Aug. 12, 2011
The Wyoming Cowboy football team conducted its second fall scrimmage on Friday and, as with the first scrimmage earlier in the week, a balanced offensive attack and a stingy defense set the tone in both scrimmages.
On Friday, the Cowboy offense threw 77 passes (completing 46) and rushed the ball 65 times in a two-hour scrimmage in War Memorial Stadium. That nearly mirrored the first scrimmage that saw the Pokes throw 74 passes (completing 52) and run the ball 66 times.
Quarterback Brett Smith didn't enjoy as big a day as he did last Tuesday, but the true freshman from Salem, Ore., remained consistent, completing 65.2 percent of his passes (15 of 23) on Friday for a team high 160 yards and one touchdown. Smith threw an interception on his first attempt of Friday's scrimmage, but then settled down to guide the No. 1 offense on three touchdown drives and two drives that ended with successful field goals. Smith took all the snaps with the No. 1 offense on Friday, playing eight series.
Senior free safety Eric Mitchell intercepted Smith's first pass of the day. Mitchell also had four tackles in Friday's scrimmage. His interception was the only turnover in the scrimmage.
A summary of the No. 1 offense's scoring drives included: a three-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a 16-yard TD pass from Smith to senior wide receiver Mazi Ogbonna; a five-play, 64-yard drive that concluded with a 17-yard touchdown run by junior running back Alvester Alexander; a 10-play, 59-yard drive resulting in a one-yard TD run by Alexander; a 10-play, 59-yard drive that was capped off by a 23-yard field goal; and a 10-play, 18-yard series that resulted in a 23-yard field goal.
Of those five scoring drives by the No. 1 offense, four came against the No. 2 defense. The only scoring drive that the No. 1 offense posted against the No. 1 defense resulted in a 23-yard field goal. That drive began with the offense being given the ball at the defense's own 24-yard line during a redzone period. The defense allowed a net of only 18 yards on the series and featured an impressive goal-line stand by the D. The series began in promising fashion for the No. 1 offense, as they moved the ball down to the one-yard line. But on three straight plays from the one, the defense held the offense out of the end zone and on third and goal from the one tackled quarterback Smith back at the six-yard line.
It was one of only two scores the No. 1 defense gave up in 10 series it was on the field. The other score was a 34-yard field goal that the No. 1 defensive unit gave up to the No. 2 offense on an eight-play, 48-yard drive in the final series of the scrimmage. There were four series that matched up the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. In three of those four series, the No. 1 defense forced the offense to give up the ball on downs.
The majority of the scrimmage pitted the No. 1 offense versus the No. 2 defense, No. 2 offense vs. the No. 1 defense and the No. 3 units on both sides of the ball against one another.
"I was pleased to see the defense come out the way they did today," added Christensen. "We challenged them a little bit after the first scrimmage. We have a number of veteran players returning on defense, and I know they weren't satisfied with the way they played in the first scrimmage. They were much better today, and I was excited to see the way they competed."
One of the top performers for the No. 1 defense on Friday was junior linebacker Korey Jones. Jones recorded nine tackles, including 3.0 tackles for losses of 20 yards and 1.0 sack for 13 yards.
"Korey (Jones) is getting better every day," said third-year head coach Christensen. "He's learning the system, is an extremely hard worker and is very disciplined. Again, he has only been here since spring, so he is still learning, but he is making great progress. He can play a stand-up rush end. He can play linebacker. We can do a lot of different things with him."
In addition to Smith, freshman quarterback Adam Pittser from Richmond, Ill., and sophomore quarterback Colby Kirkegaard from Phoenix, Ariz., rotated between taking snaps with the No. 2 and No. 3 offensive units.
In the 11 series that Pittser was on the field, he completed 15 of 32 passes (46.9 percent) for 133 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions. Pittser led one scoring drive -- a 10-play, 44-yard drive that resulted in a 38-yard field goal.
Kirkegaard completed 16 of 21 pass attempts (76.2 percent) for 124 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions. In his eight series in the scrimmage, he also led one scoring drive -- an eight-play, 48-yard drive that concluded with a 34-yard field goal.
"Brett's (Smith) only struggles today came against the No. 1 defense, and that's not all bad" said Christensen. "I think our No. 1 defense is pretty good. It was good for him to matchup with our top defense in a scrimmage. We do that some in practice, and decided to go some 1s versus 1s for the first time in a scrimmage today. He made some rookie mistakes, but that is why you practice, so that you can get those mistakes corrected.
"I think both Adam (Pittser) and Colby (Kirkegaard) improved dramatically from the last scrimmage, and that was great.
"I like where the quarterbacks are at right now. They've made great progress. I think we knew when we recruited these kids that they were good players, but I've been impressed with the way they've picked up the system."
Wyoming's top offensive performer on the day was sophomore running back Brandon Miller. Miller led the Cowboys in rushing with 99 yards on nine carries, for an 11.0 yard-per-carry average. He also posted the longest play from scrimmage -- a 53-yard run. Junior Alvester Alexander rotated between the No. 1 and No. 2 offense, and accounted for 57 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns -- a 17-yard burst around the right side and a one-yard run up the middle -- versus the No. 2 defense. True freshman Kody Sutton added 49 rushing yards on 10 carries, rotating in with the No. 2 offense.
"I'm real pleased with where we're at from the running back standpoint," said Christensen. "Those three kids (Brandon Miller, Alvester Alexander, Kody Sutton) played well today. Ghaali (Muhammad) is getting close to being able to come back from his injury. He might play in the next scrimmage, or we may wait until the fourth scrimmage to play him. He's taken some live reps in practice this week. We're pretty good at that position right now with the depth we have, so we don't need to rush him."
Christensen was asked after practice about some of the young players who played well on Friday. Among them were: freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who had six tackles and two pass breakups; freshman wide receiver Dominic Rufran, who had a scrimmage high eight receptions for 63 yards; and freshman defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, who recorded eight tackles, including 3.0 sacks for 18 yards.
"Blair (Burns) has practiced well, and he has played well in both scrimmages," said Christensen. "It's like every position on this team. You've got a chance to compete and move up if you perform, and he's started to move up the ladder.
"There are a number of young players who have been playing better. We had some young receivers who got reps with the No. 2 offense today. We're evaluating all of our players on a daily basis, but I wouldn't be surprised if we had some freshmen play this year.
"It was good to see Dom (Dominic Rufran) make some plays today. He's got good speed and size for a receiver. He's catching the ball well right now.
"Eddie Yarbrough has had a great camp thus far. He's unfortunate in a way in that he plays a position where there is a lot of experience right now. If we have to play Eddie as a freshman, that would be fine, or if we redshirt him I don't see a bad option either way. If he's good enough to play and help us, great, if not we can let him develop for another year and have him as a fifth-year senior down the road."
In the competition for the starting place-kicking position, true freshman Daniel Sullivan participated in Friday's scrimmage after missing the first scrimmage of fall on Tuesday. He and redshirt freshman Stuart Williams are competing for that starting spot. Williams was 7 of 10 (.700) in field goals on Friday, including hitting a 41 yarder. Sullivan was 5 of 10 (.500) in field goals, with a long of 32 yards.
"Daniel (Sullivan) is still a little bit sore, and we may have brought him back a little bit soon," said Christensen. "We might give him a couple days to heal up. We gave our other kicker (Stuart Williams) a day off this past week, as well. They've been kicking a lot, and we need them to get healthy before our first game."
Overall, Christensen continues to like the progress his team is making in fall camp.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but we have a couple more scrimmage chances next week to continue to improve," said Christensen. "I like where we're at as a football team. I like the way we come out and compete."
Two Cowboys suffered injuries in Friday's scrimmage. Senior H-Back Bryson Studnicka and sophomore tight end Spencer Bruce both left the field with injuries, but Christensen said he didn't know the extent of either injury.
Friday's scrimmage was open to the media and the general public, and was held in War Memorial Stadium.
The scoring system utilized in Tuesday's scrimmage awarded the offense and defense points based on certain plays. The offense won Friday's scrimmage by a score of 60-47.
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 theoffense began its series in the red-zone (inside the defense's 25-yard line).
Wyoming has two scrimmages remaining in fall camp. Those scrimmages will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 16 and Saturday, Aug. 20. Both scrimmages are scheduled for the morning. All four of Wyoming's fall scrimmages will be open to the public and media.