April 4, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming football team conducted its first extended scrimmage of spring camp on Wednesday, April 4 in War Memorial Stadium. The Pokes scrimmaged for 102 plays, lasting one hour and 30 minutes. The defense defeated the offense 72-41, utilizing a special scoring system that awarded both the offense and defense points for specific plays. The No. 1 offense faced the No. 1 defense throughout the scrimmage with the No. 2 offense and defense competing against each other on a beautiful, calm day with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees.
Leading the way for the winning defense was senior linebacker Korey Jones, from Fort Collins, Colo., who recovered one fumble and intercepted one pass on the day to go with three tackles. Senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa'asau, from Pago Pago, American Samoa, also had an outstanding scrimmage, leading Wyoming with nine tackles, including 2.0 sacks for 13 yards and 3.0 tackles for loss of 16 yards while forcing one fumble. He was joined up front by senior defensive lineman Ben Durbin, of Gilbert, Iowa, who led the defense with 4.0 tackles for loss. Durbin also had 1.0 sack, five tackles, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.
The leading performers for the offense were receivers Robert Herron, a junior from Los Angeles, and Spencer Bruce, a junior from Gillette, Wyo. Herron had seven receptions for 97 yards and Bruce caught four passes for 90 yards. Bruce also scored on the longest play of the day, a 64-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard of Phoenix, Ariz.
Kirkegaard finished the scrimmage strong after a difficult start. He completed only 9 of his first 22 pass attempts (.409) for 110 yards, with three interceptions and one touchdown pass -- the 64-yarder to Bruce. But after that point, he completed 15 of his next 28 passes (.536) for 189 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half of the scrimmage. For the day, Kirkegaard completed 24 of 50 passes (.480) for 299 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
While the Cowboys had two short scrimmages during portions of the first two weeks of spring drills, Wednesday's was the first lengthy scrimmage. When meeting with media following the scrimmage, head coach Dave Christensen tipped his hat to the defense for their ability to force five turnovers on the day -- three interceptions and two fumbles.
"I'm a head coach, so I have to look at things from both sides," said Christensen. "From a defensive standpoint we emphasize it (forcing turnovers). We talked about it a lot this week -- that it wasn't happening enough. We came out today and reemphasized the importance of takeaways from our defense, so it was exciting to see them get the ball out, get pressure on the quarterback and force bad throws. They (the defense) dominated, and it was very evident if you were out here watching.
"The offense had their struggles, but they played well in our last scrimmage. I'm excited with the direction we're going defensively. We're multiple, and the kids are starting to pick up the schemes. Obviously, offensively we have some things that we've got to get worked out. We're missing some key ingredients on offense that will be back and ready to go full go come fall camp, but we'll continue to make progress there."
Two of those key offensive perfomers who are limited to non-contact drills this spring are: 2011 Mountain West Freshman of the Year Brett Smith (Salem, Ore.), who started all 13 games for the Cowboys at quarterback as a true freshman, and senior wide receiver Chris McNeill (Simi Valley, Calif.), who was a Second Team All-Mountain West selection as a junior.
When asked about how well the defense seemed to rally to the ball in Wednesday's scrimmage, Christensen said, "I think the emphasis by our defensive staff and the intensity and great hustle by our defensive players showed. When I see defensive linemen out on the perimeter making tackles we know our kids are running hard to the ball.
"Overall, I thought it was probably the most physical scrimmage that we've had since I've been here. I think our kids are starting to figure out that you have to be physical, hit people in this game and have courage"
In terms of special teams, Wyoming's first-year punter Tim Gleeson, a freshman from Melbourne, Australia, had an impressive outing. He averaged 51.3 yards on four punts, including two punts over 50 yards -- a 56-yarder and a 58-yard punt for his longest of the day. Sophomore place-kickers Daniel Sullivan, from Snohomish, Wash., and Stuart Williams, from Nederland, Colo., also performed well. Sullivan has impressed all spring, showing a lot of pop in his kicks.
"Kicking-wise, I thought Daniel (Sullivan) kicked the ball well," said Christensen. "He kicked one (field goal) in a game-winning situation in the end with the rush team coming at him full speed, so I think we're making good progress there. We punted the ball well. We have some things with Tim Gleeson that we have to get lined out from a technique standpoint, but he is certainly making good progress."
The Cowboys will hold one more practice this week on Thursday afternoon, before getting a few days off for the Easter weekend.
"We'll go light tomorrow and spend more time in meetings and watching the film of this scrimmage," added Christensen. "We'll get out in shells tomorrow and get some good work in, then the kids will be on Easter break Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
The six scrimmage periods began with six different situations, including: coming out from the offense's own two-yard line; beginning at the offense's own 25-yard line; a period starting at the offense's 35; a period beginning at the defense's 45-yard line; a red-zone period, beginning at the defense's 25-yard line; and a two-minute offense period. There was also a seventh period that focused on kick and kick coverage.
Several other highlights from Wednesday's scrimmage included:
Other Defensive Highlights
Sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff, from Texarkana, Texas, created the first turnover for the defense on the second series of Wednesday's scrimmage, intercepting Kirkegaard and returning the interception seven yards.
Senior safety Kenny Browder, from Round Rock, Texas, followed up Huff's pick with one of his own on the very next series, returning the interception five yards. Christensen was asked about the growth of Browder during the past year.
"Kenny's worked hard in the offseason," said Christensen. "He's playing back at safety now. Luke (Anderson) has been bumped up some and has missed some time and obviously (Luke) Ruff is out this spring. Kenny is definitely going to have the opportunity to contribute next year and help this football team."
In addition to the interceptions by Korey Jones, Huff and Browder, sophomore cornerback Darrenn White, from Kansas City, Mo., intercepted the fourth pass for the defense off sophomore quarterback Josh Smith, of Manchester, N.H. White returned his interception 25 yards.
The two fumbles forced by the defense were forced by redshirt freshman linebacker Zack Berg (Edmonds, Wash.) and senior defensive lineman Durbin. Korey Jones recovered the fumble caused by Durbin and sophomore cornerback DeAndre Jones (Killeen, Texas) recovered the fumble forced by Berg.
Sophomore linebacker Alex Borgs (Raesfeld, Germany) had eight tackles, 1.0 TFL and one pass breakup.
Three Cowboy defenders had six tackles each. They were: junior linebacker Devyn Harris (Fountain, Colo.); junior safety Andrew Meredith (Green River, Wyo.); and junior linebacker J.J. Quinlan (Everett, Wash.).
Other Offensive Highlights
Senior wide receiver Herron led all offensive performers with 97 yards -- all receiving. Christensen was asked to evaluate Herron's performance after the scrimmage.
"Robert (Herron) played well today and showed his speed," said Christensen. "We just need Robert to be more consistent and do that every day. He's certainly explosive." Sophomore wide receiver Bruce was second on the team in offense with 90 receiving yards, including his 64-yard TD reception.
Senior James Caraway (Topeka, Kan.), who has moved from cornerback to wide receiver this spring, had a strong scrimmage with four receptions for 46 yards, including a long of 32 yards.
While he didn't enjoy a strong day passing -- completing only 2 of 9 passes for 7 yards, sophomore quarterback Josh Smith caught three passes for 28 yards, including an eight-yard TD reception.
Freshman Eric Nzeocha (Neusitz, Germany) caught the other touchdown pass of the day -- a 10-yarder from Kirkegaard.
Junior running back Tedder Easton (Columbia, Mo.) rushed for a team high 42 yards on 10 carries.
The offense committed only one penalty, a delay of game penalty, for five yards.
The scoring system utilized in Wednesday's scrimmage awarded the offense and defense points based on certain plays.
The offense earned a normal six points for a touchdown, one point for a point-after-touchdown, two points for a two-point PAT and three points for a field goal. In addition, the offense earned one point for each play of 20+ yards and one point for each first down.
The defense earned 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 forcing a punt, blocking a 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 missed field goal, tackling a ball carrier for a loss of yardage, blocking a point-after-touchdown attempt or when holding the offense to a field goal after the offense began its series in the red-zone (inside the defense's 25-yard line).
Following Wednesday's scrimmage and a lighter practice on Thursday to wrap up this week, the Cowboys will have reached the halfway point of spring practice with seven of 15 practices remaining after Easter break.
Christensen's plan for the second half of spring ball will include two more full scrimmages on Wednesday, April 11 at approximately 4 p.m. and then the Annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 21 at 2 p.m. These two remaining scrimmages will also be open to the public.
Christensen said he had not yet determined whether the Spring Game would be a scrimmage format, or whether they would draft teams like they did a year ago and play an abbreviated game.
2012 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Wednesday, March 21 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #1)
Friday, March 23 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #2)
Monday, March 26 - 3:30 p.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #3)
Wednesday, March 28 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #4)
Friday, March 30 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #5)
Monday, April 2 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #6)
Wednesday, April 4 - 3:30 p.m. (Scrimmage #1, Practice #7)
Thursday, April 5 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #8)
EASTER BREAK: Friday, April 6 Through Sunday, April 8
Monday, April 9 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #9)
Wednesday, April 11 - 3:30 p.m. (Scrimmage #2, Practice #10)
Friday, April 13 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #11)
Monday, April 16 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 18 - 3:30 p.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, April 20 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 21 - 2 p.m. (Scrimmage #3, Practice, #15)