Another RB challenge for Wyoming’s defense

Wyoming’s defense has allowed seven 100-yard rushers this season, and one 200-yard performance by San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman.

It faces another quality running back in Saturday’s Border War game with Colorado State in sophomore Chris Nwoke, who ran for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ loss to Air Force last Saturday.

“Nwoke is a physical runner and they’re blocking well up front,” coach Dave Christensen said during his Monday news conference. “We need to have guys in position and wrap up. If we don’t he’s going to get a lot of yards. … “He runs down hill, he runs guys over and he has good speed. We need to force him to bounce to other guys.”

UW also plans to prepare to see CSU true freshman quarterback Garrett Grayson, who has started the last two games for injured sophomore Pete Thomas. Grayson is more of a run threat than Thomas.

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UW-Boise State postgame thoughts

The Wild Sam.

That’s what one of my colleagues called the running of redshirt freshman Sam Stratton as he played some at quarterback in UW’s 36-14 loss to No. 7 Boise State Saturday at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Stratton was a quarterback in high school, and a good track athlete. He’s been the scout team quarterback in practice, along with being a back up receiver and holder on field goals and extra points.

No, true freshman quarterback Brett Smith didn’t get hurt. Nor did he do anything wrong. UW didn’t do much on offense in this game, and Stratton provided a bit of a spark, albeit mostly when the game was already decided.

And, I didn’t think it was a case that UW gave up so it just put Stratton in there. Sure, it’s wise not to subject Smith to too many hits, and this partly helped there. It’s another potential wrinkle UW can use, and teams will have to prepare for.

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Cowboys not taking Lobos lightly

Wyoming is an early 25-point favorite to beat New Mexico Saturday in Laramie. But last season when even though UW was struggling at 2-7, New Mexico was winless but beat the Cowboys 34-31 on a late field goal.

There are signs up all over the Rochelle Athletics Center with the score of that game, and senior safety Tashaun Gipson said the game will be replayed on television monitors in the locker room and throughout the RAC through Friday as a reminder of what happened.

Got a feeling UW will play better this year against New Mexico than last year. For more on this, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

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UW-Bowling Green postgame notes/quotes

Whew, what a finish that was for the Cowboys!!

A blocked extra point by senior defensive linemen Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton preserved a 28-27 win in the final seconds. Was disappointed in the way Bowling Green drove down the field at the end of the game.

“Bowling Green has a great set of receivers,” sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff said. “They there were in the right place, made the right plays. They executed their offense better than we executed our defense.”

Still, UW forced a season-high six turnovers (nine in the last two games), blocked two kicks and scored a defensive TD on Huff’s 8-yard fumble return.

But more than the “prevent” defense at the end, I would have liked to have seen UW’s offense get more first downs late to prevent BG a chance to win it late. Easy to say that now that the Cowboys won, but hey, a win is a win. See my column in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for more on that.

And how about true freshman cornerback Blair Burns with two interceptions and a fumble recovery? Good job by that young kid, who if he’s really 170 pounds as listed on the roster then I’m 6-foot-5 (I’m pushing 5-10, LOL).

A play late in the game that was big but got overshadowed some from UW’s standpoint was the offsides call on the Cowboys’ last possession on BG defensive lineman Kevin Moore on a fourth-and-1 play that gave UW its final first down. If that doesn’t happen and UW doesn’t convert on fourth down the game could have been different.

“To jump on a fourth-and-1, when the whole stadium knows they are going to hard-count us … we just did some really poor things out there today,” BG coach Dave Clawson said.

Some other notes and quotes:

–Sophomore middle linebacker Devyn Harris had a career-high 11 tackles.

–“I just saw the ball so I picked it up and ran.” — Huff on the fumble return for a touchdown

–Junior defensive tackle Ben Durbin had a big game with a blocked field goal and a forced fumble on Huff’s TD. Durbin said he didn’t know he caused the fumble.

–All six of senor receiver Mazi Ogbonna’s six catches came in the second half, including five on the Cowboys’ first two possessions.

–“I don’t know if they’ve played a team that went after the ball like we have.” — UW coach Dave Christensen.

–On odd days of the month (Sept. 3 and 17), senior punter Austin McCoy has averaged between 41 ad 45 yards per punt. On even days (Sept. 10) he averaged 21.3 yards.

–BG sophomore rover (defensive back) Booboo Gates was one of three players issued with misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing in a dorm Thursday night. One player was suspended, but Gates wasn’t and finished second on the team with 11 tackles.

–“Any way you slice it we’re 3-0 and we’ve won as many games as we did a year ago. I know one thing, we’re going to be as good as we were last year.” — Christensen

–“I knew I was down, but I have to hold on to the ball also. Don’t even make it close.” — junior running back Ghaali Muhammad on a fumble in the second half, but was ruled down after the play was reviewed.

–“We were at home, and I thought we were the better football team. The way our defense was playing, and the way we were moving the football, it was a pretty quick decision. I thought that, if we got to overtime, we were going to win the game.” — Clawson on the thought of going for two on BG’s final touchdown.

Now it’s time for No. 10 Nebraska, which beat Washington at home 51-38 and gave up 420 yards of total offense. See Monday’s WTE and Boomerang for what Christensen and other players think of this game. And, see Sunday’s papers for more coverage of this game.

There won’t be any video interviews posted from this game. There wasn’t a place for me to get video during postgame interviews. Sorry. Will post more from Monday’s weekly interview session with players and coaches.

News conference news and notes

Here are some highlights from Monday’s news conference and interview session with Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen and players:

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UW depth chart prediction

Monday afternoon Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen will speak to the media leading into Saturday’s season-opener against Weber State.

Christensen will release the depth chart for the first game. Some positions (quarterback) we know who will start. In fact, I don’t think there should be many surprises. But why wait until Monday afternoon? Here is how I think the depth chart will look. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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Camp concludes for Cowboys

Fall camp came to a close for the Wyoming football team as it simulated some game day procedures Saturday morning at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

The team practiced in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. It stood on its own sideline, plays were signaled in from the sideline, officials were on hand and music was pumped in to simulate the chaos of a real game.

True freshman quarterback Brett Smith threw a long touchdown pass to junior running back Alvester Alexander to start the practice. Smith was later intercepted by junior safety Luke Ruff in a two-minute drill.

When asked if Smith will be the starter Sept. 3 against Weber State, coach Dave Christensen said: “We’ll watch the film, make a decision and let you know the Monday before the first game (Aug. 29).”

Expect Smith to be the starter.

Here’s what first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Gregg Brandon said about Smith: “Going into camp I was very apprehensive. But 20 days later I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised. Brett can run and mange the offense. I thought our offensive instillation was very ambitious, and I thought we’d have to take days and back it up, but we didn’t.”

Brandon said junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard had an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser for the backup job going into Saturday, but Brandon wants to evaluate things after watching film from Saturday’s practice.

Some other notes from practice

–True freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan ended the practice with a 64-yard field goal. Both he and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams were accurate most of the day. Christensen said kickers attempted around 300 kicks during camp.

–Christensen said senior punter Austin McCoy likely will handle kickoffs for the season-opener against Weber State. He said Sullivan could eventually take over once he’s fully over a leg injury.

–True freshman cornerback Blair Burns is the teams’ third corner, or first to come off the bench.

All-MWC football team released

Here is the link to the First and Second Team All-Mountain West Conference football team:

http://www.themwc.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/113010aac.html

I was fortunate enough to vote on this, and was pretty close to how the two teams turned out.

I put Wyoming junior defensive end Josh Biezuns and junior defensive back Tashaun Gipson on my first team. Biezuns made the second team and Gipson earned honorable mention honors. I put senior safety Chris Prosinski on the second team and that’s where he ended up for the second straight year. I also had junior punter Austin McCoy on the second team, but he was honorable mention.

Air Force had the second-best rushing offense in the nation, yet none of its offensive linemen made the first team. I had junior A.J. Wallerstein on the first team, yet he made the second team.

I voted TCU’s Gary Patterson the coach of the year. San Diego State’s Brady Hoke won the award and it’s hard to argue that after the Aztecs went 8-4 overall, 5-3 in the MWC and will play in their first bowl since 1998. Still, to go undefeated like TCU did for the second straight season is also quite an accomplishment.

There was some discussion among the writers about the Defensive Player of the Year. It went to TCU junior linebacker Tank Carder, who was fourth on his own team in tackles. San Diego State junior linebacker Miles Burris led the league in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (19). I thought about going with him, but how do you not pick a player on the nation’s top-ranked defense? You could go with any number of guys, but I also went with Carder.

Thoughts?

Special teams disappoint again

For the second straight week Wyoming coach Dave Christensen was disappointed in the play of his special teams (UW calls them special forces), particularly the punt and and kickoff coverage teams.

“We’ve got to punt the ball and cover the ball,” said Christensen Monday during his weekly news conference. “If we punt the ball in the back of people’s heads and don’t cover on punt then you put your defense in a bad situation. That’s what we’ve done in the last two weeks.”

Junior punter Austin McCoy averaged only 31 yards per punt in the Cowboys’ 25-20 loss at Brigham Young last Saturday. Two of McCoy’s rugby-style punts hit UW defenders that resulted in BYU getting the ball in UW territory. The Cowboys allowed 26.2 yards per punt return, and BYU freshman Cody Hoffman had four returns for 104 yards. Hoffman earned Special Teams Player of the Week in the MWC.

As Christensen said last week, what makes these shortcoming more frustrating is many of the same players on these units were there last season. Christensen said there will be some personnel movement this week, but nothing major.

Some other notes and observations from Monday’s news conference and interview session with players:

–The only player out for Saturday’s San Diego State game is true freshman defensive tackle Tyler Strong, who will miss his third straight game. Christensen said Strong will return next week. UW will update that list on Friday.

–Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels wasn’t available for interviews due to an academic conflict.

–True freshman running back Robert Herron moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart behind sophomore starter Alvester Alexander. Herron led UW with 62 yards against BYU, including a run of 47 yards in the fourth quarter. Herron went to high school in Los Angeles with San Diego State redshirt freshman running back Vaness Harris, who is listed No. 3 on the depth chart at one of the two outside linebacker positions.

–When asked if he said something to his team at halftime of the BYU game when the offense had minus-18 yards, Christensen said: “Oh, I said something. But we didn’t change anything. I got their attention.”

–Want the key to how UW’s offense needs to get going? Christensen said without hesitation: “We’ve got to execute for four quarters, not two. If we do that we have a chance.”

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com on one of the key matchups in the UW-San Diego State game, which doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys.