UW quarterbacks take their hits in second scrimmage

Most of the time, quarterbacks are off limits in terms of being hit during practices or scrimmages.

Not Saturday for the four University of Wyoming quarterbacks in the Cowboys’ second scrimmage of spring drills.

Quarterbacks were live, and did take some hits.

“That first hit I took was a little bit of a shock,” said senior Sam Stratton, who was 7 of 10 for 69 yards and touchdown passes to sophomore receiver Nico Brown and sophomore running back Omar Stover. “It had been a while, and it was like ‘okay, we’re playing tackle football.’ It felt good, and after that first hit your brain goes into a different place.”

Redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard was 8 of 12 for 126 yards and a touchdown to senior receiver Keenan Montgomery. Kirkegaard’s long pass was 50 yards to Montgomery. Stratton said he didn’t remember who hit him, but Kirkegaard remembered his first hit by senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha on a run up the middle.

“That first hit wakes you up a little bit and you realize you don’t have that blue jersey on and will just get tagged on the shoulder instead of being hit. It’s real football.”

Kirkegaard had ice on his right throwing shoulder after the scrimmage and during interviews with the media, but he said he does that after every game and practice.

Sophomore Aaron Young was 3 of 12 for 28 yards, and sophomore Tom Thornton was 4 of 5 for 45 yards and a touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Jake Maulhardt.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said he wants to look at the film before making an evaluation on the quarterbacks. Bohl is expected to release a “fluid” depth chart as early as Monday. The scrimamge was closed to the public and media, but here is what Bohl told the media about the scrimmage:

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Vigen said it wasn’t clear to him who stepped up at quarterback until he watches the film. He also said he didn’t think any one guy took a big step backward. He described the quarterback battle as “a pretty tight race.”

Vigen also said the offense has been moving some guys around along the offensive line to identify where the best spots are for some to play. He also said that redshirt sophomore D.J. May and junior Shaun Wick will go into fall camp as the team’s top two running backs.

The offense scored nine touchdowns — five rushing, four passing. Bohl liked the fact the offense made some big plays in the pass game. There were four pass plays of 21 yards or more, including a long of 50.

That may not have been good news for the defense.

“I think the receivers went up and competed for the ball a little bit better than we did,” defensive coordinator Steve Stannard said.

Bohl seemed to be more concerned with receivers getting a step or two behind the defense.

Bohl singled out senior defensive tackle Patrick Mertens and senior cornerback Blair Burns for their play during the scrimmage. He also continued to praise May for his running, but added he still  needs to get up field faster. Bohl said the offense did some good work during some red zone work.

Bohl would like to see the offense take better care of the ball. There were two fumbles by quarterbacks (one each by Young and Stratton), but no UW quarterback has yet to throw an interception in the two scrimmages.

UW lost 48 yards rushing in the scrimmage, but 38 of that was on sacks.

The first two scrimmages have been similar in terms of the number of run and pass plays. In the first scrimmage, UW ran 34 times; Saturday it was 40. The Cowboys threw the ball 34 times last week, 39 Saturday.

After two scrimmages, Mark Nzeocha leads the team with 15 tackles and four tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Lucas Wacha has 10 tackles. Senior defensive end Riley Lange had a nice day Saturday with three sackls and four tackles for loss.

Bohl said the team will “continue to grind away” in the final week of spring practices starting Monday, and continue to implement the news systems. Both offense and defense will continue to get double reps. New work on kickoffs and kickoff returns will be done during the week.

UW’s spring game is Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m., and will be open to the public and media.

See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net for a story on why senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi is, and has been more motivated to play football than most guys on the team.