Wyoming Cowboys First Fall Scrimmage Won by the Offense

Aug. 14, 2009



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It was the offense's day in the first fall scrimmage for the Wyoming Cowboys on Friday. The offense won the scrimmage by a final score of 78-30, utilizing a unique scoring system whereby the offense and defense could each score points for big plays, as well as for scoring plays.

Wyoming's offense recorded the first score of the day, when sophomore place-kicker/punter Austin McCoy kicked a 28-yard field goal that capped a 12-play, 64-yard drive led by senior quarterback Karsten Sween. Senior place-kicker Jake Scott missed his attempt from the same distance as the kickers each attempted the identical field goals and PATs throughout the scrimmage.

Following that offensive score, the defense took over the scrimmage for the next several minutes, forcing offensive turnovers in three of the next five series. On the series immediately following the field goal, the defense recorded its first big play of the day when true freshman linebacker Devyn Harris, intercepted fellow freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels. Harris returned the interception 54 yards before Carta-Samuels tackled Harris at the five-yard line.

Three series later, senior defensive tackle John Fletcher intercepted junior quarterback Robert Benjamin at the line of scrimmage, and returned it one yard to end an offensive series. The defense followed that up by forcing its third turnover of the day on the next series. Senior defensive end Mitch Unrein took the ball away from freshman running back Alvester Alexander on a rushing attempt. Unrein recorded a sack of Benjamin on the first play of the following series, and it looked like it might be the defense's day. But the offense would soon reach the endzone for the first of its seven touchdowns.

With Benjamin inserted to lead the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense, the junior-college transfer guided the offense on a six-play, 65-yard drive culminating in a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Orlando Arnold.

The No. 3 offense, led by junior quarterback Dax Crum, put together a 65-yard scoring drive of its own versus the No. 3 defense. That nine-play drive ended with sophomore running back James Davis carrying the ball into the endzone from three yards out.

Senior quarterback Sween later guided the No. 1 offense on the only scoring drive given up by the No. 1 defense on the day. Sween led the No. 1 offensive unit on a two-play, 60-yard drive. Following an interference call on the defense, Sween hit junior wide receiver David Leonard for a 25-yard completion, before connecting with sophomore wide receiver Brandon Stewart on a 20-yard touchdown strike.

The offense's other four touchdowns on the day came on: a 38-yard TD scamper by Benjamin with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 2 defense; a 55-yard touchdown pass from Benjamin to junior wide receiver Travis Burkhalter with No. 2 offense going against the No. 2 defense; a four-yard TD run by junior running back Darius Terry with the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 "D"; and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Benjamin to Leonard as the No. 1 offense scored its final TD against the No. 2 defense.

"I think it's difficult from a defensive standpoint to come out and play against this spread, up-tempo offense," said Christensen. "This offense presents issues for defenses, and we're hoping it does for opposing defenses. We're also hoping that with our up-tempo offense, combined with our altitude, we can cause a fatigue issue for opponents.

"Obviously, we've got to perform better defensively. We know we're better than that. We have good personnel and experienced personnel on defense. We're going to lean on our defense this year -- I think everyone knows that."

On the day, quarterback Benjamin completed 12 of 17 passes (70.6 percent) for 178 yards and rushed for 62 to account for a combined 240 yards of total offense. He threw three TD passes and one interception, and rushed for another score. Sween threw for 122 yards on the day, completing 12 of 16 pass attempts (75.0 percent) and one TD through the air. He was tackled for a negative six yards rushing.

Leading the Cowboy running game was junior Terry, who recorded a 100-yard rushing day, carrying the ball 14 times for 119 yards and one TD. Freshman Alexander rushed for 91 yards on 11 carries. Sophomore Davis added 64 yards and a rushing touchdown on nine carries, and redshirt freshman James Caraway had 11 carries for 25 yards.

Leonard led all receivers with six receptions for 75 yards and one TD. Stewart had five catches for 41 yards and one touchdown. Senior Greg Bolling caught four passes for 44 yards, and Burkhalter had three receptions for 63 yards and one score. Six other Cowboys had two catches apiece, including Arnold who had Wyoming's fourth receiving touchdown.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Durbin had 10 tackles for the No. 2 defense to lead all tacklers. Leading the way for Wyoming's starting defensive unit was senior linebacker Weston Johnson, who recorded nine tackles, including 2.0 tackles for losses. Unrein had five tackles, including 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In addition to interceptions by Fletcher and Harris, junior cornerback Marcell Gipson forced one fumble on the day and sophomore noseguard Alex Stover recovered one fumble.

"We of course are anxious as a coaching staff to get in and grade film this afternoon," said Christensen. "We had a number of players do some good things today, but we won't make any changes in our depth chart until after we have a chance to grade the film. This is one of four scrimmages we'll have in the fall. We will continue to evaluate the players in practice and those remaining three scrimmages."

Freshman wide receiver Chris McNeill suffered a slight concussion late in the scrimmage while catching a pass across the middle. For precautionary reasons, the freshman was transported by ambulance to Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie, but was able to move his arms and legs and after a CT scan he was released from the hospital Friday afternoon. McNeill had suffered another slight concussion during the first week of fall camp, and was held out of practices for a few days until his symptoms had gone away.

Other injuries reported after Friday's scrimmage included: Harris and Fletcher, who both suffered knee sprains.

Additional notes on Friday's scrimmage include:

  • The Cowboys ran 29 offensive series for approximately 120 total plays.
  • Wyoming threw for 420 yards in the first fall scrimmage, which was by far its highest passing output of any of its 2009 fall and spring scrimmages. The UW offense's previous high in a scrimmage last spring was 343 yards.
  • Cowboy quarterbacks continue to complete a high percentage of their passes in Christensen's new no-huddle, spread offense. Sween (12 of 16, 75.0 percent), Benjamin (12 of 17, 70.5 percent); and Crum (a perfect 5 of 5 for 43 yards) all completed 70 percent of their pass attempts. Only freshman Carta-Samuels (5 of 12, 41.7 percent) completed less than 70 percent.
  • Both the offense and defense had their share of penalties in the first fall scrum. The offense accumulated eight penalties for 65 yards, and the defense had five penalties called against it for 64 yards.
  • Sophomore punter McCoy punted four times during the scrimmage for a 42.3-yard average, including a long of 51 yards.
  • In addition to the one 28-yard field-goal attempt that McCoy made and Scott missed during the scrimmage, each kicker successfully made field goals from 26 and 31 yards prior to the start of the scrimmage. McCoy was also successful from 40 yards prior to the start of the scrimmage, while Scott missed his 40-yard attempt. McCoy's totals for the day were a perfect 4 of 4 in field goals and 7 of 7 in extra points. Scott was 2 of 4 in field goals and 7 of 7 in extra points.

    Christensen and his Cowboys return to practice on Saturday, Aug. 15 with a full-padded practice in the morning at 8:45 a.m.