Wyoming Cowboy Defense Wins First Fall Scrimmage on Saturday

Aug. 11, 2012


Video Highlights | Media Day Highlights | Photo Gallery

The Wyoming defense led by linebackers Zack Berg and Korey Jones set the early tone for Saturday's first fall scrimmage for the Cowboys, and captured a 70-35 win against the Cowboy offense. But sophomore quarterback Brett Smith and junior wide receiver Robert Herron found their rhythm as the scrimmage progressed with Smith connecting with Herron for 10 completions and two touchdowns, including a 21-yarder to conclude the scrimmage.

The afternoon's practice began for the Cowboys in War Memorial Stadium, but the team was forced off the field a little bit after 3 p.m. due to lightning. After about a 20-minute delay, the Cowboys came back on the field only to be chased indoors to the Indoor Practice Facility minutes later due to a second storm front.

When the scrimmage finally got underway, Berg, a redshirt freshman, intercepted junior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard on the second series of the day and returned the interception 10 yards for a touchdown to give the defense a 12-0 lead. The scrimmage utilized a unique scoring system whereby the defense could score points for certain types of plays, while the offense was awarded points based on normal game scoring. Berg would later benefit from a tipped pass by cornerback DeAndre Jones that led to Berg's second interception of the day -- this one coming off Smith during a two-minute drill. Berg returned that second interception 20 yards. DeAndre Jones, himself, intercepted a pass earlier in the scrimmage off Smith.

Senior linebacker Korey Jones led UW with 4.0 tackles for loss and recorded five total tackles and one pass breakup to spark an aggressive defensive unit to the victory.

Junior linebackers Todd Knight and Devyn Harris added one interception each to give the Cowboy defense five turnovers on the day -- all coming via interception. Knight intercepted Kirkegaard, while Harris picked off a pass thrown by freshman quarterback Jason Thompson.

"We ran ones versus twos all day, and I thought the No. 1 defense played well at times," said head coach Dave Christensen. "The No. 1 offense started out slow, sluggish, but I thought they started playing well toward the end and made some big plays. I was pleased with the physicalness of it (the scrimmage). There was a lot of hitting going on. There were tons of mistakes, and we have several things we need to get ironed out and fixed. But the effort is there and the physicalness is there. What we have to do now is learn from the film, get those things corrected in the next six days and when we scrimmage next Saturday we need to be better than we were today."

As the scrimmage progressed, the offense began to gel. Smith, who was held out of all contact drills during spring practice due to offseason surgery, finished the day completing 17 of 29 passes (58.6 percent) for 214 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He completed only 5 of his first 12 passes (41.7 percent) for 26 yards and threw one interception in that stretch. But Smith finished the day completing 12 of his final 17 passes (70.6 percent) for 188 yards and four touchdowns in those final 17 attempts.

He threw TD passes of 10 yards and 21 yards to Herron, made an outstanding 45-yard touchdown throw to junior-college transfer Jalen Claiborne and also threw a five-yard TD pass to sophomore Trey Norman. The TD pass to Norman was set up by a 45-yard strike to junior wide receiver Spencer Bruce on the preceding play.

The other offensive touchdown of the day was scored by QB Kirkegaard, who took off on a 30-yard TD scamper.

"We started getting everyone executing their assignments on the offensive side of the ball as the scrimmage progressed," said Christensen. "The thing about offensive football is if don't have 11 guys executing their assignments right, you're probably not going to be very successful. On defense, you can have a guy out of place and if that's not where the ball is going you still have a chance to make a play. Offensively, a lot of the time that isn't the case.

"Our kids are working hard. We had a lot of young players out there today. We had a number of veterans make big plays today. I thought from a discipline standpoint we weren't very good. We had way too many penalties, so we have to eliminate that. The defense created some takeaways, which was encouraging. But when its encouraging on the defensive side it's discouraging on the offensive side."

Herron lead all receivers with 10 catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Keenan Montgomery had seven receptions for 63 yards. Bruce contributed four catches for 67 yards, and Claiborne caught three passes for 66 yards and a TD. Bruce and Claiborne tied for the longest reception of the day -- each had a catch of 45 yards.

Wyoming's leading rushers were: Smith, who carried eight times for 56 yards; and true freshman running back Shaun Wick, who also had 56 yards rushing on six carries. Wyoming's other true freshman running back, D.J. May, rushed the ball seven times for 27 yards. Sophomore Nehemie Kankolongo had five carries for 26 yards. Junior Brandon Miller ran for 24 yards on eight carries, and sophomore Kody Sutton added 15 yards on six attempts.

"I thought both D.J. (May) and Shaun (Wick) played hard today -- they didn't disappoint," commented Christensen when asked about the two freshmen running backs. "They came in with great practice habits, and they're tough kids. I'll be anxious to watch the film. I think they both stuck their noses in there and did some good things both from a (pass) protection standpoint and running the football."

Kankolongo was injured during the scrimmage. Christensen told media following the scrimmage that he would provide an update on Kankolongo's condition early next week when he had more information.

Several other highlights from Saturday's scrimmage included:

Other Defensive Highlights
•The leading tacklers on the day were senior free safety Luke Ruff and freshman cornerback Cortland Fort, who each had six tackles.
•Four other Cowboys were credited with five tackles, including: Korey Jones; sophomore strong safety Chad Reese, who also added two pass breakups; senior free safety Kenny Browder, who contributed 1.0 sack for 11 yards to go with his five tackles; and sophomore linebacker Alex Borgs.
•Devyn Harris added four tackles and 1.0 sack to go with his interception. •Senior defensive tackle Mike Purcell had a team high 1.5 sacks to go along with his two tackles.
•Fellow senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa'asau tied Purcell with the team lead in sacks with 1.5, and also blocked a field goal to go with his two tackles.
•Sophomore cornerback Blair Burns recorded three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and had an interception that was called back due to a penalty.

Other Offensive Highlights
•Sophomore place-kicker Stuart Williams was a perfect 5 of 5 in point-after-touchdowns, and converted 2 of 3 field goals, hitting from 24 and 37 yards. He had an attempt from 30 yards blocked.
•The Cowboy rushing attack combined for 227 yards on the ground, with six different running backs rushing the ball effectively.

If there was a disappointing area in Saturday's scrimmage it would be penalties on the offensive side of the ball. The offense committed 10 penalties for 65 yards. The defense had one penalty, a personal foul, for 15 yards.

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 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 Saturday's scrimmage and a lighter practice in shells on Sunday, the Cowboys will have two practices on Monday at 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. The next scheduled scrimmage will be on Saturday, Aug. 18, beginning at 10 a.m. in War Memorial Stadium. That scrimmage will be open to the public.

2012 University of Wyoming Football Fall Practice Schedule

Date / Practice Time / Practice Details
Sunday, Aug. 12 / 3:45 p.m. / Shells (Practice #8)
Monday, Aug. 13 / 8:45 a.m. / Full Pads (Practice #9)
3:45 p.m. / Helmets and Shoulder Pads Only (Practice #10)
Tuesday, Aug. 14 / 8:45 a.m. / Full Pads (Practice #11)
Wednesday, Aug. 15 / 8:45 a.m. / Full Pads (Practice #12)
3:45 p.m. / Shells (Practice #13)
Thursday, Aug. 16 / 8:45 a.m. / Full Pads (Practice #14)
Friday, Aug. 17 / 8:45 a.m. / Shells (Practice #15)
Saturday, Aug. 18 / 10 a.m. / Scrimmage #2 (Practice #16)
Sunday, Aug. 19 / NA / No Practice
Monday, Aug. 20 / 8:45 a.m. / Full Pads (Practice #17)
Tuesday, Aug. 21 / 8:45 a.m. / Helmets and Shoulder Pads (#18)
Wednesday, Aug. 22 / 8:45 a.m. / Scrimmage #3 (Practice #19)
Thursday, Aug. 23 / NA / No Practice
Friday, Aug. 24 / 8:45 a.m. / Begin Regular-Season Practice Schedule preparing for season opener versus Texas on Saturday, Sept. 1Monday, Aug. 27 / NA / First Day of Classes, No Practice
3 p.m. / First Weekly Football Press Conference