Pokes Devote an Hour to Scrimmaging on Friday

April 5, 2013


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The Wyoming Cowboys concluded their second week of spring football on Friday devoting the last hour of practice to scrimmaging for the first time this spring. The offense enjoyed a big day, winning 73 to 23. The Cowboys got in right at 100 plays during the one-hour scrimmage, with the offense generating 559 yards passing and 120 rushing for 679 yards of total offense. The offense did not commit any turnovers on the day.

"I was pleased today," said fifth-year head coach Dave Christensen. "I thought we were a much better football team than we were Wednesday, and that's our goal is to come out each and every day and get better. I thought we made plays today, but nine penalties in a half scrimmage -- that's too many penalties. We have to eliminate those penalties and become more disciplined. We had some guys who got tired, but we can't make mistakes when we're tired. We have to fight through fatigue. We're going to continue to push the pace and the tempo, and we'll get these guys in great shape on both sides of the ball.

"Overall I liked the way our kids went out and competed. The enthusiasm level was great, the competition was great. We're getting better as a football team.

"As a football team its our goal is to get an `A' grade on Aug. 31. It's early in the semester for us as a football team right now. We have a lot of assignments to get down before we get a final grade."

Each of Wyoming's four quarterbacks threw a touchdown pass in the scrimmage. Junior Brett Smith led the No. 1 offense on two scoring drives against the No. 1 defense. The first scoring drive was a six-play, 51-yard drive that ended with Smith scoring on a four-yard TD run. He also led the No. 1 unit on a seven-play, 66-yard drive during a two-minute offensive drill that saw Smith connect with senior wide receiver Robert Herron on a six-yard TD pass. Smith concluded the day completing 11 of 16 passes (68.7 percent) for 110 yards.

Sophomore QB Jason Thompson had one of his best days as a Cowboy, leading the No. 2 offense on three scoring drives against the No. 2 defense. On Thompson's first drive of the day, he guided his No. 2 unit on a four-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Eric Nzeocha. Later in the scrimmage, Thompson drove the Pokes 49 yards in seven plays as sophomore running back D.J. May capped off the drive with a five-yard TD run. During a two-minute drill, Thompson led his squad on a 66-yard drive in 11 plays, culminating in a three-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Shaun Wick. Thompson was given his opportunity to run one series with the No. 1 offense versus the No. 1 defense. He drove the Cowboys down to the four-yard line, but following three penalties against the offense the drive ended with a 29-yard field goal by junior place-kicker Stuart Williams. Thompson completed 21 of 27 passes (77.8 percent) for 247 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard was a perfect 4 of 4 passing on the day for 107 yards, and he connected on one touchdown pass -- a 66-yarder to redshirt freshman wide receiver Nico Brown. Freshman QB Tommy Thornton was also very effective, completing 8 of 11 passes (72.7 percent) for 95 yards, and he threw a three-yard TD pass to Brown.

Leading the receivers in Friday's scrimmage were: junior Keenan Montgomery (8 receptions for 117 yards); redshirt freshman Nico Brown (7 catches for 137 yards and 2 TDs); redshirt freshman Tanner Simpson (6 receptions for 82 yards); junior Dominic Rufran (6 catches for 49 yards); senior Robert Herron (4 receptions for 50 yards and 1 TD); junior Jalen Claiborne (3 catches for 26 yards); and juniors Justin Berger and Josh Smith (who each had 2 catches for 20 yards each).

On defense, junior linebacker Mark Nzeocha led the way with seven tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass breakup. Fellow junior Nehemie Kankolongo, who changed to the linebacker position late last season from running back, recorded six tackles, as did redshirt freshman linebacker Lucas Wacha. Junior-college transfer linebacker Jordan Stanton was credited with five tackles and forced one fumble that was recovered by the offense. Senior safety Andrew Meredith also made five tackles. Four other Cowboys recorded four tackles apiece, including junior cornerback Blair Burns, sophomore linebacker Siaosi Hala'api'api, junior-college transfer safety Jesse Sampson and junior safety Jake Schiffner. The defense had five pass breakups on the day. Joining Nzeocha with one pass breakup each were Burns, Meredith, Sampson and junior cornerback DeAndre Jones.

When asked about whether he was disappointed in the defense's performance on Friday, Christensen said that he expected the Cowboy offense to be somewhat ahead of the defense with the number of experienced players returning on the offensive side of the ball.

"I wasn't discouraged with anything today," said Christensen. "Defensively, we're still moving a lot of guys around, working on a lot of different things. I expect us to be explosive offensively. We've got the majority of our experienced players back there.

"We had penalties on both sides of the ball, and we're disappointed at that from a discipline standpoint. We had a lot of different guys out there at a lot of different positions competing, defensively, which is exciting. I'm not so worried right now about the defense as a whole, because I don't know who will be starting on defense. I'm more interested in each individual player, what their individual abilities are and what they're showing us so that by next fall we can identify the right 11 individuals to put out there.

"Tackles for loss, takeaways and getting off the field on third down is key for us, defensively. That is what we are emphasizing. We've got to get more tackles for loss. We've got to create takeaways, and we've got to get off the field on third down. We had some opportunities today, but we gave up first downs and we can't do that. We have to get off the field on third down, so we will continue to emphasize that.

"I would say the kids are more enthusiastic, more vocal than they've been since I've been here. They're disappointed. They want to play better, and that's encouraging that we have guys who aren't satisfied. The good thing is we don't have anyone around here today who was satisfied on offense or defense."

Christensen was asked to evaluate his team overall after the conclusion of the first two weeks of practice.

"We don't really have a true depth chart set yet," said Christensen. "But we'll be evaluating the video from his practice along with all our other practices and evaluate each guy and see how guys line up. We have another opportunity Monday to come out and practice and then have a good scrimmage next Wednesday.

"We'll probably set a tentative depth late next week, but the depth chart changes on a daily basis. We're just trying to find out where guys fit, what guys can play. We're not just looking at the individuals on the No. 1 units, we're evaluating all the players, and we're shifting guys around at this point. It's a big puzzle right now, but I think it's starting to come together. I'm pleased with where we're at and the progress we're making. As everyone knows at this time of year, you're not going to be a finished product right now. But I like the direction we are going and the progress that we're making."

Christensen also announced on Friday that sophomore punter Tim Gleeson from Melbourne, Australia has decided to leave the team for personal reasons. Gleeson was the Cowboys' starting punter in all 12 games last season.

"Tim (Gleeson) is going to finish up the semester, and then he's going to go home for personal reasons to Australia, and we won't have him with us next year. We have a couple guys (punters) we're looking at bringing in. He's had some personal issues and its best for him to go back home and take care of those things."

Another specific area that Christensen was asked to comment on was the performance of his young running back corps of sophomores D.J. May and Shaun Wick and true freshman Omar Stover to go with seniors Brandon Miller and Tedder Easton Christensen said, "They're doing a nice job. They're young guys who come out here with great energy. They're learning how to make their reads more and more every day. That's crucial because it's one thing to run hard, but it's another to understand the entire scheme and what is going on.

"It's huge (to have depth) not just for our tempo, but guys get banged up during the season. You've got to have some depth there, and we'll have Brandon (Miller) back in the fall, which will help. We have three other guys back who played last year, including Tedder (Easton). We have the young freshman in here already in Omar (Stover), and we're going to bring another freshman tailback in this fall from Virginia (Joshua Tapscott). I think our depth is improving there, and I think we have the right type of kids for what we want to try and do offensively at that position."

Wyoming's next practice is scheduled for Monday, April 8 at 8 a.m. in War Memorial Stadium. All spring practices are open to the media and the general public. The next scrimmage will be Wednesday, Apr. 10.

2013 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Tuesday, March 26 - 6:30 a.m. (Non-contact, Practice #1)
Wednesday, March 27 - 8 a.m. (Non-contact, Practice #2)
EASTER BREAK: Friday, March 29 Through Sunday, March 31
Monday, April 1 - 8 a.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #3)
Wednesday, April 3 - 8 a.m. (Full Pads, Practice #4)
Friday, April 5 - 8 a.m. (Full Pads / 50% of Practice Will be a Scrimmage, Practice #5)
Monday, April 8 - 8 a.m. (Full Pads, Practice #6)
Wednesday, April 10 - 8 a.m. (Scrimmage #1, Practice #7)
Friday, April 12 - 8 a.m. (Non-contact, Practice #8)
Monday, April 15 - 8 a.m. (Full Pads, Practice #9)
Wednesday, April 17 - 8 a.m. (Scrimmage #2, Practice #10)
Friday, April 19 - 8 a.m. (Full Pads, Practice #11 / Coaches' Clinic)
Monday, April 22 - 8 a.m. (Full Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 24 - 8 a.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, April 26 - 8 a.m. (Non-contact, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 27 - 2 p.m. (Spring Game, Practice, #15)