Making things happen

“We’re a football team looking for ways to make things happen. We have to be creative.”

That’s what Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said after the Cowboys beat Toledo 20-15 Saturday night in Toledo. His team used three trick plays that resulted in 13 points.

I think he’s right. UW hasn’t showed the ability to make big plays the conventional way offensively much of this season. See my story in Monday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com for more on that.

As UW kept executing those big plays, there were a lot of moans and groans from the Toledo faithful in the press box. Some remember when Christensen was an assistant at Toledo from 1992-2000 and that led to a lot of statements like: “That’s Christensen up to his old ways again.”

When asked if there were a lot of trick plays in his arsenal when he was at Toledo, Christensen said with a wry smile: “We had a few tricks up our sleeve.”

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UW was outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter against Toledo, and now has been outscored 50-0 in the fourth quarter this season.

“That’s something we’re going to have to fix,” senior receiver David Leonard said. “That’s what got us so many victories last year (five to be exact). We need to continue to work on that. We’ve got to finish in the fourth quarter. That’s something we’re going to discuss as a team and put even more of and emphasis on.”

But another UW player didn’t think it was a problem.

“Not at all. We’re getting better. Every game we’re going to get better at that and pick it up,” sophomore linebacker Ghaali Muhammad said.

Added junior defensive end Gabe Knapton: “That’s always a concern. We can’t get comfortable. We have to play a whole game.”

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On the fake punt where junior punter Austin McCoy completed a 34-yard pass to senior cornerback Marcell Gipson, McCoy said the call for that play came from the sideline. He doesn’t have the green light to make those calls on the field.

Knapton on the cool, wet and rainy weather: “I think we loved it. It was nice and cool. It’s better than playing in the heat.”

McCoy looks good as punter and kicker

For the last few weeks junior Austin McCoy has been pulling double-duty as Wyoming’s punter and kicker. He will handle the place-kicking chores in Saturday’s season opener with Southern Utah because sophomore Ian Watts will serve a one-game suspension for violating team rules.

During fall camp when McCoy was doing both, he was inconsistent at both. Wednesday at practice he looked sharp. He made a 46-yard field-goal near the end of practice, and also boomed a 70-yard punt from his own end zone. He also did a good job of getting hang time on his punts on a short field.

“He’s kicking a lot better and getting good height on the ball,” coach Dave Christensen said. “We’re not going to ask him to kick a lot of 50-yard field goals, but he’s certainly good from the 30-yard line and in. He’s done a nice job. … He’s punted well and has been consistent there.”

McCoy did both at the start of last season. He was 4 of 6 in field goals with a long of 25. He also made 3 of 4 field goals. He averaged 43.3 yards per punt, which was nearly five yards better than his average in 2008 as a freshman.

Some other thoughts and observations from Wednesday’s practice:

–Junior Bryson Studnicka has been moved from defensive end to fullback.

–UW lists nine receivers among the four position spots on this week’s depth chart, and its likely all nine will play against Southern Utah based on the rotations in practice.

–True freshmen quarterbacks Sam Stratton and Austin Woodward shared time as the scout team quarterback this week, as has true freshman receiver Drew Martinez. Woodward, a walk-on from Sheridan, is listed as the backup punter to McCoy.

–UW had five running backs practice today, only four will be available for the opener and only one — sophomore Alvester Alexander — has any game experience.

–Shane Sullivan, a walk-on true freshman receiver from Orange, Calif., broke his leg early in fall camp and has been on crutches and in a cast since. But he still goes to every practice and meeting. He told me the leg feels pretty good and hopes to be out of the cast soon.

–Christensen on BYU leaving the Mountain West Conference: “It hasn’t changed my thought process any. We’ve got to get ready for Southern Utah. I have no control over it and I don’t spend a lot of time on things I don’t have control over.”

Join me at 3 p.m. Thursday for a live chat about UW football, anything UW sports related and even the latest happenings in the MWC. Here is the link  http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/08/31/live-chat-cowboy-football/

You also can go to this blog and scroll down until you see it.

And, be sure to join me at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the first live blog of the year for the season-opener against Southern Utah. Here is that link http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/09/01/live-blog-wyoming-vs-southern-utah/

See Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor a story on UW junior offensive guard John Hutchins and how he doesn’t plan to let another opportunity to start for the Cowboys slip away. Also see a reaction story from other UW coaches on BYU’s departure from the MWC.

Speaking of that, here is a good story by Frank Schawb of the Colorado Springs Gazette on that as he talked to MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson Wednesday http://gazetteafasports.freedomblogging.com/

Christensen happy with Crum

Wednesday’s fourth and final scrimmage for Wyoming was dedicated mostly to backups and youngsters.

Senior Dax Crum looks like he solidified his spot as the No. 2 quarterback behind sophomore Austyn Carta-Samuels. As he did in all four scrimmages Crum took all the snaps with the No. 2 offense and was 8 of 11 for 96 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. There was a fumble on a hand-off to true freshman Robert Herron, but Crum recovered.

Crum had a 34-yard pass to junior running back James Davis for the longest play of the scrimmage.

True freshman Emory Miller Jr., was impressive with the No. 3 offense. He was 8 of 9 for 70 yards and ran three times for 10 yards.

“We’re going to still look at it,” said second-year coach Dave Christensen on the battle for the No. 2 quarterback job. “I think Emory did some good things today. But Dax has had a good camp. He’s progressed quite a bit from the time I arrived until now. He’s done a lot of good things and we’re not going to base anytong on one scrimmage or one practice It will be based upon all the practices. I’m pleased where (Crum) is at.”

The No. 1 and No. 2 offensive and defensive units got about 20 snaps. The only touchdown came from the defense when true freshman defensive back Darrenn White returned a fumble 37 yards for a touchdown. True freshman safety Dylan McElveen forced the fumble after a hard hit on junior receiver Jonathan Aiken.

Christensen said a depth chart for the season opener a week from Saturday against Southern Utah will be released Monday.

Other thoughts and observations from the scrimmage:

–Junior Austin McCoy had a much better day kicking field goals. He was 6 of 7 with a long of 43. In last Saturday’s scrimmage he was 3 of 6. McCoy will kick in the opener as sophomore Ian Watts serves a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

–True freshman Nehemie Kankolongo saw his first scrimmage action in a couple of weeks since he re-injured a knee. He had one carry for one yard. Christensen said he will practice with the scout team this week and then get back in the running back mix the following week. Like Watts, Kankolongo was suspended for the season-opener.

–UW ran for only 59 yards on 32 carries. UW also mixed and matched its offensive lines with starters and backups to give certain guys looks with other players.

–As far as who will redshirt, Christensen said: “We won’t make any decisions until we get closer to the end of the season. Normally with three weeks left in season we don’t want to pull their redshirt, but up until that point we’re certainly going to play who we have to play to win a football game.”

–No injuries were reported from the scrimmage, and Christensen was pleased with how his team made it through camp with no significant injuries to key players.

“A lot has to do with (strength and conditioning coach) Trent Greener and his staff along with (head athletics trainer) Bob Waller and his staff,” Christensen said. “They do a great job of training the kids an rehabbing the kids. The players also are working hard to get in great shape.

“I’m pleased our kids understand what it takes to come out  and practice hard day in and day out. We haven’t had a bad practice yet.”

Game preparation for Southern Utah begins Friday.

“We want to get out there and play someone, and beat up on someone else besides our teammates,” junior defensive end Gabe Knapton said. “I think everyone is fired up about that.”

See Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on the scrimmage. See my top five things learned from fall camp, along with some bonus items.

And once again, thanks to all those who joined me for the live blog today. Can’t wait to get one going for a real game. Stay tuned here to a live chat coming prior to the opener next week.

Scrimmage No. 3 update

The offense finally came to life for Wyoming in its third scrimmage of fall camp Saturday morning in Laramie.

The No. 1 offense scored 17 points on its three possessions. Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels was 11 of 13 for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 26 yards on four carries.

“I knew we had it the whole time. But then two (scrimmages) in a row it doesn’t happen and you wonder where it went and when will it come out again,” Carta-Samuels said. “It came out  today. I knew we were going to be fine, it’s good to see it come out today rather than in Week 1 or Week 2.”

Carta-Samuels threw an 11-yard TD pass to junior Jonathan Aiken in the back of the end zone in the first quarter. During a two-minute drill near the end of the scrimmage, he connected with senior David Leonard for 15 yards. Leonard did most of the work on his own.

“(Carta-Samuels) played well and made good decisions with the football,” coach Dave Christensen said. “I thought he did a lot of good things. He used his feet well, he made good throws, he protected the football. He had a good day.”

So did all of the offensive units with 345 yards and 6.5 yards per play. They also didn’t have a turnover and didn’t commit a penalty (or at least one that was accepted).

Christensen would like to see better play from his red zone offense, and said that will be worked on a lot leading up to the season-opener in two weeks against Southern Utah.

The No. 1 defense didn’t allow any points, but Christensen didn’t like the fact the No. 2 offense drove it 65 yards in 12 plays on its second possession. A blocked field goal by senior Marcell Gipson kept the offense off the board.

Some other notes and observations:

–True freshman Robert Herron looked good at running back, and took several snaps with the starters. He finished with 17 yards on four carries, and caught one pass for 31 yards.

“I want to watch the video and make sure he’s running hard and making the right cuts,” Christensen said. “He protected the ball and took some shots. I would like to see him do some more Wednesday in our next scrimmage.”

See more on Herron in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

–Oliver Schober had the play of the scrimmage. The junior middle linebacker returned a Dax Crum interception 59 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the day. Schober is playing with the starters as junior Brian Hendricks recovers from an injury.

“It’s a normal competition but (Hendricks) has been helping me a lot and I have a lot of respect for that man,” Schober said.

Schober also had three kickoffs all go into the end zone.

“I still have to work on that and my consistency so I kick every one out (of the endzone),” he said.

–Junior Austin McCoy struggled kicking field goals. He was 3 of 6 with a long of 32. He had a 23-yarder blocked. He will kick in the season-opener as sophomore Ian Watts serves a one-game suspension. Watts made all seven if his field-goal attempts. McCoy was 4 of 6 last year in field goals, but all of his makes were from 20 to 29 yards.

–True freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr., continues to look good with the No. 3 offense. He had a 21-yard touchdown pass to true freshman receiver C.J. Morgan, and he was the second-leading rusher with 27 yards on four carries.

–No injuries were reported.

For more on the scrimmage, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. Also what WyoSports senior columnist/writer Bob Hammond thinks of BYU and its actions this past week.

Thanks to those who joined me for the live blog today during the scrimmage. It was a blast as always. We will do it again Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. for the final one.

Saydjari finds niche with Cowboys

Greg Saydjari is a specialist.

Not a punt or kickoff returner, but a specialist nonetheless for the Wyoming football team.

The sophomore walk-on is a fullback/tight end in UW’s short-yardage package. Thing is, UW’s spread offense doesn’t have fullbacks and tight ends. But it does when it needs a couple of tough yards.

“I like it. I think I fit that position pretty well,” said the 6-foot-1, 221-pound Saydjari.

Perhaps more interesting is how Saydjari got here.

He is from Skowhegan, Maine, 2,195 miles from Laramie. He was a preferred walk-on in 2008 when Joe Glenn was the coach. His dad got a job in Casper the summer after he graduated from high school. When he got here, Saydjari decided just to go to school and not play football.

Two years later, he missed football and walked on to the team during the spring. He made it, and played defensive tackle to give the team some bodies there.

UW lists him as a defensive end, but has been getting all of his reps on offense. 

Other notes and observations from Thursday’s practice:

–True freshman Robert Herron looked good again at running back. He was moved there from receiver Wednesday. Herron, who has been timed at 10.5 seconds in the 100-meter dash, got a lot of reps with the No. 1 offense.

“I think he’s doing a tremendous job,” coach Dave Christensen said. “He’s got great quickness. He’s still learning the postion. When he gets in there he’s done well.”

Christensen added he isn’t ready to say where Herron is at on the depth chart.

–Another former receiver, redshirt freshman Brandon Miller, also has got some looks at running back since UW is short some bodies there. He’s done some nice things with the No. 3 offense, including a touchdown run during a red zone period Thursday.

–Junior running back James Davis ran for a touchdown with the No. 1 offense during the same red zone period. True freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr., had one with the No. 3 offense.

–Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and sophomore receiver Chris McNeill connected an a few nice passes during 7 on 7.

–A scout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was at practice.

–The team practiced in War Memorial Stadium under cloudy skies with some periods of light rain.

–Christensen said Saturday’s scrimmage will be mostly starters vs. backups.

“We do enough ones vs. ones in practice,” he said.

The scrimmage starts at 10 a.m.

See Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang on how junior Austin McCoy is back to pulling double duty, and how the two-deep roster is still coming together for the defense. Also see some UW reaction to the MWC adding Fresno State and Nevada, and what WyoSports senior columnist/writer Bob Hammond thinks of all this.

Also join me Saturday for a live blog during the scrimmage. A direct link to it is on this blog. Should be fun.

Practice news and notes

Wyoming just completed its first practice since Tuesday’s second scrimmage of fall camp Wednesday morning. The team was in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts under sunny skies, warm temperatures and little wind.

No changes on the depth chart for the ones or twos after the scrimmage. Junior middle linebacker Oliver Schober was with the No. 1 defense at  for junior Brian Hendricks (ankle). Hendricks hurt his left ankle in the scrimmage, and he missed a couple of games last year with a right ankle sprain. Hendricks said he should be back soon, even though he didn’t practice and was in a protective boot.

True freshman receiver Robert Herron got some snaps at running back. This was his first day there and he told me he took a lot of hand-offs on fly sweeps in high school in Los Angeles. Herron took snaps with the No. 1 offense, but also with the No. 3s.

“When I get the ball in my hand I can make something happen for the team,” Herron said.

Added coach Dave Christensen: “We’re trying different ways to get the ball in his hands and see what he can do as a play-maker.”

Other notes and observations:

–Senior Jack Tennant, who has missed time with a calf strain, had been working a lot the backup center behind sophomore Nick Carlson. But Tennant hurt his left leg or foot early in practice and didn’t return. True freshman Skyler Hinton (back) played some at center and guard before he was hurt. True freshman Travis Bogard and redshirt freshman walk-on Jed May of Casper are the backups now. May worked on his shotgun snaps after practice.

–Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels scored on a 25-yard run against the No. 2 defense in a two-minute drill near the end of practice.

–The two-minute drill was set up with the offense down two points, 1:50 was on the clock and there were two time outs. The No. 1 defense held the No. 2 offense. In a battle of No. 3 units, the offense moved the ball for about a 35-yard field goal, but both senior Austin McCoy and sophomore Ian Watts missed.

–Junior-college transfer receiver Jonathan Aiken has earned the nickname “Slim” by receivers coach Derek Sage.

–The receivers did some extra conditioning work after practice for some of their struggles during practice.

–Junior cornerback Tashaun Gipson fielded some punts behind senior David Leonard.

–Sophomore tight end David Tooley returned to practice for the first time in more than a week. He left last week for personal reasons but decided to return. He worked with the No. 3 offense. For more on him, see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

Scrimmage No. 1 thoughts

The optimists will say the defense was just that good.

The pessimists will say the offense was that bad.

I think it was a little of both for Wyoming in its first scrimmage of fall camp Friday morning.

The defense, both the ones and twos, flew around and played well, especially in pass coverage. UW quarterbacks ran 23 times, and I would guess 80 percent of those were because the coverage down field was good.

Or, as coach Dave Christensen said: “Most of the issues were guys not getting open. The pass protection seemed good to me.”

The defense won the 128-play scrimmage 52-33 in  UW’s scoring system. There were no ones vs. ones. It was all starters vs. backups, or threes vs. threes.

The No. 1 offense scored just 10 points, and sophomore QB Austyn Carta-Sameuls was less than stellar. He was 9 of 17 for 89 yards and an interception (should have had two). He bolted after the scrimmage to talk to some of his coaches and didn’t come back until about 30 minutes later to talk to the media.

“I’ve always been a winner, and I hate losing,” Carta-Samuels said. “I haven’t done much losing, to be honest. After that I really needed a break and didn’t want to talk to anybody other than my coaches and air what I was feeling and what was going on for me. For me to lose leaves me a very sick feeling in my stomach. I’m 19 years old and I can cry like a baby after I lose.”

“I let down my teammates down, but there is a lot of room to improve.”

Some other observations:

–UW’s new Thunder and Lightning combo (see my story at www.wyomingnews.com or www.laramieboomerang.com) of true freshman receiver Robert Herron and JC transfer Jonathan Aiken saw a lot of playing time. Herron caught three passes for 32 yards. Aiken didn’t catch a pass but had a couple of long passes thrown his way.

–The longest play of the scrimmage was a 49-yard run by true freshman walk-on running back Vincent Bobbitt with the No. 3 offense.

–The defense had seven sacks and 24 tackles for a loss of 66 yards. Redshirt freshman Patrick Mertens and sophomore Mike Purcell looked great at defensive tackle with the No. 1 defense. They combined for 10 tackles and four tackles for loss.

–Some bad news at defensive tackle as junior Alex Stover’s career is done because of a lingering groin injury. He will remain as a volunteer student assistant coach.

–A ruling is out on linebacker Oliver Schober’s eligibility. The 23-year-old from Germany will have three years to play two. He was listed as a true freshman. Per NCAA rules, after you turn 21 and play with some “club” level sports, you lose a year of eligibility for each year you play.

–A buzz is going on about Schober’s ability to kickoff. Two of his three went for touchbacks in the scrimmage. One was an ugly line-drive that bounced at about the 20 and trickled into the end zone.

–Two of the more impressive freshmen today were defensive ends Sonny Puletasi and Riley Lange. Puletasi had two sacks and Lange had one. They worked mostly against the No. 3 offense.

–Senior Austin McCoy took the first reps with the No. 1 field goal and extra point team. He made a 24-yard field goal, but had a 20-yarder blocked. He doesn’t get the ball up as fast as sophomore Ian Watts, who will miss the season-opener because of a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

–The MRI on true freshman running back Nehemie Kankolngo’s knee is in, and Christensen said he expects him to be ready for the Sept. 11 game at Texas. Like Watts, Kankolongo was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. He didn’t play in the scrimmage.

Wyoming returns to practice twice Saturday, with the first at 8:45 a.m. Will post live updates via Twitter at www.twitter.com/rpgagliardi.

Thanks to all those that joined me for the live blog from today’s scrimmage. It was a blast and tons of great conversation. Will try to do it again Tuesday.