Cowboy Football Team Looks Sharp in Second Fall Scrimmage

Aug. 18, 2012


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On a beautiful Saturday morning with temperatures in the low 70s, the Wyoming Cowboy Football team went through a scrimmage that lasted a little over two hours and included 150 plays. The Cowboys' No. 1 defense again looked sharp, allowing only two field goals and no touchdowns in 12 series. The No. 1 offensive unit enjoyed an outstanding day throwing the football. Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith completed 14 of 22 passes (63.6 percent) for 184 yards and threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Robert Herron. The offense ended the day with 428 yards of total offense -- 263 passing and 165 rushing.

For the majority of the scrimmage the No. 1 defense went up against the No. 2 offense. The only scores the No. 1 defenders gave up all day were two field goals in two series against the No. 1 offense at the end of the scrimmage during a red-zone period. The offense was given the ball at the defense's own 21-yard line in both those series. Smith hit sophomore wide receiver Jalen Claiborne on a 20-yard pass on first down in the first red-zone series, taking the ball down to the one-yard line. But the Cowboy defenders held the offense out and forced a 19-yard field goal. On the second red-zone series featuring the No. 1 offense versus the No. 1 defense, the defense allowed only five yards before forcing a 33-yard field goal.

Head coach Dave Christensen was feeling good about both his No. 1 units following the scrimmage.

"After we had a couple dropped balls early, I thought the offense started gelling and started having some success," said Christensen. "Defensively, I thought we did well, particularly with our No. 1 defense. They didn't give up any touchdowns and only a couple field goals.

"I think we're getting better as a football team. It was a cleaner scrimmage -- fewer mistakes. Now we need to see the film and see which guys that maybe aren't on the No. 1 units are ready to contribute and help us win.

"We got everyone plenty of reps today, and we'll get out here and scrimmage a little bit more on Wednesday."

Leading the way for the Cowboy's top defensive unit were: senior linebacker Korey Jones, who had a team high seven tackles with one sack; junior cornerback Marqueston Huff and redshirt freshman linebacker Zack Berg each contributed six tackles and Huff broke up one pass; senior defensive lineman Mike Purcell added five tackles, including a half sack; and senior defensive lineman Kurt Taufa'asau was credited with four tackles and three tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Devyn Harris recorded three tackles and broke up one pass that he nearly intercepted.

Several members of the No. 2 defensive unit also had big days facing off with the No. 1 offense for most of the scrimmage. Sophomore cornerback Darren White was credited with six tackles, as was junior linebacker Todd Knight. Sophomore linebacker Alex Borgs added five tackles, including a half sack. Senior safety Kenny Browder had five tackles and a half sack. Junior safety Andrew Meredith had four tackles and a pass breakup that was nearly an interception. Sophomore safety Chad Reese made three tackles and had one of the biggest hits of the day breaking up a pass from Smith to sophomore wide receiver Dominic Rufran that helped stop a drive by the No. 1 offense and forced a field goal.

Rufran enjoyed a big day, leading all Cowboy receivers with five receptions for 40 yards. Herron followed up his 10-catch scrimmage of a week ago with another strong day, catching four passes for 89 yards, including the 64-yard TD pass from Smith. Claiborne had three receptions for 34 yards, and sophomore Trey Norman caught two passes for 21 yards to round out the day for the No. 1 receiving corps.

When asked about the Smith to Herron connection that seems to be developing in fall camp, as well as the overall development of the receiving corps, Christensen said,"He (Herron) has the best speed of any of our receivers, and is having a great camp. Brett (Smith) is going to throw to the open guy. He's got a progression he goes through -- reads he goes through -- and I think it just happens to be a situation where Robert (Herron) is open and Robert is fast. We put him in a position to be a primary receiver on a lot of routes.

"Jalen (Claiborne) has been real consistent for us. He's been a little slower this week, I think from being a little banged up from the rigors of fall camp, but thought he came out and played well again today. He got tackled on the one during that one red-zone possession, but he's a new guy and he's got to learn that our expectations are if you get to the one-yard line you've got to get it in the end zone. But he's had a good camp."

Christensen was also asked to evaluate his quarterback Smith's running ability.

"I know Brett is stronger this year -- he's bigger," said Christensen. "He has a great play-making ability with his feet, and that's what is key with this offense. You need a mobile quarterback because sometimes things break down and big things can happen when you have a mobile guy back there.

"Brett has really practiced well the last couple days. He still is doing a good job of going through his progression and being patient, but we're never going to take the option away for him to run. I've not seen too many bad things happen when Brett Smith leaves the pocket and takes off down the field."

The other touchdown generated by the offense came on an eight-yard throw from junior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard to freshman receiver Nico Brown. Kirkegaard and true freshman quarterback Jason Thompson each had posted similar numbers. Kirkegaard took the majority of his reps guiding the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense. He completed 7 of 18 passes for 35 yards and one touchdown. Of Kirkegaard's 11 series, nine of them were with the No. 2 offense. Thompson completed 7 of 22 passes for 40 yards and no TDs. Of Thompson's eight series on the day, three came with the No. 2 offense and the other five series came with the No. 3 offensive unit. Freshman walk-on Jaden Olearnick of Eaton, Colo., completed the one pass he threw on the day with the No. 3 unit. None of the four quarterbacks who played in the scrimmage threw an interception on Saturday.

Christensen responded to a question about what he is looking for in a backup quarterback by saying, "We're looking for a guy who we feel comfortable can go in and win a game for us if something would happen to Brett. I think both those guys are competing well. Colby (Kirkegaard) has had a good camp. He's got more experience. Jason (Thompson) has a phenomenal arm and athleticism. I think he is going to be an outstanding prospect. We're just trying to sort through that and see who will take that spot."

The rushing load for the No. 1 offense was balanced, with three Cowboys rushing for similar numbers. Junior Brandon Miller carried eight times for 27 yards. Quarterback Smith had 23 yards on 10 carries, and freshman Shaun Wick rushed six times for 22 yards. Redshirt freshman running back Zaquoya Parham led all rushers with 50 yards on 12 carries, running primarily with the No. 3 unit. There were no rushing touchdowns scored by the Pokes during the scrimmage.

"I thought they (the running backs) ran well today," said the fourth-year head coach of the Cowboys. "Two of our top three running backs are true freshmen (D.J. May and Wick), and I feel good about those guys. We need to eliminate a couple mental errors we had out there, which is expected with young players. But I'm real pleased with the progress we're making at the position."

The offense generated nine field goals on the day. Sophomores Stuart Williams and Daniel Sullivan put on quite a kicking competition Saturday. Williams was a perfect 9 for 9 in field goals. In a kicking period prior to the start of the scrimmage, Williams converted three field goals from 26, 31 and 40 yards out. Then during the scrimmage Williams successfully made six more from 38, 36, 40, 19, 33 and 48 yards. Sullivan, who was participating in only his third practice of fall camp after being cleared by doctors to start practicing again, made two of his three attempts in the period prior to the scrimmage. He made his 26 and 31 yards attempts and missed from 40 yards out. During the scrimmage, Sullivan was successful from 38, 19, 33 and concluded the scrimmage matching Williams with the long kick of the day from 48 yards out. Sullivan had been suffering with a medical condition since late July before being cleared by doctors to practice earlier this week.

Highlights from Saturday's scrimmage included:

Defensive Highlights
•The only points the No. 1 defense gave up in Saturday's scrimmage were two field goals, and both came when the offense was given the ball on the defense's own 21-yard line during a red-zone period.
•Senior Korey Jones led all UW defenders with seven tackles on Saturday. He had six tackles in the Cowboys' first scrimmage.
•Wyoming's defense recorded 20.0 tackles for loss of 55 yards in the second scrimmage Saturday, after registering 18.0 tackles for loss for 85 yards in scrimmage No. 1 a week ago.
•The Poke defenders were credited with 6.0 sacks for 32 yards on Saturday, after recording 8.0 sacks for 50 yards a week ago.
•The defense has played near error-free football, committing only one penalty for seven yards in scrimmage No. 2, after having only one penalty for 15 yards in the first scrimmage.

Offensive Highlights
•Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith continues to perform well this fall. In the two fall scrimmages, Smith has completed 31 of 51 passes (60.8 percent) for 398 yards, five touchdowns and only two interceptions.
•Junior wide receiver Robert Herron has caught 14 passes for 170 yards and three TDs in the two fall scrimmages.
•Sophomore wide receiver Dominic Rufran enjoyed a good second scrimmage with five catches for 40 yards.
•Junior-college transfer Jalen Claiborne, a sophomore, has caught six passes (three in each of two scrimmages) for a combined 100 yards and one touchdown.
•The offense cut its penalties down from 10 penalties for 65 yards in the first scrimmage to six penalties for only 37 yards in the second scrimmage.

Special Teams' Highlights
•Sophomore place-kickers Stuart Williams and Daniel Sullivan both kicked well on Saturday. Williams was a perfect 9 for 9 in field goals. Sullivan successfully converted 6 of 9 attempts. Each concluded the scrimmage with successful field goal attempts of 48 yards.
•Freshman punter Tim Gleeson punted 11 times for a 48.5 yard average, with a long punt of 69 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 the Cowboys will not practice on Sunday. They will return to the practice field on Monday for an 8:45 a.m. practice in War Memorial Stadium. The final scheduled scrimmage of fall camp will be on Wednesday, Aug. 22, beginning at 8:45 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. 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 preparingfor season opener versus Texas on Saturday, Sept. 1
Monday, Aug. 27 / NA / First Day of Classes, No Practice
3 p.m. / First Weekly Football Press Conference