Wyoming Defense Shines in First Fall Scrimmage
Aug. 13, 2010
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
For most of Friday's first fall scrimmage for the Wyoming Cowboys, it was the defense that shined forcing two turnovers and registering 24 tackles for losses, including 7.0 quarterback sacks. That performance led to a 52-33 win by the defense, as the Cowboy coaching staff utilized a unique scoring system that gave the defense an opportunity to score points along with the offense.
"I was pleased with our number one defense," said Christensen. "They stopped the offense three and out almost every time they were out there, but they (the defense) are still capable of playing better. They gave up a touchdown late, which was a little disappointing because they had played very well up until that time.
"The number two defense also performed well. They kept the number one offense out of the end zone up until their last possession of the scrimmage, so I would say they played pretty well to get that done."
The format of Friday's scrimmage pitted the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 2 defense and the No. 2 offense vs. the No. 1 defense. The No. 3 offensive and defensive units also faced off against one another in a scrimmage that included a total of 128 plays.
The Cowboy defense was led by junior middle linebacker Brian Hendricks, who had a team high seven tackles. Senior linebacker Alex Toney had six tackles and also intercepted Carta-Samuels on a ball that was tipped by sophomore cornerback James Caraway. Also recording six tackles were sophomore outside linebacker Ghaali Muhammad, who added a pass breakup, and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Patrick Mertens. Mertens also contributed with 1.5 tackles for losses, including a half sack. Junior defensive end Josh Biezuns recorded five tackles and knocked down one pass at the line of scrimmage. Sophomore strong safety Luke Ruff, who was one of the best special teams players for the Cowboys as a true freshman, continued his specialty of blocking kicks. Ruff blocked another kick on a point-after-touchdown attempt, and added four tackles and a pass breakup. He also led the Cowboys in tackles for losses with three. Redshirt freshman defensive end Mark Willis also blocked a field-goal attempt.
The No. 1 and No. 2 offensive units did enjoy some success of their own on each of their final possessions of the scrimmage. Starting at the defense's 40-yard line, the No. 1 offense, led by sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, put together a seven-play drive that was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown run by junior running back James Davis. Two series later, the No. 2 offense put up the only points of the day on the No. 1 defense, when senior quarterback Dax Crum led the Pokes on a four-play, 40-yard scoring drive that concluded with a 10-yard pass from Crum to redshirt freshman running back Tedder Easton. The big play of the drive was a 23-yard pass from Crum to redshirt freshman wide receiver T.J. Smith on the first play of the drive.
The only other traditional points scored by the offense on the day came early in the scrimmage when Carta-Samuels led the No. 1 offense on a 13-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal from junior Austin McCoy. McCoy and sophomore Ian Watts attempted identical kicks in succession throughout the day. Watts also connected from 24 yards out on the same drive.
"I know Austyn has a lot of confidence coming into this season, but he knows he needs to play better as does the surrounding cast on offense," said Christensen. "There's really nobody on the offense that showed themselves as a proven commodity today. They have to improve, and I believe they will.
"The protection from the offensive line seemed pretty good to me, but our receivers have to do a better job of getting open. We will have to watch the film to fully evaluate everyone's performance, but it appeared our receivers weren't getting open. Austyn made some plays with his feet, scrambling out of those situations. I do think the offensive line is coming along, but there were too many penalties committed. We have to do a much better job in that area."
Wyoming's offense committed 11 penalties for 62 yards in Friday's first scrimmage. The defense had only one penalty for five yards.
Offensively, Carta-Samuels completed 9 of 17 passes (52.9 percent) for 89 yards and one interception. Crum threw the lone touchdown pass of the day, and completed 8 of 19 passes (42.1 percent) for 73 yards. The leading receivers were sophomore Chris McNeill (four catches for 23 yards), senior David Leonard (3 for 32 yards) and freshman Robert Herron (three catches for 32 yards). Carta-Samuels rushed for 63 yards on eight carries. Sophomore Alvester Alexander had 10 carries for 61 yards, including a long run of 39 yards, and freshman walk-on Vincent Bobbitt had a game high 16 carries for 69 yards, running with the No. 2 and No. 3 offensive units, including the longest run of the day on a 49-yard carry.
The scoring system utilized in Friday'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 was awarded 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 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 20-yard line).
The Cowboys will jump right back into two-a-day practices on Saturday with practices at 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
"We'll get after it again tomorrow morning in a regular practice," said Christensen. "Then we'll have a lighter practice in the afternoon."
A roster note, first-year Cowboy linebacker Oliver Schober, from Munich, Germany, was mistakenly listed as a freshman on the Cowboy roster when he was signed to a scholarship. Schober will actually be a junior this season. He is eligible to play this year for the Cowboys this season. He has two years of eligibility available to play, but also has a redshirt year available to him if it would be decided to spread Schober's two years of eligibility over a three-year period.
Christensen announced that it has been determined that junior defensive tackle Alex Stover, who has battled a groin injury all last season and throughout the early part of this season, will not be able to continue to play. Christensen added that Stover will remain with the program and serve as a student assistant coach. Freshman running back Nehemie Kankolongo underwent an MRI on his right knee, and Christensen said that the results of the MRI were positive, and Kankolongo is expected to be ready by the second week of the regular season. Christensen's only other injury update was regarding junior wide receiver DeJay Lester, who has been out of practice due to a concussion. Christensen said that Lester continues to improve each day, but was still day-to-day.