Cowboys coaches will be busy during bye week

Wyoming may not have a football game this week, but its coaches will be plenty busy.

The Cowboys held their first practice Tuesday since their 56-14 loss at No. 10 Michigan State last Saturday. They will practice Wednesday and Thursday, and will return to practice Saturday.

But starting Thursday, several UW coaches will be on the road recruiting for a couple of days before heading back to Laramie for Saturday’s practice, which will be in the afternoon.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about specific recruits until they have signed, but first-year coach Craig Bohl said UW will have coaches in Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona, California and Utah.

Utah is the interesting place, and specifically, UW will be in Salt Lake City. There is a lot of competition for players in the Beehive state with Utah, Utah State, Brigham Young, Weber State and Southern Utah. But Utah, and specifically the Salt Lake area, has a lot of football talent.

UW has not recruited that area steady for a long time. There are junior colleges there, but could the Cowboys get some prep prospects from there?

Bohl said now that he and his staff have had some time to get established in Laramie, he said recruiting — or at least interest in UW — has “significantly improved” from when he was hired in early December of last year.

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Michigan State gave UW the blueprint of being physical

A bye week doesn’t mean the Wyoming football team won’t be busy.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said the team will work on its Oct. 11 game at Hawaii, work on fundamentals, get players stronger and healthy and send coaches on the road recruiting later in the week.

Bohl said again this is a good time for a bye week. UW is 3-2 and both of its losses were by a combined 76 points to top 10 teams. Bohl said both Oregon and Michigan State may be top four teams.

The Cowboys lost 56-14 last Saturday at No. 9 Michigan State — now No. 10 in the polls — and Bohl said the Spartans played with a purpose and physicality that UW would one day like to be.

Bohl has talked about that a lot since he was hired as coach, but the players got to see first hand what that was all about.

Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy

“It was a whole different game there,” sophomore right guard Sam Hardy said. “They were physical, and you felt it on every play. That’s where we want to get to. It can happen, but it takes time. You can’t just wake up and be a physical team.”

Added senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha: “(Michigan State) was the most physical team we’ve faced. I wouldn’t say we weren’t prepared. We knew what was coming, but it was definitely something to get used to. It took us a while, and they took advantage of it.”

Bohl said it didn’t feel good for his team to witness first-hand how good and physical Michigan State was, but also said it was “critical” that it happened. “That should send a message to a lot of the younger players for them to say ‘that’s what coach is talking about.’ (Michigan State) was aggressive, coming off the ball and manhandling people. Sometimes you can talk until you are blue in the face, but until they see what it’s like is another things. They will learn from that.”

Here is video of Bohl’s Monday news conference:

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Kamana has extra motivation to play this week

Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Wyoming redshirt freshman strong safety Tim Kamana when the Cowboys (3-1) play at No. 9 Michigan State.

Kamana’s father, Carter, lettered at Michigan State as a cornerback from 1981-84. Tim Kamana said his dad took him to a Michigan State football camp before his junior year of high school, and he also went to one before his senior year.

Kamana said Michigan State showed some interest in him, but there was no scholarship offer.

Saturday, with his dad in attendance and his sister, who attends Michigan State, Kamana gets to play in the same stadium his dad did 30 years ago.

And, Kamana could make his first-ever start as senior Jesse Sampson injured a knee in last Saturday’s 20-19 UW win over Florida Atlantic in Laramie.

Kamana’s uncle and grandfather both played college football at USC, so football is in the family blood. Here is what Kamana said about Saturday’s game:

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UW-Florida Atlantic Q&A swap

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer swap with Cyrus Smith, who covers Florida Atlantic football for the website, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @Cyrus31193

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

After road losses to Nebraska and Alabama to start the season, Florida Atlantic looked impressive in a 50-21 home win over Tulsa last week. What came together for the Owls and was that performance what most fans expect from the team this season?

Essentially, FAU played with a sense of urgency. After winning the last four games to end last year a lot of momentum was built for the next season for a potential Conference USA title run and bowl bid. Although many didn’t expect the Owls to win either of the games, the fan base definitely expected a better showing. The offensive performance was what the fans expected for the year. It also helped that FAU played a team that didn’t have a roster full of NFL players.

Quarterback Jaquez Johnson had a big game against Tulsa with 318 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters. Is he the guy that makes the offense go, and if so, what does he do to make that happen?

His versatility as a dual-threat quarterback makes this offense capable of putting up big numbers, but his ability to stay away from turnovers and negative plays is where his value can’t be unmatched. With this being his second year with offensive coordinator Brian Wright, he seems more comfortable taking shots downfield. Against Tulsa, Johnson completed two passes over 50 yards for touchdowns. If Johnson and the Owls are getting big gains through the air, FAU’s offense will be hard to stop.

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UW football coach breaks down Cowboys after three games

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl spoke to the media for about 25 minutes Monday during his weekly news conference, and one of the questions he was asked to assess the Cowboys after three games.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

“We have two good running backs (junior Shaun Wick and sophomore D.J. May). A quarterback (senior Colby Kirkegaard) who is making progress and shown he can make plays when he has to, has made decisions under duress and done some good things. He’s still inconsistent at times.

“Our offensive line is making progress, but is not as dominant as what we like. We have an experienced and capable receiving corps. I think they can make a lot of plays. We have a big, strong and physical defensive line that plays really hard, but we’re not as explosive as where we need to be. Our linebackers are solid. (Senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha has shown he can run and play with most anybody out there.

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UW-No. 2 Oregon postgame thoughts

I don’t think anyone was surprised Wyoming lost 48-14 at No. 2 Oregon Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

But there were some surprises that came from the game.

Even though Oregon’s offense is loaded with speed and athleticism, I thought the Cowboys would stop the Ducks at times. But they didn’t.

Oregon rolled up 556 total yards and scored touchdowns on seven of 10 drives. On the ones it didn’t score on, it went 78 yards on the first drive of the game and UW made one of its few stops of the day on a fourth-and-2 play from the Cowboys’ 3. The other two were when the backups were in late. ne drive was at the end of the game as Oregon ran out the clock after UW was held inside the Ducks’ 10-yard line.

The Ducks punted only once — with their backups in the third quarter.

Here is senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha, who had a game-high 11 tackles, on the Oregon offense.

Oregon junior quarterback Marcus Mariota showed why he is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. He was 19 of 23 for 221 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 5 times for 71 yards and two TDs. UW coach Craig Bohl said if the voting was today, he would vote Mariota for Heisman, and urged those in the media who have votes to seriously consider Mariota for the award.

Here’s what Bohl said after the game to the media:

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UW-Montana postgame notes and quotes

Here are some leftover notes and quotes from Wyoming’s 17-12 season-opening win over Montana Saturday:

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

–“It was a good start, but we can be better.” — UW coach Craig Bohl on UW having only one penalty in the game — an illegal motion penalty early in the fourth quarter — and how his team managed the clock throughout the game. UW’s time of possession was 34:54. It’s best last season was 28:31.

— “That why he was in there. He wa ble to make a play. He has a bright future. You never know they’re going to react, and he answered the bell.” — Bohl on the 18-yard run late in the fourth quarter by true freshman running back Brian Hill.

“I just kind of go out there and do it, and have fun doing it. I remember I was out there and (the public address system) was playing one song that I really like (Closing Time). I was like, that was my song and I was out there just running over guys.” — junior running back Shaun Wick on a couple of his second-half runs when he ran over and dragged Montana defenders for extra yardage.

–“That was amazing. I was so happy for him. I was like ‘that was my little brother out there making plays.’ ” — Senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha on the blocked punt by his brother — sophomore tight end Eric Nzeocha.

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Cowboys’ team captains for 2014 announced Monday

Colby Kirkegaard

Colby Kirkegaard

Wyoming’s team captains were announced Friday, and Sunday I predicted they would be redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard, senior receiver Dominic Rufran, junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough and senior cornerback Blair Burns.

Three out of four isn’t bad. Instead of Burns it is senior free safety Darrenn White.






UW fall camp – Day 10

Wyoming has an interesting situation forming at linebacker, and not just for this season.

All three of its projected starters — Mark Nzeocha and Devyn Harris on the outside, and Jordan Stanton inside — are seniors. Stanton’s backup, Alex Borgs, third-string outside linebacker Nehemie Kankolongo also are seniors.

There are only four linebackers on the depth chart on scholarship that are not seniors: sophomore Lucas Wacha, juniors Jeff Lark and Malkaam Muhammad and true freshman Alex Bush.

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

Wacha is the only one of that group that has seen significant and meaningful playing time, and that was last season as redshirt freshman. Right now, Wacha is out with a concussion.

It is safe to assume linebacker will be an emphasis for the 2015 recruiting class. But aside from getting the starters solidified and ready for the season, what about getting those non-senior backups ready not only for this season, but for the future?

“I’m focused right now who our best three guys in our base situation, and then who our best two nickel linebackers,” UW defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard said. “As far as only having five guys coming back next year, (head coach) Craig Bohl focuses more on that stuff. He’s our director of player personnel.”

Steve Stanard

Steve Stanard

Stanard said Lark, Nzeocha’s backup, had a good summer and has had a good fall camp so far. Same with Harris. Stanard said the staff is trying to see if Bush can help the team on special teams.

Here is what Bohl said after Wednesday morning’s practice.

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UW fall camp – Day 6

Wyoming’s first period of its Saturday morning practice was some 11-on-11 work.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said he often does this because it is a good — and difficult — drill for the quarterbacks because there is a lot of “chaos” going on. It allows them to think things through and prepare for what might happen in the early portions of any game. In this case, it is for the season-opener three weeks from today against Montana.

There was a good mix of the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense and twos vs. twos.

Colby Kirkegaard

Colby Kirkegaard

No big surprises with the No. 1 offense. Redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard took all the snaps with the ones. UW is still without their two starting right tackles in sophomore Nathan Leddige (left) and senior Connor Rains (right) due to head and concussion issues. Rains was at Saturday morning’s practice in uniform, and Bohl said he didn’t have a concusssion Leddige was not at the practice, and does have a concussion.

Redshirt freshman Kurtis Stirneman was on the left side and junior Austin Traphagan on the right with the No. 1 offense. With the twos it looked like true freshman Ryan Cummings on the left and redshirt freshman Taylor Knestis on the right.

Added Bohl on the offensive line: “I’d say of all the position groups on the field that is unsettled, that’s it.”

UW practiced in shoulder pads and helmets, so there was no tackling. The No. 1 defense recorded a few sacks. Senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha had one.

Jake Maulhardt

Jake Maulhardt

For the second-teamers, sophomore quarterback Tom Thornton thew a nice deep ball to sophomore receiver Jake Maulhardt.

Kirkegaard and Thornton were the only quarterbacks who took snaps during that team period.

Saw a handful of true freshmen get some time with the No. 2 units. On offense, there was Cummings along the line, and tight ends Brinkley Jolley and Grant Lewis. Defensively, there was cornerbacks Robert Priester and Ryon’e Winters, and safety Chavez Pownell Jr.

UW lists three positions on defense with an “or” in terms of the starters. For this team period, senior middle linebacker Jordan Stanton, senior outside linebacker Devyn Harris and sophomore nose tackle Chase Appleby worked with the first team. However, their backups — senior Alex Borgs, sophomore Lucas Wacha and sophomore Uso Olive — all played a lot. Bohl said among the linebacker, Stanton and Harris are likely to be the starters. He also said Appleby and Olive both will play a lot, along with the starter and backup at defensive tackle. The starter is senior Patrick Mertens. The backup is unknonw, but redshirt junior Troy Boyland appears to be the favorite.

After that team period UW went into some individual drill work, and here are some video highlights from that:

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