Wyoming Cowboys Conclude Fall Scrimmages on a High Note

Aug. 26, 2009


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The fourth and final fall scrimmage for the Wyoming Cowboys began with a 75-yard touchdown strike on the first play and when the day was over first-year head coach Dave Christensen was pleased with what he saw from both his first team offensive and defensive units. Junior quarterback Robert Benjamin connected with junior wide receiver Travis Burkhalter on that 75-yard TD pass as the No. 1 offense scored against the Cowboys' second team defense.

Wednesday's scrimmage consisted of 80 plays with the primary matchups being the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense and No. 1 defense facing the No. 2 offense.

"This is where you want your team to be at this point in camp," said Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. "We came out, executed, cut our dropped passes down by 75 percent and our (offensive) production was probably up by about 80 percent. Our No. 1 defense forced a three-and-out on every series they were in there and our No. 1 offense scored every series they were on the field. That is where we want to be.

"I think we've made great strides throughout camp. I thought we were really mentally focused when we came out today, and I liked the consistency we played with in this final scrimmage."

Christensen also praised his team for the work ethic they've displayed throughout fall practice.

"For the most part, our kids came out and worked very hard each and every day," said Christensen. "I don't have many complaints about the way they've worked. A couple of the scrimmages I wasn't real happy with, but again that's because that is like gameday. You want everything to come together in your scrimmages, and we had a couple scrimmages where we weren't as efficient as we wanted to be. But we've had great effort all fall. There may have been two practices that weren't great and two scrimmages that weren't up to par, but for about 19 out of 23 practices we've had great effort and great execution."

On the No. 1 offense's second possession of the scrimmage, they successfully converted a field goal from 34 yards out as sophomore place-kicker/punter Austin McCoy and senior place-kicker Jake Scott each hit successfully from that distance. The first team offense scored its second touchdown of the scrimmage on its third possession as Benjamin drove the Cowboys 59 yards, culminating in a six-yard TD pass to senior tight end Orlando Arnold.

True freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels then had his first opportunity to lead the No. 1 offense. He guided the Pokes on a 71-yard drive, which was capped off by a five-yard TD run from junior wide receiver Zach Bolger. The final possession by the No. 1 offense came in the final period in a two-minute drill. Carta-Samuels led his unit on a 47-yard drive that concluded with McCoy converting a 30-yard field goal.

When asked about the quarterback competition, Christensen had this to say.

"They (Robert Benjamin and Austyn Carta-Samuels) went 50-50 with the No. 1s today," said Christensen. "They had equal reps with the No. 1 offense. We'll evaluate the tape and we'll announce our starting lineups the first of next week. I liked what I saw from both of them today -- very much so."

The Cowboys' starting defense also had a productive final scrimmage, not allowing a score in the five series they were on the field. In a series featuring the No. 2 defense versus the No. 2 offense, redshirt freshman linebacker Adam Barry intercepted senior quarterback Karsten Sween. It was Barry's second interception of the fall and the first interception thrown by Sween this fall. That was also the only turnover of the day.

Leading the defense in the final scrimmage were junior linebacker Alex Toney, with eight tackles; sophomore linebacker Bryson Studnicka, who had seven; and freshman free safety Ghaali Muhammad, with six.

Offensively, the Cowboys threw for 332 yards and rushed for 140 yards for a total offense of 472 yards. The offense scored two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.

Benjamin completed 7 of 14 passes (50.0 percent) for 139 yards and two TD passes. Carta-Samuels completed 10 of 12 passes (83.3 percent) for 125 yards and no TDs. Sween was 5 of 11 (45.5 percent) for 37 yards and one interception, and junior Dax Crum completed all three of his pass attempts for 31 yards.

Junior wide receiver David Leonard led the Cowboys in receiving yards for the third time in four fall scrimmages. Leonard had his best day of the fall on Wednesday, catching seven passes for 108 yards. He had 75 yards receiving in Wyoming's first fall scrimmage and had 63 yards receiving in the third scrimmage.

True freshman running back Alvester Alexander led all rushers with 49 yards on six carries. Sween was the second-leading rusher with 25 yards.

In the kicking battle, McCoy was five of six in field goals on Wednesday, connecting from 34 yards, 31, 38, 43 and 30. His one miss came from 35 yards when he missed left. Scott was four of five in field goals, hitting from 34, 31, 35 and 38. His one miss came from 43 yards. McCoy successfully hit on all four of his extra-point attempts. Scott was three of four, hitting the upright on one failed attempt.

"We have a lot yet to do here to build a program," said Christensen. "It doesn't happen overnight, but I know this football team right now is stronger than it's ever been, it's faster than it has ever been and it's in better shape than it has ever been. We're making progress in a lot of areas. Over the last two or three days, we've got a lot closer to where we need to be."

Junior running back Darius Terry didn't scrimmage on Wednesday due to a slight ankle sprain. Senior defensive tackle John Fletcher was also held out of practice, but Christensen said he expected both of them to be back at practice soon. Freshman wide receiver Chris McNeill is also getting closer to being able to begin practicing after missing nearly two weeks after suffering a concussion in Wyoming's first scrimmage on Aug. 14.

The Cowboys will take Thursday off before returning to practice on Friday to begin preparation for the season opener versus Weber State on Saturday, Sept. 5. That game will kick off at 1:00 p.m., Mountain Time from Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium.

Tickets still remain for the Weber State game. Fans interested in purchasing tickets may buy them online at www.WyomingAthletics.com or call the UW Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 922-9461.