Wyoming's Starting Units Look Sharp in Saturday Scrimmage

Aug. 21, 2010


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The Wyoming Cowboys starting offensive and defensive units both performed well on Saturday in a scrimmage that saw the No. 1 offense score on all three of its possessions versus the second team defense, while the No. 1 defense didn't allow the second team offense to score on its four possessions. Saturday's scrimmage featured one 15-minute, game-like period and one period of red-zone offensive work.

The day started with the starting defensive unit forcing a three-and-out against the second-team offense. The Cowboys' starting offensive unit then took over at its own 34-yard line and proceeded to drive 57 yards in 13 plays, concluding with a 27-yard field goal by junior Austin McCoy. That initial scoring drive featured 39 yards rushing by running backs Robert Herron and James Davis and 18 passing yards from sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.

Herron is listed as a wide receiver on the Cowboy roster, but the freshman from Los Angeles, Calif., began taking snaps at running back this past week. He combined for 17 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards in his first scrimmage working at the running back spot. In the starting offense's second scoring drive of the day, the key play was a 27-yard screen pass from Carta-Samuels to Herron.

"It's been a great camp. We've had great effort from the kids, and we haven't had a bad practice all camp."
UW head coach Dave Christensen

"I feel good about the way the offense played today," said UW head coach Dave Christensen. "We were able to drive the ball down the field, and I liked the way we performed in the two-minute period at the end of the scrimmage. But we need to get better in the red zone. We had to settle for a field goal on that first drive, and that's not what we want."

The first-string defense only allowed the No. 2 offense 13 yards on its second drive of the scrimmage, ending with a sack of senior quarterback Dax Crum by sophomore defensive tackle Mike Purcell that forced a punt. Carta-Samuels and his offensive unit took possession at its own 30-yard line on its second drive of the game and proceeded to march 70 yards in eight plays and this time the Pokes got into the end zone. In addition to the key 27-yard screen pass from Carta-Samuels to Herron, another newcomer played a key role in the drive as junior wide receiver Jonathan Aiken caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Carta-Samuels to cap off the drive.

It appeared that the No. 2 offense might put some points on the scoreboard itself, when senior QB Crum led the Cowboys on a 65-yard drive all the way down to the five-yard line versus the No. 1 defense. Crum completed two big passes on the drive -- a 13-yarder to Aiken and a 15-yard completion to senior wide receiver David Leonard. Leonard, Aiken and a number of the receivers played with both the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses on Saturday. Crum nearly connected with Leonard in the back of the end zone later in the drive, but the pass was broken up by junior middle linebacker Oliver Schober. Schober was playing with the No. 1 unit in place of junior captain Brian Hendricks, who missed the scrimmage with a sprained ankle. It looked certain that the No. 2 offense was going to get some points when McCoy lined up for a 23-yard field goal, but senior cornerback Marcell Gipson blocked the kick, giving the starting offense and defense a 10-0 win in the 15-minute period.

UW junior linebacker Oliver Schober (35) intercepts a pass on the last play of Saturday's scrimmage, which he returned for a touchdown.

"It was a little disappointing that the defense gave up that long drive," said Christensen. "But they did come up with a big play and didn't give up any points."

After a special-team's period working on kickoff and kickoff coverage, the No. 3 and No. 4 units faced off against one another for 12 plays. Freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. led the No. 3 offense on a seven-play, 65-yard drive that concluded with Miller hitting fellow freshman wide receiver C.J. Morgan on a 21-yard TD pass.

A second special-team's period focusing on punt and field-goal teams followed before the scrimmage ended with a two-minute drill period. The No. 1 offense kept its perfect streak alive as it drove 61 yards in five plays, ending with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Carta-Samuels to Leonard. Other key plays on the drive were a 21-yard completion from Carta-Samuels to junior wide receiver Mazi Ogbonna, an eight-yard pass to Leonard and a 14-yard run by Carta-Samuels.

The final series of the scrimmage began with Crum completing an 11-yard pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver T.J. Smith in the No. 2 offense's lone possession in the two-minute drill. With the ball on the 50-yard line, Crum dropped to pass but his throw was intercepted by Schober, who took the interception back 59 yards for a touchdown to end the scrimmage and keep the No. 1 defense's record perfect in not allowing any points on the day.

With his offense enjoying its best scrimmage of the fall, Christensen was obviously pleased with how fall camp is progressing for the Cowboys.

"It's been a great camp," said Christensen. "We've had great effort from the kids, and we haven't had a bad practice all camp. We'll give them the next two days off, with school starting on Monday. Tuesday we will practice in shells, and then have our final scrimmage Wednesday afternoon, before beginning our game preparation for Southern Utah."

Wyoming's starting defense was led on Saturday by its outstanding starting secondary. Junior cornerback Tashaun Gipson led the Cowboys with five tackles, including one tackle for a loss and one pass breakup. Sophomore strong safety Shamiel Gary was credited with four tackles. Senior free safety Chris Prosinski recorded three tackles, and senior cornerback Marcell Gipson came up with the key blocked field goal early in the scrimmage. Linebacker Schober had three tackles, one pass breakup and the 59-yard interception return for a touchdown. Leading the No. 2 defense was junior free safety Eric Mitchell, who had four tackles.

Offensively, the Cowboys' top three quarterbacks all looked sharp on Saturday. Carta-Samuels completed 11 of 13 passes (.846) for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Crum connected on 8 of 14 pass attempts (.571) for 67 yards, but threw one interception, and true freshman Miller was a perfect 2 of 2 passing for 25 yards and threw one TD.

Leonard was the day's leading receiver with four catches for 38 yards and one TD. Ogbonna also had four receptions for 36 yards. Aiken added two catches -- one of them his 24-yard touchdown grab. Junior wide receiver DeJay Lester saw his first scrimmage work of fall camp after suffering a concussion earlier in the month, and he had two receptions for 13 yards. The other Cowboy with two catches for 11 yards was senior Travis Burkhalter. Junior running back Davis was the day's leading rusher with five carries for 31 yards.

Other positive notes from Saturday's scrimmage included not one penalty being marked off on either side of the ball and only one turnover being committed. The only potential penalty on the offense was declined due to an incomplete pass.

The Cowboys will now take Sunday and Monday off from practice before returning to practice on Tuesday.

The Pokes will have one final scrimmage on Wed., Aug. 25. That scrimmage will begin at 3:30 p.m.