Injuries, player turnover mounts for Cowboys

This month can’t end fast enough for the Wyoming football team.

For the third consecutive week, UW lost a critical player to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. When the Cowboys play at Fresno State Saturday night it will be without five starters on defense who held those roles at the start of the season. They also will be without their top two running backs.

I could list all the bad news, but I will let coach Craig Bohl tell you here in this video from his weekly news conference.

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Cowboys put bye week to good use

There may not have been a game, but that doesn’t mean the Wyoming football team didn’t get a lot of work done last week.

Yes, the Cowboys used the bye week for some guys to rest and recover mentally and physically from their first five games. But the team practiced four times, including a Saturday afternoon practice after the coaches returned from recruiting.

“It was definitely a work week,” junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough said. “(This coaching staff) do their bye weeks a lot different than other programs. They let us get our bodies back, but we also grinded because we have a game with Hawaii coming up.”

First-year coach Craig Bohl said he felt it was important to practice and keep the players’ focus on football because everything is still new in terms of offense, defense and special teams. Bohl felt if the players got too much time off that it would be a lot like starting from scratch in terms of getting them back to the task at hand, which is getting better and preparing for Saturday’s game at Hawaii.

“It was a lot like game-mode,” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said.

Here is video from Bohl’s news conference with the media Monday:


Added junior running back Shaun Wick: “It was definitely a hard bye week. We got a lot done in the weight room. Practice-wise, it was just hard. It was a grind, even though we did get time for recovery and maintaining strength.”

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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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UW-Michigan State postgame thoughts

The score indicated Wyoming got beat by 42 points — not sure if it was that close.

The Cowboys lost 56-14 at No. 9 Michigan State Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans scored touchdowns on their first offensive possessions.

UW had no answer for Michigan State’s offense — running or passing. The Cowboys’ offense — aside from a few big plays — did nothing against the Spartans’ defense.

UW had a season-low 286 yards. Most of those plays came on four plays: 57-yard touchdown run by junior running back Shaun Wick in the first quarter, a 26-yard run by Wick later in that quarter, a 52-yard pass from senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard to senior receiver Jalen Claiborne late in the second quarter and a 41-yard pass from Kirkegaard to sophomore receiver Tanner Gentry — also in the second quarter.

That’s 176 yards on those four plays — 110 the rest of the game.

There were three turnovers that resulted in 14 Michigan State points. Kirkegaard was sacked six times.

Defensively, UW allowed 338 yards rushing and 195 passing. Michigan State didn’t have to pass much, and three quarterbacks played. Still, the Spartans were 16 of 20 through the air.

There were a lot of missed tackles for UW — more this game than we’ve seen so far this season. Hope that isn’t a sign of things to come.

Here is first-year coach Craig Bohl after the game:

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UW fall camp – Day 15

Monday marked the last of five two-a-day practices, and the players were in shoulder pads and shorts Monday morning.

It also was the first practice since last Saturday’s scrimmage, and a day off for the players. But first-year coach Craig Bohl said some players were late to breakfast and he had to get on them prior to practice.

Here is what Bohl had to say after Monday morning’s practice:


UW’s new walk-on kicker — true freshman Pierce Royster — was at practice. He was not in pads as he has to go through an acclimation period. But he did some kicking with senior Stuart Williams prior to practice as Bohl watched. Both guys kicked field goals off a tee from numerous distances and locations on the field. Williams looked to be the most consistent of the two, and made one from 52 yards.

Here is a quick video of that:

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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 9

Once again, Wyoming started its ninth day and 11th practice of fall camp Tuesday with some 11-on-11 work as the team practiced in full pads. It was all passes by the offense, and it looked like the defense took a look at some different blitz packages.

DeAndre Jones

DeAndre Jones

Senior cornerback DeAndre Jones had a good session. He broke up a deep pass from redshirt senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard to sophomore receiver Tanner Gentry deep down the field. Later, Jones jarred the ball loose from sophomore receiver Jake Maulhardt on a short pass over the middle.

The defense had the advantage over the offense for the most part, and it looked like at times the quarterbacks had issues with getting the play off before the play clock expired. Junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough had two sacks — although quarterbacks were not allowed to be hit. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Troy Boyland had a sack, and senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi had an athletic pass break-up in pass coverage.

Eddie Yarbrough

Eddie Yarbrough

Per usual, Kirkegaard and sophomore Tom Thornton were the only quarterbacks to take snaps during this period. All indications are that Kirkegaard still has a firm grasp of the starting job, and Thornton is the backup.

UW mixed and matched a few offensive linemen in with the No. 1 offense at times. Sophomore Sam Hardy played some at guard and redshirt freshman Kurtis Stirneman played a few snaps at left tackle. Sophomore starter Nathan Leddige remains out with a concussion. Most of the snaps there went to junior Austin Traphagan.

True freshman cornerback Robert Priester and true freshman safety Chavez Pownell Jr. got some reps with the No. 2 defense.

Here is what first-year coach Craig Bohl said after Tuesday’s practice:


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UW fall camp – Day 8

Monday marked the eighth day of fall camp for Wyoming, and it will practice twice today.

Ethan Wood

Ethan Wood

But there was some sad news as sophomore punter Ethan Wood will be away from the team for a while because his parents, John and Resia, died in a plane crash over the weekend in Iowa. According to UW’s Facebook page, the Woods’ were coming back from Michigan where they were visiting one of their other sons, Josh, who is an assistant football coach at Michigan Tech.

Woods is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in his first season as UW’s punter last season — and his first punting the ball, period, he averaged 42 yards per punt.

That prompted the return of senior kicker Stuart Williams to camp. Williams was not part of the first week of camp and the 105-man roster so first-year coach Craig Bohl and his staff could look at other guys. Bohl said it was good to have Williams back in camp, and added he made a 55-yard field goal at the end of practice.

Here is more from Bohl after Monday morning’s practice:


Williams is the only punter and kicker available in camp right now. Junior Justin Martin, Williams’ backup at kicker, is out with a sprained ankle.

UW began practice with some 11-on-11 work. Redshirt senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard — still the probable starter — threw completed a deep ball of 40 or 50 yards to sophomore receiver Tanner Gentry. Gentry later made a nice catch along the sideline.

Colby Kirkegaard

Colby Kirkegaard

Kirkegaard and sophomore backup Tom Thornton were the only quarterbacks that took snaps during that period. Kirkegaard also was wearing a camera attached to his helmet. It was done by UW athletics and footage will likely be posted on its website later today. It has been dubbed “Colby Cam.”

Sophomore cornerback Tim Hayes got drilled on a blitz after a nice block by redshirt sophomore running back D.J. May. Bohl said some new blitzes were introduced Monday, and he liked what he saw. He said it caused the offense some problems.

Senior right tackle Connor Rains was with the No. 1 offense after missing some time with an injury last week. Sophomore left tackle Nathan Leddige (concussion) is still out, but was at practice watching. Junior Austin Traphagan ran with the No. 1 offense at left tackle.

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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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