
Sween then returned to the field with the No. 1 unit and drove the Cowboys 32 yards, where senior place-kicker Jake Scott made a 31-yard field goal. Scott lined up immediately after that attempt to kick another 31-yarder for his second of three field goals on the day with no misses.
The Cowboy defense then reasserted itself on back-to-back series to hold the No. 2 offense scoreless. The first of the two stops saw sophomore outside linebacker Josh Biezuns record a key tackle for a loss. Biezuns moved to linebacker this spring after being the starting fullback for the Cowboys last season. Christensen's new spread offense doesn't utilize a fullback. The second stop by the defense featured a pass breakup by redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Durbin and ended with senior defensive ends Mike Neuhaus and Unrein combining on a sack of quarterback Adam Barry.
Wyoming's one passing touchdown of the day came on the next series of the scrimmage that began on the defense's own 25-yard line. Sween hit junior wide receiver David Leonard on an 18-yard TD pass on third down for the Pokes' one passing TD of the day.
Caraway would score his second rushing touchdown on a 13-yard scamper two series later.
The Cowboys concluded the scrimmage with work on two-minute offense. Beginning at their own 40-yard line, Sween and the No. 1 offense drove the ball 35 yards down the field to setup a 43-yard field goal by Scott -- his third and longest field goal of the day.
Finally, the only turnover of the day occurred on the final possession by the offense, when redshirt freshman wide receiver Justin Morgan fumbled a reception that was recovered by defensive end Orth.
Sween ended Saturday's scrimmage having completed 17 of 26 passes (65.4 percent) for 154 yards and one touchdown. Crum was 11 of 12 passing (91.7 percent) for 98 yards, and Barry completed 1 of 4 (25.0 percent) pass attempts for five yards.
Leonard led all receivers with six receptions for 64 yards and one TD catch. Burkhalter caught five passes for 57 yards.
Defensively, sophomore inside linebacker Brian Hendricks continues to shine. Hendricks, who intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in this past Thursday's scrimmage, led the Cowboys in tackles on Saturday with 16. Junior outside linebacker Alex Toney had nine tackles. Junior free safety Chris Prosinski had six tackles -- as did redshirt freshman inside linebacker Durbin. Senior outside linebacker Weston Johnson and fellow senior Unrein each had five tackles. Unrein also had 1.5 sacks from his defensive end position.
In terms of an area the head coach feels his team continues to need to improve on, he said, "We still need to become a much more physical team," said Christensen. "That is the one area that we have made improvement but need to continue to make strides at. We've got a number of guys banged up right now because we have emphasized being physical, but that is a part of the program."
Christensen was also asked to evaluate his kickers thus far in camp.
"I was pleased with the way Jake (Scott) kicked today," said Christensen. "Nick Landess pulled his groin in warmups, so he didn't get a chance to get out and compete today, but Jake hit a long (43-yard) field goal in two-minute offense. He struck the ball well today."
The scrimmage began with the offense coming out from the shadow of its own goal line, running two series from the two-yard line, followed by three series of plays from its own 25, four series from its own 35-yard line, three from the defense's 45, three from the defense's 25 and finally two series beginning at the offense's 40-yard line simulating two-minute offense.
A scoring system was utilized that awarded the offense and defense points based on certain plays. The offense was awarded a normal six points for a touchdown, one point for a point-after-touchdown, two point for a two-point PAT and three points for a field goal. In addition, the offense was awarded one point for each play of 20+ yards and one point for each first down.
The defense could earn five points each for an interception or a recovered fumble. If they returned an interception or fumble recovery for a TD, the defense received 12 points. The defense earned three points for a blocked field goal or by stopping the offense on a fourth-down play on the offense's side of the 50. Two points were awarded to the defense for a safety, a quarterback sack, stopping the offense on a fourth-down play on the defense's side of the 50 or stopping a two-point conversion attempt. Finally one point was earned by the defense for forcing a punt, forcing a missed field goal, tackling a ball carrier for a loss of yardage, blocking a point-after-touchdown attempt and when holding the offense to a field goal after the offense began its series in the red-zone (inside the defense's 20-yard line).
There were some new injuries to report and some updates of prior injuries. It was discovered after this past Thursday's scrimmage that sophomore starting linebacker Gabe Knapton suffered a sprained posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee. He did not participate in Saturday's scrimmage and may miss the remainder of spring drills. Senior linebacker Jimmy DeAndrea, who was injured on Thursday, has torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee and will miss the rest of spring practice. Junior place-kicker Nick Landess strained the groin in his right leg in warmups prior to Saturday's scrimmage and didn't participate.
Among those previously reported as injured or sick and not competing were: senior wide receiver Greg Bolling, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Wednesday, April 1; senior noseguard Fred Givens, who is suffering with a right shoulder sprain; senior defensive tackle John Fletcher was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Thursday, April 2; and two wide receivers Donate Morgan, a senior, and Matt Sando, a sophomore, both continue to suffer with symptoms from concussions and so didn't participate. Also, senior linebackers Matt Barella and Zeb Whipp and redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Birkeness continue to be held out of scrimmages. Barella (right shoulder) and Birkeness (left shoulder) both had shoulder surgery in the offseason. Whipp is dealing with a bad back.
Wyoming's next practices will be Tuesday, April 7 and Thursday, April 9. Both practices will begin at 3:30 p.m. There are no scrimmages planned for this coming week. The Cowboys will not practice next Saturday, April 11 due to the Easter weekend.