LARAMIE, Wyo. -
In their second scrimmage of the spring football, the Wyoming Cowboys were forced indoors due to a spring snowstorm that affected much of the Front Range late this week. The Pokes ran 80 plays in a full-contact scrimmage that took place in UW's Indoor Practice Facility on Saturday.
Wyoming's rushing attack was very effective for the second week in a row, tallying 371 rushing yards on 46 carries on Saturday. Two Cowboys recorded 100-yard rushing days, led by redshirt freshman Nico Evans with 131 yards on 12 carries and two rushing touchdowns -- one for 37 yards and one for six yards. Sophomore Joshua Tapscott rushed for 112 yards on an identical 12 carries. Cowboy veterans Brian Hill, a sophomore, and Shaun Wick, a senior, were rested much of the scrimmage. Hill ran for 49 yards on nine carries, and Wick carried only five times for 41 yards, including a one-yard TD run on the Cowboys first possession. Wick also broke a 36-yard run on the second play of Saturday's scrimmage.
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl's first comments to media following the scrimmage focused on his stable of running backs.
"I think there were some real positives from our 80-play scrimmage," said Bohl. "Our running backs are running exceptionally well right now, and there is a posse of them. Shaun Wick started out and broke a couple nice runs. Brian Hill is beyond a steady-Eddie -- he's always moves the ball forward. And I think Nico Evans did some nice things to show his quickness and change of direction. Their success may sometimes be attributed to some challenges we have over on defense right now. But I think we're making progress there."
Bohl also was quick to recognize the play of the offensive line on Saturday.
"I'm particularly pleased with the first team offensive line," said Bohl. "That group has come together well.
"We have had some turnover from last year, without question, but this group has achieved higher than what I had anticipated. Charlie Renfree has come in and really done a great job at center. We know we've got both he and Rafe (Kiely) in there. Ryan Cummings is coming along at tackle, as well some other guys. Chase (Roullier) has done well, coming off a good season last year. We're making progress with our offensive line."
The Cowboy offense also completed two touchdown passes on the day -- a 66-yarder from sophomore quarterback Josh Allen to junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry, and a three-yard TD toss from redshirt freshman QB Nick Smith to redshirt freshman tight end Grant Lewis. But Bohl was not satisfied with the overall performance from the passing game on Saturday.
"I was a little bit disappointed on our completion percentage today," said Bohl. "I'll see if the numbers bear that out when we look at them later. I think we can throw the ball a little bit better than we did today. There were some errant throws, so we can make some steps forward there."
Cowboy quarterbacks completed 15 of 34 pass attempts for 194 yards, two TDs and no interceptions, but the overall completion percentage was only 44.1 percent. The one quarterback who did complete over 50 percent of his passes was redshirt senior Cameron Coffman, who was listed No. 1 on the depth chart this week. The Indiana University transfer completed 6 of 11 passes (54.5 percent) for 67 yards on the day.
"Cameron (Coffman) did display real good poise again today," said Bohl. "He utilized his skill set well in handling different situations. Josh (Allen) has been practicing well. I thought he was a little bit more errant in his throws today, but I'll look at the tape. Yesterday he threw a great deep pass and a couple other bullets. He did complete a touchdown pass early in today's scrimmage to Tanner Gentry. He (Allen) is making progress, and I think he has solidified himself as the No. 2 quarterback right now. But Nick Smith also came in and did some nice things, so we're pleased with him."
When talking about the quarterbacks, Bohl also announced to media after the scrimmage that Austin Fort has decided to leave the Wyoming Football program and plans to transfer as he wants to try and pursue his goal of playing quarterback. On Monday of this week, Fort had been asked by the Cowboy coaching staff to move from quarterback to tight end. Fort did work out with the Cowboy tight ends earlier this week.
Positive play from the Wyoming's defense included forcing a turnover in Saturday's scrimmage. Junior linebacker Lucas Wacha tackled Allen on a short three-yard gain, and Wacha both forced the fumble and recovered the fumble. Wacha also ended the day with a team best nine tackles, including one tackle for a loss. He shared that top spot with redshirt freshman strong safety Marcus Epps, who also recorded nine tackles.
Other top performers for the defense on Saturday included junior defensive tackle Uso Olive, who sacked Coffman once and added three tackles. Redshirt freshman defensive end Jonathan Kongbo registered the second sack of the day for the Cowboy defense, sacking Allen for an eight-yard loss. Like Olive, Kongbo had three tackles, as did sophomore nose tackle Dalton Fields. Redshirt freshman strong safety Chavez Pownell Jr. and redshirt freshman cornerback C.J. Jennings were credited with five tackles each. Redshirt freshman cornerback Anthony Makransky, senior cornerback Tyran Finley and junior middle linebacker Eric Nzeocha each made four tackles. Makransky also broke up one pass.
"Defensively, there were some positive things too," said Bohl. "We didn't scrimmage Eddie Yarbrough much, but Trevor Meader is a walk-on who has come in and is going to add some depth to the defensive line. (Anthony) Makransky came up and made a couple nice hits from his cornerback spot. We've got some work to do on defense, and we need to continue to improve there."
A special teams period began Saturday's practice. Junior punter Ethan Wood averaged 42.0 yards per punt on seven punts to begin the practice, with a long of 48 yards. During the scrimmage, redshirt junior place-kicker Justin Martin had one field-goal attempt of 41 yards, which he missed.
Asked if he felt the team, overall, made steps forward from its first scrimmage a week ago to the second scrimmage on Saturday, Bohl responded, "Yes, we have. We've practiced better, and one area it showed up today was the reduced number of penalties we had. In our system, we try to use the cadence of our quarterback to our advantage, and we make a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. So that was positive that our discipline was there today to not commit penalties. We also didn't have a lot of sloppy play today. I think there were only maybe two balls on the ground, so that was better, and I thought we saw a lot of physical tackling today."
Saturday's practice was the 11th of 15 spring practices for the Cowboys.
Asked what his goals are entering this final week of spring football leading up to next Saturday's spring game, Bohl said, "We want to continue to get some quality padded work in. There won't be a lot of scrimmage situations included in the practices leading up to the Spring Game, but next Saturday will be a game.
"We'll continue to redefine some of the packages that we have. There will be some more evaluation, but probably not as much evaluation of players as we've done the first three weeks -- the cream is starting to rise to the top. And we'll continue to implement more of our systems on offense, defense and in the kicking game.
"You should see a robust spring game."
The Spring Game on Saturday, April 25 at 2 p.m. will be free and open to the media and the general public.
Remaining Spring Practice Schedule
Monday, April 20 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 22 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, April 24 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (No Pads, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 25 - 2 p.m. (Spring Game, Practice #15)