Bowl bits to chew on

Wyoming needs one more victory to become bowl eligible, and it’s an early 25-point favorite to beat 1-9 New Mexico Saturday in Laramie to get that seventh win.

It’s a pretty safe assumption if the Cowboys are bowl eligible that they will play in their second bowl game in three years. But there are some interesting dynamics that could alter their bowl chances so I thought I would throw out some nuggets for you to think about and comment on.

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Former coaches, players speak out

Here’s the story that ran in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com on what some former Wyoming men’s basketball players and coaches think what it will take for the next coach to be successful.

http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2011/02/27/sports/20sports_02-27-11.txt

Many felt Wyoming needs to look back at its past and look how guys like Jim Brandenburg (176-97 in nine seasons from 1979-87) did it.

Here were Brandenburg’s four keys to having a successful program at Wyoming, or anywhere:

1. Play hard

2. Play good defense, and the best statistic to tell if you are is field-goal percentage defense

3. Shot discipline on offense, which means take good shots and make them

4. Have at least a +10 rebounding margin.

“The rest of it is trivial,” Brandenburg said.

No one I talked to gave specific names on who they thought should be UW’s next coach, although some gave some hints. You should be able to tell with some of their quotes.

One common theme from those I talked to was the next coach, whether he has ties to UW, the program and/or the state, should know about the history of Wyoming basketball.

“I think it’s important for a couple of reasons: one, to teach the importance of the tradition and pride in the program,” Cheyenne East graduate and former UW player Marc Bailey said. “Two, if they can get that some day in a head coach, you might get someone who will stay for the long term if they’re successful.”

Would love to hear your thoughts on this and the article.

On a side note, I thought the UW men’s played hard once again at UNLV despite the loss, and the Cowgirls kept on rolling.

And did any of you catch the BYU-San Diego State men’s game?

Wow, did BYU look good! Hate to say it but the Cougs look to be a more well-rounded team right now and can hurt teams in a lot of different ways offensively.

Schroyer talks about negativity

Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer wasn’t happy his team lost 69-62 at home to No. 8 Brigham Young Wednesday.

But he was pleased with the effort from his team, and the overall execution.

UW held BYU to 15 points below its scoring average, and caused senior point guard Jimmer Fredette to have his worst shooting game of the season. He was 7 of 21 from the field, but 10 of 11 from the line including a huge three-point play with 47.6 seconds to play.

The Cowboys are 8-14 overall, have lost six in a row and are in last place in the MWC at 1-7.

Not a lot to be positive about, despite a gutsy effort tonight.

“It’s been a very negative environment around this program for a month, and that’s been very taxing on these kids,” Schroyer said. “I’m really proud of them and how they came out tonight and really executed.”

“There’s been a lot of things that’s been out of this team’s control for a year and a half. When your limited on who you can play in practice and who you  an play in a game, and the league becomes the fourth-best league in the country, you’re going to struggle at times.

“I’m proud of our guys. This is a high-character group and has stuck together. It’s just very unfortunate the negativity that has surrouned this program for a month. It is what it is. Our kids have really battled and stayed together.”

Any thoughts on that?

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Some other notes and quotes from the game:

–“I didn’t really get it going, our team didn’t really get it going great tonight, but we were able to get a win,” Fredette said. “Sometimes you just don’t play well. We didn’t shoot the ball well (40.7 percent and 5 of 24 from 3-point range) and Wyoming was ready to play and had a great game plan.”

–Schroyer said BYU sophomore forward Brandon Davies is “next pro” on the Cougars’ roster. He was good against UW with 20 points and nine rebounds.

–Schroyer said junior center Adam Waddell had an MRI on his foot prior to the game Wednesday. Waddell played, but only 11 minutes off the bench with no points and three rebounds. Kind of weird to have an MRI the same day you play a game, isn’t it? Would hate to see another injury setback for Waddell.

–Schroyer also said sophomore forward Brian Gibson didn’t play due to back spasms.

–“I kept emploring our team to don’t play not to lose, we have to play to win. I thought we did that. I can’t fault our effort,” Schroyer said.

–Senior forward Djibril Thiam scored 12 points for his first double-digit scoring game in league play this season. He also had three blocked shots and is now tied for ninth place in school history with 82.

–Junior guard Francisco Cruz matched a career-high with 16 points and had a career-best nine rebounds. More impressively, he played all 40 minutes for the fourth time this season.

–The attendance of 5,131 was the first over 5,000 for UW this season, and largest of the season as well. There were times where the crowd was really into the game. I also noticed more BYU fans than normal. Many of them waited after the game to get Fredette’s autograph.

For more on this game, a complete recap of football signing day and an interesting historical piece on UW men’s hoops by Bob Hammond see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

Reaction to BYU going independent

Here is some reaction Tuesday from BYU’s announcement it will go independent in football and to the West Coast Conference in other sports:

University of Wyoming President Tom Buchanan

““It’s BYU’s decision to leave the MWC, but I know that UW and the rest of the Mountain West Conference will be moving forward, continuing to build our reputation in all of our sports and aggressively seeking opportunities for our student-athletes to compete at the highest collegiate level.  Rivalries energize crowds, raise the level of competition and provide fans with exciting moments in Cowboy and Cowgirl athletics.  I’m confident that level of excitement will continue to be the hallmark of the MWC.”

UW Athletics Director Tom Burman

“BYU was a long-time rival, but we have to look forward. We can’t lose sight of the fact that this league has much to be proud of. We look forward to working with the other members of our conference and to continue building for the future. We’re proud of what we have accomplished across all of our sports, and we are proud of the accomplishments of our Mountain West rivals, which we’re pleased to say now include Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada.”

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall to The Salt Lake Tribune

“I support our administration’s decision. I think there will be a chance for tremendous exposure for our program and more details will come [Wednesday], I am certain. As far as I am concerned, I am supportive of it and anxious to coach the team in a new situation.”

Loyola Marymount Athletics Director William Husak to The Salt Lake Tribune

“I can’t speak for every athletic department, but I can tell you there was a unanimous consensus about the prospect of bringing BYU into the West Coast Conference.”

MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson

“Since its inception, the Mountain West Conference has worked strategically to grow and strengthen the league, in order to position itself at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. Our Board of Directors’ diligent exploration of options to advance the membership’s objectives is ongoing. This includes conversations with our television partners to address issues of mutual importance, as well as determining the optimal configuration for the Conference and investigating the possibility of various collaborative alliances.  We look forward to the future with great excitement – particularly welcoming recent additions Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada into the Mountain West.”

For more on this, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Familiar faces for Lester, Ogbonna

They may not have an advanced scouting report, but Wyoming junior receivers DeJay Lester and Mazi Ogbonna are familiar with some of the Southern Utah players when the two teams play Saturday in Laramie.

Lester and Ogbonna came to UW last winter from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, which isn’t that far from Southern Utah in Cedar City.

Starting right tackle Brandon Beddes, starting defensive end Tyler Osborne and starting punter/kicker Ryan McNamara were teammates of Lester and Ogbonna at Snow.

“I talked to a couple of them (Sunday) night,” said Lester, the backup behind sophomore Chris McNeill at one of the four receiver spots. “They texted and said they were ready to come up here and play. (Southern Utah) has some good persoonel. Some of the players we played with at Snow that are there are high-caliber players.”

Ogbonna is listed as a starter in this game.

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On his radio show Monday night, UW coach Dave Christensen said UW has 71 players on scholarship right now. The maximum for a FBS program is 85.

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After 10 starts as a true freshman last season, you would think UW quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has a better feel of what to expect in his first start of 2010.

Maybe, but that doesn’t diminish his excitement.

“It’s incredibly different and really exciting starting a new chapter with a whole new team, and me being a major part of it,” he said. “Every year is a different year and for me my year really started against UNLV last year (his first ever start). I have that  same feeling in my stomach now.”

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This will be UW’s first true night home-opener since 1988 when it beat Brigham Young 24-14. It also will debut its new suites and club seats, and the hype seems to be at a similar level for this opener that the one in 2007 when  a sellout crowd watched the Cowboys beat Virginia 23-3.

But that game was played during the day.

“You can’t get caught up in the hype, but it adds excitement to the whole thing,” Carta-Samuels said. “College football is more exciting because more people are involved and  more is riding on each game. But high school football is the most fun to play because you’re playing at night under the lights. You have everyone you know there.

“It’s going to be awesome under the lights in our home stadium. I will have my family there behind me, as well as the student body who is like my new family. It will be really exciting.”

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The first Mountain West Conference coaches teleconference was Tuesday morning. It went about 30 to 40 minutes long due to the influx of questions.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he knows nothing, and likes it that way, in terms of whether or not his school will leave the MWC. BYU has until Wednesday to decide if it wants to be elsewhere next season.

MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson wasn’t available for comment on the call. He often is at the end after all the coaches are done.

TCU coach Gary Patterson put his teams through the heat this summer, and Colorado State looks to be the only FBS team to start a true freshman at quarterback.

For more on that, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

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I made a mistake in my post yesterday. My live chat to talk Wyoming football, or anything for that matter, will be at 3 p.m. THURSDAY. Not Friday as I stated yesterday. Here is a direct link to the chat http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/08/31/live-chat-cowboy-football/

On Friday, our special UW football section comes out. I think you’re going to like it. You definitely need to pick up a copy of the Tribune Eagle or Boomerang that day to check it out!

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.

Whittingham, Holmoe, Utah AG talk BCS

Some notable items from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, BYU atheltics director Tom Holmoe and Utah attorney general Mark Schurtleff on the BCS during a panel discussion at the Associated Press Sports Editors summer covention in Salt Lake City Friday afternoon.

–Schurtleff said he feels he has a winning case to continue to fight the BCS in terms of violating anti-trust rules.

–Whittingham said under current system teams don’t win a national football championship, they are awarded it.

–Holmoe said it’s too early to determine right now if BYU and Utah will continue playing football or in any other sports with Utah recently leaving the Mountain West for the Pac-10. Whittingham hopes the football series continues.

–Whittingham said this first wave of conference expansion was the first one in what he feels will be a series of superconferences. Holmoe isn’t so sure.

–Schurtleff said money could be the driving force in getting a playoff down the road in terms of a playoff could be more lucrative than the current BCS system. Holmoe doesn’t think that will happen.

–Whittingham said all the coaches at Utah formulating plans and wish lists to their bosses for what it will take to be competitive in the Pac-10.

–Question was asked about a selection committee to form a football playoff, like the for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Good question and possibly not a bad solution.

Perhaps nothing earth-shattering from this, but what do you think? Let me know with a comment, or via Twitter at twitter.com/rpgagliardi.