April 10, 2010
Laramie, Wyo. (April 10, 2010) -- On a beautiful, sunny morning that felt like a football Saturday in the fall, the Wyoming Cowboys practiced for two hours in War Memorial Stadium on Saturday, with the final hour featuring a 79-play scrimmage that saw the offense win by a score of 61-25.
While the score looked lopsided, the unique scoring system utilized in the scrimmage probably made it look more lopsided than it was. With the No. 1 offenses and defenses facing each other for six series and the No. 2 units also scrimmaging against one another for six series, head coach Dave Christensen was pleased with the progress of his team as the Cowboys concluded their 12th of 15 practices this spring.
"Today we went ones on ones for the entire scrimmage -- best on best," said Christensen. "It's not going to be perfect, because someone is going to have more success than the other, but what you want is a balance, and I thought there was a balance today. The offense had to work hard to drive and get their points, and the defense did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone for the most part.
"I thought there were a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. As with any scrimmage or any game, there are things that need to get corrected and worked on. I thought the intensity, the speed and the physicalness has continued to improve, and I think we're making good progress as a football team."
The No. 1 defense gave up only four yards on the No. 1 offense's first series of the scrimmage. On the second series, of ones versus ones, the offense drove the ball 43 yards from its own 25-yard line down to the defense's 32. Sophomore place-kicker Ian Watts attempted a 49-yard field goal that was short. That would be Watts only miss on the day. The final four drives by the No. 1 offense all resulted in scores -- all field goals -- as Watts connected from 27, 37, 46 and 18 yards out.
Leading the way for the No. 1 offense was sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who completed 70.0 percent of his passes (14 of 20) for 122 yards. Carta-Samuels added eight rushing yards for 130 yards of total offense. Senior David Leonard was the leading receiver on the day with eight catches for 77 yards.
The No. 1 defense didn't give up a touchdown all day, in large part due to the play of linebackers Brian Hendricks, Devyn Harris and Ghaali Muhammad and defensive ends Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton. Hendricks and Harris led the defense in tackles, with seven each. Hendricks and Harris also each had one tackle for a loss. Muhammad contributed four tackles and a pass breakup. Biezuns and Knapton each recorded a sack, as did sophomore defensive tackle Ben Durbin, giving the No. 1 defense three sacks on the day versus the No. 1 offensive unit. Biezuns also forced one fumble on the day, while Knapton was credited with a pass breakup on a third-down play on the defense's one-yard line that prevented a touchdown and forced the final field goal of the day.
In the matchup of the No. 2 offense and No. 2 defense, senior quarterback Dax Crum and redshirt freshman running back Andrew Meredith enjoyed big days. Crum completed 60.0 percent of his passes (9 of 15) for 108 yards and threw the only touchdown pass of the scrimmage -- a 24-yarder to redshirt freshman receiver T.J. Smith. Crum also was the second-leading rusher on Saturday, adding 38 rushing yards for 146 yards of total offense. Meredith, who was only moved to running back from cornerback this past week to help out with depth at that position, was the leading rusher for the Cowboys on the day. Meredith gained 86 yards on seven carries, including a 63-yard TD run.
And what did the head coach think of the performance of the Green River, Wyo., native son Meredith.
"It was nice to see," said Christensen. "He's only been at running back for a couple days, but he's picking up the slack for us there. He's done some nice things in practice, and he has good speed. It's going to take a lot more reps to evaluate him at that position, but he's a team guy. We only had two tailbacks left, and he offered to come over there and help the team. I've been happy with what he's been able to do thus far."
The No. 2 offense had two of its six series go three downs and out, but scored three touchdowns and one field goal on its other four series of the scrimmage. The third touchdown scored by the No. 2 offense was a six-yard run by redshirt freshman running back Tedder Easton, who ended the day with 28 yards rushing on six carries. Watts also kicked a 35-yard field goal for the No. 2 offense.
Watts concluded his day converting 5 of 6 field goals (83.3 percent), including a long of 46 yards and his only miss coming from 49 yards out. He also was a perfect 3 of 3 in point-after-touchdown attempts.
In other special teams notes from Saturday, junior punter Austin McCoy punted three times for a 47.0 yard average and had a long punt of 50 yards.
One area that saw improvement from the first to second scrimmages was fewer penalties committed on the offensive side of the ball. In the Cowboys' first scrimmage on March 27, the offense committed nine penalties for 65 yards. In Saturday's second scrimmage, the offense had only one penalty for five yards. The defense had two penalties for 24 yards in the first scrimmage and had three for 24 yards on Saturday.
"I was pleased with that," said Christensen. "The flag didn't come out a whole bunch today. We had a couple penalties, but we've gotten better at that as the spring as gone along. That facet of the game is about discipline, and we're going to have a disciplined team here."
The Pokes continue to do a good job of not turning the ball over. There were no turnovers in Saturday's second scrimmage -- the only fumble on the day was recovered by the offense. And the only turnover (an interception) that has been committed in the two major spring scrimmages was in the March 27 scrimmage.
With three practices remaining in spring, Christensen said the focus for his staff at this point remains evaluation of personnel.
"What we're trying to do right now is find out which guys are in a position to help us win and compete at the highest level next year," said the second-year head coach. "We also need to identify which guys are close and then come up with a plan to help them improve so they can help us in the future."
Christensen said that there were a couple of players who were limited on Saturday in terms of the number of plays they participated in due to soreness and muscle strains, but he didn't know of any new injuries that occured during Saturday's scrimmage.
A total of 11 players missed Saturday's scrimmage due to previous injuries or bumps and bruises, including: defensive linemen Spencer Bruce, Max Gustafson, Mike Purcell, Alex Stover and Mark Willis; receivers Matt Cobb, James Davis, Rodney Jaynes and David Tooley; running back Nehemie Kankolongo; and offensive lineman Thomas Vonashek.
One walk-on left the program this past week. That player was redshirt freshman Duell Petsch of Meriden, Wyo. Petsch had walked onto the Cowboy program in the fall of 2009. Petsch had been playing as a backup wide receiver this spring after coming to Wyoming as a running back out of Burns High School.
The Cowboys return to the practice field for the final three practices of spring next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tuesday's and Thursday's practices are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. each day. Saturday will feature the Spring Game and will begin at 2 p.m. on April 17.
"We'll practice the same this coming Tuesday as we have been," said Christensen. "Thursday's practice will be a lighter one as we prepare for the spring game next Saturday. We just want to continue to get better this final week.
"Our focus has always been to be a better football team every time we walk off the field. The best way for me to gauge that is the tempo and intensity I see in practice. As long as we get those things, then we'll get better as a team."
The scoring system utilized in Saturday'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 return 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 20-yard line).
|Tuesday, April 13||3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #13)|
|Thursday, April 15||3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #14)|
|Saturday, April 17||2:00 p.m. (Spring Game, Practice #15)|