News, notes and quotes from Scrimmage #2

After looking so good Tuesday, one had to figure true freshman quarterback Brett Smith wouldn’t be as sharp in Friday’s second scrimmage for the Wyoming football team.

Smith threw an interception on his first series against the No. 2 defense, but came back and threw a 16-yard TD pass to senior Mazi Ogbonna later on. Smith was 15 of 23 for 160 yards with a touchdown and interception.

“(Smith’s) only struggles came against the No. 1 defense, really,” said coach Dave Christensen, who isn’t allowing quarterbacks to talk to the media. “That’s not all bad. I hope our No. 1 defense is better than our twos. It was good for (Smith) to go against the top guys, even though he does every day in practice. I thought he was fine. He made a couple of rookie mistakes, but that’s why you practice and get them corrected.

Smith guided the No. 1 offense only for the second straight scrimmage. In four series against the No. 1 defense, Smith was able to generate a field goal and that came in the red zone period.

True freshman Adam Pittser and junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard were much better today, especially Pittser. Kirkegaard was 16 of 21 for 124 yards; Pittser was 15 of 32 for 133. He struggled a bit late, but Pittser looked much more comfortable.

“I thought Adam and Colby improved drastically from the last scrimmage, which was great,” Christensen said. “I would have liked (all three quarterbacks) to be where they’re at now. If we were further behind we’d be in trouble. They’ve made great progress.”

Christensen didn’t name a starter after today, nor would you expect him to. I think Smith still has the advantage, but the gap may have been closed somewhat.

Some other notes and quotes:

–Christensen said junior running back Ghaali Muhammad could play in the next scrimmage, but may hold him out until the final scrimmage a week from Saturday. He said Muhammad has taken live reps in practice this week. He’s still nursing an injury suffered in the off-season.

–Senior defensive end Gabe Knapton is sporting quite the beard these days. He’s been growing it since Christmas and doesn’t plan to shave it any time soon. “I’m too lazy to shave it right now. I’ve been playing good with it and I think I’m going to keep it,” he said. Knapton said his girlfriend isn’t the biggest fan of the beard, but thinks his teammates like it. Said junior linebacker Korey Jones: “I like the beard. It’s a nice look and style for Gabe. Knapton said he doesn’t trim the beard, but puts some “product” in it once in a while. When asked if it stinks, Jones said: “I never got close enough to tell.”

–UW’s top three receivers in the scrimmage were freshmen. True freshman Dominic Rufran caught eight passes for 63 yards. Redshirt freshman Sam Stratton caught seven for 63 yards, and true freshman Trey Norman caught five passes for 50 yards. All three were impressive.

–Christensen didn’t seem concerned that true freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan struggled. Sullivan didn’t play because of an injury Tuesday. He was only 5 of 10 in field goals Friday with a long of 32. He often kicked the ball low. Christensen said both he and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams needs to heal up and get over some soreness.

–Was very impressed by junior linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones. Nine tackles in the scrimmage, including three for loss. He’s going to have a good season.

–Speaking of linebackers, true freshman Mark Nzeocha didn’t play in the scrimmage due to injury, but Christensen said he would be ready for the first game. Injuries to him and others like seniors Brian Hendricks and Oliver Schober, have forced UW to move some guys around position-wise, and also just on the field to try and confuse teams. Jones is a good example of that playing sometimes as a stand-up end or a traditional linebacker. “The more you can move the more of an effect you can have on our opponent. They can’t study on one thing. You can confuse the offene nand I like it,” said senior defensive end Gabe Knapton, who also has played at defensive tackle in some situations during camp.

–True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarborough had three sacks and eight total tackles. It all came mostly against the second and third-team offenses, but he has 15 tackles and four sacks in two scrimmages. “He’s had a great camp,” Christensen said. “He’s going to be a heck of a player for us. Eddie is fortunate in that he’s playing a position where we have a lot of experience right now. If we play him or redshirt him it’s not all that bad. I don’t see a negative in either one. He’s big enough and physical enough to play, and if we had him in his fifth year he could be an All-American by then.”

–Friday marked the eighth day of fall camp for UW, and it’s already had two scrimmages. I asked junior safety Kenny Browder, who has been around for all three fall camps under Christensen, if this was the most physical fall camp he’s been a part of with the Cowboys: “Definately. Coach C makes it a point to be physical every day. … “It’s toug and a grind, but that’s football.”

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for more on Friday’s scrimmage. Thanks to all those who joined me for the live chat today. I hope to do it again for Tuesday’s scrimmage.