Biggest key to fall camp for UW

Wyoming begins fall camp Monday morning, and I talk about the top five concerns/things to watch in my column in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also online at www.wyosports.net.

Here is my No. 1 thing to watch, and would love to hear what you think. Hope you will read the rest of the column in the papers or online and give me your feedback.

1. Defense

Much of this involves the defensive line, and who exactly will play.

This unit took a hit when senior Ben Durbin, a projected starter at defensive end, left after the spring semester and will finish his career at Iowa State.

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Thoughts on MW preseason poll, team

For the most part, the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference team and predicted order of finish was similar to what I submitted.

There were 30 people who voted. Here’s the predicted order of finish:

1. Boise State (27)            296

2. Nevada                            244

3. Fresno State (2)           231

4. Wyoming                        213

5. San Diego St. (1)          173

6. Air Force                         170

7. Hawaii                              116

8. Colorado St.                   111

9. UNLV                                63

10. New Mexico                   33

I had Wyoming third, San Diego State fourth and Fresno State fifth. Other than that, everything was the same.

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Will or should Washington return to UW hoops team?

Earlier this week the police report was released on the incident involving Wyoming basketball players Leonard Washington and Shakir Smith. Here is the link to the story http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2012/06/06/sports/19sports_06-06-12.txt

Now that more details are out, do you think Washington will or should be allowed to rejoin the team? He is still suspended indefinitely for this incident, and another that occurred about two weeks prior to this one?

Washington is in Laramie this summer working and going to school. UW is giving him every opportunity to make amends for his mistakes. It’s up to Washington now. Is that good or bad, or right or wrong in your opinion?

Smith is not suspended and still with the team.

We had some great discussion and debate when UW football player Ben Durbin decided to leave for Iowa State for his senior year. Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this subject.

 

Durbin to play senior season at Iowa State

Wyoming’s defensive got thinner, at least figuratively, as defensive end Ben Durbin will play his senior season at Iowa State.

Durbin graduated from UW with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and NCAA rules allow student-athletes to transfer to other schools and play right away if they’ve received their bachelor’s and choose to pursue a higher degree elsewhere.

A story on Cyclones.com was published Wednesday, and UW media relations director Tim Harkins confirmed that Durbin wouldn’t return to the Cowboys. Durbin is from Gilbert, Iowa.

“I wanted to play for Cyclone Nation,” Durbin told Cyclones.com. “I can play in front of my family. This is God’s Country to me and I have always been an Iowa State fan. … Laramie is a great place. This is not about Wyoming. … Coming home is a dream.”

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UW scrimmage thoughts

To say the defense dominated in Wyoming’s first official spring scrimamge Wednesday would be an understatement.

The defense forced six turnovers, including four interceptions and defeated the offense in UW’s unique scoring system 72-41.

Was more impressed with the defensive dominance than concerned about the offensive woes. There’s some concern about the offense, but the defense was just down right good.

The line was active, whether it was in a 3-4 or 4-3. This is a true multiple defense folks. The guy that was a stud was senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau. He had nine tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. He was unblockable.

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UW-UNLV postgame thoughts

Other than the second quarter there was a lot to be impressed about in Wyoming’s 41-14 win over UNLV.

The run game generated 231 yards, the second-most this season. It was the best I’ve seen true freshman quarterback Brett Smith run all season. He said most of his 10 runs were based on plays breaking down or reads from the defense. Not that he needed to pass a lot, but I thought Smith seemed out of sync today, other than early in the game. Part of the growing pains for a true freshman quarterback.

Smith also said he has “no hands” when asked about the touchdown pass he caught from junior receiver Chris McNeill on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Said coach Dave Christensen after Smith said that: “Now you tell me.”

Smith said he had never caught at TD in his football career.

Great to see McNeill have a good game after his muffed punt in the second quarter. His 76-yard punt return for a TD in the third quarter was UW’s first since Josh Barge returned one 87 yards and a score against Ole Miss in 2004.

All five of UW’s touchdowns were scored by five different players.

The 104 yards of passing UNLV had was a season-low allowed by UW’s defense. UNLV wasn’t much of a threat to throw. Sean Reilly, who made his first start, wasn’t very good, and Taylor Barnhill came in during the first half and didn’t attempt a pass. Sophomore Caleb Herrng, who started in the Rebels’ first five games, came in late and didn’t look bad. UNLV may want to go back to Herring.

Junior defensive tackle Ben Durbin recorded the first two sacks of his career, and I thought the interior guys of Durbin, Kurt Taufa’asau and B.J. Sumter held their own. Christensen said he’s hopeful juniors Mike Purcell and Miraldo Michel will be back for UW’s next game with San Diego State on Oct. 29. Both were out with injuries. Michel’s has been lingering and it was determined late in the week he couldn’t play against UNLV.

Christensen will be on the road recruiting early next week. The team won’t practice again until Thursday, but must be back for meetings and conditioning by Tuesday.

See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle for more game coverage, including my column on McNeill and a story by Scott Nulph on how UW’s defense responded after last week’s 63-19 loss at Utah State.

Nine UW players recognized by Phil Steele

Nine Wyoming football players made Phil Steele’s midseason All-Mountain West team, which was released today.

In my earlier Twitter post on this, I said there were eight. Sorry, math and counting were never my specialty. LOL

None made the first team, but three made the second team and six made the third team.

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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.

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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