LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Spring football practice concluded in exciting fashion on Saturday for the Wyoming Cowboys as the Gold Team captured a thrilling 38-35 win over the Brown Team. The game was played in front of an great crowd on a 60-degree day in War Memorial Stadium.
The Gold Team was led by sophomore safety Andrew Wingard, who intercepted two passes and recorded four tackles, and sophomore defensive end Carl Granderson, who registered 2.0 sacks including forcing a fumble on one of those sacks that resulted in a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Christian Irving.
The Gold offense saw sophomore running back Nico Evans rush for 115 yards on 17 carries, including a 23-yard touchdown run. Sophomore quarterback Nick Smith completed 12 of 19 passes (63.2 percent) for 216 yards and two TDs and added a six-yard TD run to lead the Gold offense.
Sophomore receivers Justice Murphy and Joseph Parker had productive days for the Gold Team. Murphy had four catches for 67 yards. Parker had two receptions for 73 yards, including a 66-yard TD pass from Smith. Smith's other TD pass was a 25-yard toss to sophomore tight end Josh Harshman to open the scoring.
The Brown Team also had a number of outstanding individual performances. Redshirt senior running back Shaun Wick led all rushers with 126 yards on 11 carries, scored three rushing touchdowns (28, 3 and 2 yards) and averaged an amazing 11.5 yards per carry. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen completed 13 of 21 passes (61.9 percent) for 267 yards. He threw touchdown passes of five yards to sophomore tight end Tyree Mayfield and 62 yards to redshirt freshman wide receiver C.J. Johnson. Allen did have one pass picked off by Wingard. The other interception by Wingard was thrown by Cowboy senior tight end Jacob Hollister, who was a high school quarterback and attempted his one pass of the day on a reverse play. Hollister led all receivers in catches on Saturday, with five receptions for 68 yards. Johnson led all receivers in yards, catching four passes for 118 yards and one TD. Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry added two catches for 57 yards for the Brown Team.
Three Brown Team defenders recorded six tackles each to lead their team. Those three were: sophomore linebacker Adam Pilapil, sophomore cornerback Natrone Barnes and redshirt freshman linebacker Austin Lopez. Pilapil and Barnes were each credited with a pass breakup, and Pilapil also recorded 1.5 tackles for loss.
"It certainly was an exciting Spring Game," said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl as he met with media on the field immediately after Saturday's final day of spring practice. "We're really pleased with some of our returning players. Shaun Wick I thought really looked good today.
"It was a good back-and-forth battle. For an old defensive coach like me, it was probably more points than I would like, but that makes for an exciting contest."
Earlier in the week, Bohl said he was looking for a competitive game on Saturday.
"We did get a competitive game," said the third-year Cowboy head coach. "What we've done all spring is we've raised the bar in terms of competition. One day in practice, we kept score and the winners got steaks and the losers got hot dogs and beans. Our guys are emerging in terms of understanding the level of competitiveness needed to be successful. Today was a great match. Some team has to win and some team has to lose. What was bad was the winning field goal (for the Gold Team) was kicked by Justin Martin, who was a receiver on the Brown Team but was kicking for both teams today. He caught a lot of grief for that one."
Asked if he has more confidence in his team this year at the conclusion of spring practice compared to last spring at this time Bohl responded, "That is the million-dollar question and the answer is yes. We knew going into last year that we were going to be an extremely young football team, and we were going to have some growing pains. We're still young, but with the competitive nature of this team, their ability and the experience we have returning, I certainly feel more confident."
There were a number of big plays made by the Cowboys on Saturday. The Gold Team recorded 11 plays of 15 or more yards from scrimmage (six passes and five runs), and the Brown Team had 10 plays of 15 or more (seven passes and three runs). The Gold Team also had a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Irving. On special teams, redshirt freshman running back Milo Hall had two big kickoff returns of 57 and 37 yards for the Brown Team. Bohl was asked if he thought that ability to make explosive plays boded well for next season.
"I think it is an indication of more athleticism and more ability on our team," said Bohl. "I believe we have more weapons."
In addition to several veterans who performed well on Saturday, the Cowboy head coach was also pleased with a number of young Pokes.
"I was really encouraged by the play from some of our younger players," said Bohl. "C.J. Johnson, a guy who we redshirted last year, really showed some positive things today. Josh Allen (redshirt sophomore), you can see he has a lot of ability, but he is a little bit too much of a gunslinger right now. I think we need to reel him back a little bit, but he has some good ability. It was great to see Andrew Wingard (sophomore) out here. Carl Granderson (sophomore) made some big plays.
"Overall, we're pleased with the progress we made this spring."
Bohl was asked how he and his staff could go about tempering Allen's "gunslinger" style. Bohl responded, "It's easier to say `whoa' than `giddy-up'. He's got a lot of confidence, and that's good. He's got outstanding arm strength, but I think sometimes he has to recognize just because he can throw it a long ways he's got to make sure he throws to the guys in the right jersey. But there are some really good things that Josh does. He's got really good pocket presence. He's got good mobility, and he has a really strong arm."
In terms of the performance of Wingard throughout spring practice, Bohl said, "He's not been complacent. He put on 15 pounds, and a lot of our players have put on weight this offseason. Andrew is now 205, he'll probably be up to 210 by next fall. He runs well, has great instincts and is an outstanding football player. He also works extremely hard, and he lifts everybody else up around him. We are going to lean heavily on him next year.
"I want to make note, the Cowboy Joe Club staff who have gone out and raised those funds and the people who have made donations, along with the matching funds from the Legislature and the Governor, what you are seeing is our players are benefitting from that and are getting bigger and stronger."
Asked if he was ready to name a starter at the quarterback position, Bohl said, "We're not going to name him now, but I think based on the body of work that Josh (Allen) has put together this spring he is ahead in that competition. I do want to make note that I think Nick (Smith) has improved from last year. I thought he was more confident with his reads today. His delivery was better."
Another player that Bohl was asked specifically about was redshirt freshman wide receiver Austin Conway, who came out for spring practice while still being on a basketball scholarship for the Cowboy basketball team. Bohl was asked if there had been any final decision made on Conway's status going forward in terms of playing football or basketball.
"Coach (Allen) Edwards and I have a really good rapport and relationship," said Bohl. "Allen was gracious in allowing Austin (Conway) to give football a try. Austin is not a fish out of water. I think he sees himself as a football player, but Austin and I are going to have a good conversation, and I'm going to run that all through Allen. We certainly appreciate his (Austin's) efforts out here today."
The head coach also shared with media three injuries that occurred during the Spring Game.
"We did have a couple injuries today," said Bohl. "Rob Priester (junior cornerback) had a concussion. Marcus Epps (sophomore strong safety) had some back issues. I don't think it will be anything long term. Finally Ethan Patrick (junior cornerback) had an injury to a leg."
Saturday's game was the final of 15 spring practices for the Cowboys. The 2016 season will kick off for Wyoming when they host Northern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 3 in Laramie.
Ticket information for the 2016 Wyoming Cowboy football season may be acquired by: calling 877-WYO-FAN1, going online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.