UW’s defense gets boost with Mertens, Harris

The Wyoming football program got some good news this week when the school announced that defensive tackle Patrick Mertens and linebacker Devyn Harris were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Here is the story: http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/football/ncaa-grants-harris-mertens-a-sixth-year-of-eligibility/article_de2dc0ee-7da0-11e3-9fd0-0019bb2963f4.html

Devyn Harris

Devyn Harris

This is good for UW because it needs all the help it can get defensively. We all know how much this group struggled last season  by allowing 36.7 points, 220.2 rushing yards, and 482 total yards per game.

Both players bring a lot of experience back, which can’t hurt. Combined, both have played in 74 games and started 48.

Patrick Mertens

Patrick Mertens

The weakest part of UW’s defense last season was the defensive line, and with new coach Craig Bohl wanting to run a 4-3 scheme, the importance of interior linemen is huge. Mertens doesn’t solve all of UW’s issues there, but it gives it another guy that his proven with 107 career tackles.

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Strength vs. strength for UW and Utah State

Wyoming’s offense versus Utah State’s defense.

Those are the strengths of the two teams when both play at noon Saturday at Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah.

Utah State (7-4, 6-1) leads the MW in seven defensive categories, and is seventh nationally in scoring defense (17.6 points per game), 10th in third-down conversion defense (31.5 percent) and tied for 12th in total defense (333.4 yards per game).

UW (5-6, 3-4) is 13th in total offense at just under 500 yards of total offense per game.

This is what UW coach Dave Christensen said about the Aggies’ defense Monday during his weekly interview session with the media.

“Most people haven’t had a lot of success that has played them,” he said. “Every single player plays extremely hard the entire play for every single play. They’re very talented players that have great motors. They have a lot of experience. They can get great pressure on the quarterback. They are tight as can be in man coverage. They pressure, they blitz and they get there. They definitely are the best defense we’ve played this year.”

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No time to be frustrated

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen isn’t happy his team, which is 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the Mountain West, has lost three in a row.

Wyoming's uniform combination for Saturday's game at Boise State. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Wyoming’s uniform combination for Saturday’s game at Boise State. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

But he isn’t stewing about it.

“I can’t sit there and be frustrated,” said Christensen during his weekly interview session with the media Monday afternoon. “I have another game this week. We’re working on our problems right now and trying to solve them. Sitting around being frustrated is not going to anything for this week’s game.”

This week’s game is at Boise State (6-3, 4-1) at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. UW is 0-7 all-time against Boise State, including 0-3 under Christensen by a score of 132-36.

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Turnovers also tell story of UW’s latest struggles

Giving up 482 passing yards and five touchdowns, and 642 yards of total offense were the biggest factors in Wyoming’s 51-44 loss at San Jose State last Saturday.

UW (4-4 overall, 2-2 Mountain West) has lost consecutive games for the first time this season, and while the defense’s poor play is what many fans look at, which is deserved, so is another factor.


UW committed two turnovers against San Jose State — a fumble by senior running back Brandon Miller after a pass completion and an interception by junior quarterback Brett Smith.

Both turnovers came in the second half. Miller’s fumble led to a San Jose State touchdown. San Jose State went three-and-out after Smith’s interception.

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UW-San Jose State postgame thoughts

It’s become an all too familiar story for the Wyoming football team.

The Cowboys’ defense allowed a season-high 642 yards of total offense in a 51-44 loss at San Jose State Saturday night at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif.

The defense got off to a good start — three straight three-and-outs and then a fumble recovery. After that, it did virtually nothing.

Senior quarterback David Fales missed on just 10 of his 37 pass attempts. He threw for 482 yards and five touchdowns. The Spartans also ran for 160 yards, and it seemed like more.

Fales scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 8 seconds left. Here’s the video of that play.

The offense did some good things. Junior quarterback Brett Smith threw for three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Shaun Wick had 234 yards, and senior receiver Robert Herron had a school-record 93-yard touchdown reception where he simply outran everyone from San Jose on a short pass. It was similar to what he did last year at Texas on his 82-yard touchdown run and catch. The 93-yard play was the longest in UW history — touchdown or not.

But it wasn’t enough.

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Tuesday’s football practice notes

Some news and notes from Tuesday’s Wyoming football practice:

–Coach Dave Christensen on the practice, which lasted a little more than two hours: “We had a good practice. We haven’t had a lot problems coming out and practicing well. We have some things we need to get cleaned up, but the effort was there today. It was a good, physical practice.”

–The battle on who starts at center, strong safety and strong-side linebacker is in full go. Sophomore Rafe Kiely and junior Albert Perez both took snaps with the No. 1 offense at center. Junior Chad Reese took advantage of his reps at strong safety. He had an interception of junior quarterback Brett Smith. Junior Mark Nzeocha looked to have the best day at strong-side linebacker. Nzeocha, the starter so far this season, intercepted Smith early in practice on a pass that as tipped by freshman receiver Tanner Gentry.

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Cowboys brave the cold

Just how cold was it during Wyoming’s football practice Tuesday morning at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium?

Water froze immediately once it touched the benches along the sideline.

Temperatures were in the 20s and the wind chill factor was in the teens during much of the two-hour practice in which the team was in full pads in preparation for Saturday’s Border War game with Colorado State in Laramie.

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Repeat, repeat and repeat again

Wyoming is officially in Border War week mode.

The team practiced Monday morning, at first outside in the cold, wind and snow before it went indoors. But the preparations for Saturday’s game with rival Colorado State started sooner than that.

Wyoming's uniform combination for its home game against Colorado State on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Wyoming’s uniform combination for its home game against Colorado State on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

It didn’t involve extra film study or practices, but with a song — Colorado State’s fight song.

It is being played in UW’s locker room repeatedly this week to remind the players that it is CSU week.

“I think I’m actually hearing it right now,” joked UW junior receiver Dominic Rufran Monday. “We play it in the locker room 24-7. I went down there to grab my bag and it’s playing right now. No one was in there, but it was still playing. When we go lift weight, it’s playing. Our coaches do it to remind us it is Sheep Week and how big and important this game is.”

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UW-New Mexico postgame thoughts

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was ugly at times.

But the bottom line is that Wyoming is now 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West after its 38-31 homecoming win over New Mexico Saturday in Laramie in front of a season-best crowd of 22,853 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

There were times the offense and defense looked good … and times both struggled.

But in the end the defense forced three turnovers. The final one — an interception by junior safety Jesse Sampson in his first-ever game at UW — led to a 48-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Brett Smith.

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UW’s scout team being tested this week

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen liked the the effort from his players during Tuesday morning’s practice inside Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

UW hosts New Mexico Saturday, as well as the Lobos’ top-ranked rushing offense in the nation. The Lobos run a lot of different looks out of its pistol formation, and also run some triple-option.

What is interesting with games like this is how UW’s scout team simulates the opposition’s offense, and who does what.

Junior receiver and former quarterback Sam Stratton has been the option quarterback of New Mexico on the scout team. Senior Colby Kirkegaard has been the throwing quarterback. New Mexico could play two quarterbacks Saturday.

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