Cowboys ready for the home stretch with plenty to play for

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said his team “utilized its bye week wisely” last week.

The team practiced a good part of last week, and much of that work was getting ready for Saturday’s home-finale against Boise State — a team UW has never defeated in eight games and has been outscored 148-43 in three home games.

UW enters the game 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the Mountain West. It needs to win its final two games to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible. Boise State is 8-2, 5-1 and if it wins out it will win the league’s Mountain Division.

“Without question (Boise State) is one of the top teams in our conference and around the country,” Bohl said. “We’re excited about playing them, but it will be a big challenge.”

Here is Bohl during his weekly news conference with the media Monday:


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Vigen talks order of UW’s other quarterbacks

A few weeks ago, some UW fans wanted to see what else Wyoming had at quarterback besides senior Colby Kirkegaard.

The Cowboys’ offense was sputtered in its first seven games. There were glimpses of good, but too many three-and-outs and empty drives.

Some wanted to see what UW’s backups could do, even if it were for a series or two to see what the future of the program may look like at quarterback.

That talk has quieted after UW’s 45-17 win at Fresno State last week. The Cowboys recorded numerous season-highs offensively, including points, total yards (694), rushing yards (374) and third-down conversions.

But going back to UW’s 27-20 overtime loss to San Jose State, Kirkegaard has not thrown an interception in his last three games, and over the last two he’s completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 655 yards and four touchdowns.

Tom Thornton

Tom Thornton

Sophomore back up quarterback Tom Thornton has seen mostly mop-up duty for the Cowboys this season. He’s played in two games and not attempted a pass. Sophomore Aaron Young, the No. 3 quarterback, has not played.

“Tom has got the bulk of the No. 2 reps, but he truly wouldn’t be tested until he got into a game — I hate to say,” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. “His maturation is probably a little bit in a standstill. If something happened to Colby, we’d finish that game with Tom and then have to re-evaluate it the next week.”

“Aaron doesn’t get many reps so where he’s at is hard to say.”

Brent Vigen

Brent Vigen

Vigen said it’s a 2-to-1 ratio in terms of the number of reps Kirkegaard receives each week during practice compared to Thornton.

“Our No. 1 job is to get the No. 1 guy ready, and then have the No. 2 guy to function well enough to get through a game. When he (the No. 2 guy) becomes the No. 1 guy then the emphasis will be placed on him.”

For more on UW’s sudden offensive surge, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

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Bohl says Fresno State game was UW’s most complete effort this season

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl began his Monday news conference like he has the others this season — giving a quick recap of the previous game.

And he said the Cowboys’ 45-17 win at Fresno State last Saturday was his team’s most complete game in all three phases of the game this season.

Here is video of the entire news conference:


One question asked by the media that wasn’t on the video was about if there was renewed enthusiasm among the players after the win, and if thoughts or goals of getting bowl eligible with two more wins were being talked about.

Bohl said that hasn’t been an emphasis this season, and that the only goal this team has is to prepare to host Utah State Friday night.

Another good thing that came from the Fresno State game was no new injuries. However, Bohl said senior defensive ends Sonny Puletasi (leg) and Riley Lange (concussion), along with senior safety Jesse Sampson (knee) remain day-to-day. None of those three practiced Monday. UW defensive ends coach AJ Cooper wasn’t optimistic that Lange would play this week.

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Border War key to the game; along with notes, quotes and video

Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s top key to the game for the Wyoming Cowboys in their Border War game against Colorado State, which kicks off at 5 p.m. today at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Communication: Talking about Wyoming’s defense. With two of its most important starters out with injuries — free safety Darrenn White and outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha — and possibly two other starters (senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi and senior cornerback DeAndre Jones). It is vital the Cowboys know what they are doing against a high-powered Colorado State offense that will use a lot of shifts and motions at the line of scrimmage to set up mismatches.

Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph preview today’s game on their weekly video blog:

This game over the years always has featured players and coaches with ties to both schools.

UW lists 20 players from Colorado on its roster, and 13 have starting experience. Many of them know CSU players going back to when they were in high school. Some were recruited by both schools, others were shunned by Colorado State.

UW senior defensive end Riley Lange, who is from Parker, Colorado, talks about that this week:

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Nzeocha latest to go down with season-ending injury

The news was expected, but still bad nonetheless.

Mark Nzeocha

Mark Nzeocha

Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said prior to Tuesday’s practice that senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha is “extremely doubtful” to be back this season because of a knee injury suffered in the first half in last Saturday’s 27-20 overtime loss to San Jose State.

Nzeocha leads UW with 59 tackles, and also was one of the team’s better players on special teams.

“Mark played critical roles on the punt team and the kickoff coverage team, and we view all those things as critical as well,” Bohl said. “When all those defensive starters get hurt, typically there’s a residual effect that comes on special teams. We are preparing for that right now.”

Nzeocha joins senior free safety and co-captain Darrenn White as defensive starters lost due to knee injuries. And, you can make a strong point that both guys are the two most important players on UW’s defense this season.

Nzeocha is a four-down linebacker who is good against the run and the pass. He played middle linebacker in nickel situations this season. White was the quarterback of the defense making calls and also making sure guys were lined up right.

The two combined for 101 tackles, six pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

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Bohl to see much improved Colorado State team Saturday

On Sept. 8, 2012, coach Craig Bohl took his North Dakota State team into Colorado State and beat the Rams 22-7.

That was the second game for then first-year Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, and the first of six straight losses for the Rams as they finished 4-8.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

A little more than two years later, Bohl will take another team to Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins. This time as the first-year coach at Wyoming. While some of the Rams’ players and coaches will be the same, Colorado State is a much different squad.

Different in the fact that it is the hottest team in the Mountain West. The Rams have won five straight games, are 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference and became the first bowl-eligible team in the MW after its 16-13 home win over Utah State last week. The Rams also have won 12 of their last 15 games dating back to last season.

“They’ve made great strides with the program and it will be a big challenge,” said Bohl during his Monday news conference.

“You look at their quarterback and (senior Garrett) Grayson’s a guy who’s played an awful lot of football; he’s got 27 starts. He’s throwing the football well and he’s got a great touchdown-to-interception ratio (16 touchdowns, five interceptions). He’s operated the offense very well and I’ve seen significant improvement in him personally the last couple of years.

“While they replaced an awful lot of offensive linemen, they’re playing well as a group together. And they got good skilled players. On defense they have a strong conviction in their scheme and what they’re doing. Probably their strongest part of their whole football team is their special teams. When you put all three of those phases together, you’ve got a solid football team that’s well coached and that’s why they’re receiving top 25 votes.”

Here is video of Bohl’s news conference from Monday:


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UW quarterbacks take their hits in second scrimmage

Most of the time, quarterbacks are off limits in terms of being hit during practices or scrimmages.

Not Saturday for the four University of Wyoming quarterbacks in the Cowboys’ second scrimmage of spring drills.

Quarterbacks were live, and did take some hits.

“That first hit I took was a little bit of a shock,” said senior Sam Stratton, who was 7 of 10 for 69 yards and touchdown passes to sophomore receiver Nico Brown and sophomore running back Omar Stover. “It had been a while, and it was like ‘okay, we’re playing tackle football.’ It felt good, and after that first hit your brain goes into a different place.”

Redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard was 8 of 12 for 126 yards and a touchdown to senior receiver Keenan Montgomery. Kirkegaard’s long pass was 50 yards to Montgomery. Stratton said he didn’t remember who hit him, but Kirkegaard remembered his first hit by senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha on a run up the middle.

“That first hit wakes you up a little bit and you realize you don’t have that blue jersey on and will just get tagged on the shoulder instead of being hit. It’s real football.”

Kirkegaard had ice on his right throwing shoulder after the scrimmage and during interviews with the media, but he said he does that after every game and practice.

Sophomore Aaron Young was 3 of 12 for 28 yards, and sophomore Tom Thornton was 4 of 5 for 45 yards and a touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Jake Maulhardt.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said he wants to look at the film before making an evaluation on the quarterbacks. Bohl is expected to release a “fluid” depth chart as early as Monday. The scrimamge was closed to the public and media, but here is what Bohl told the media about the scrimmage:


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UW signs 22 in 2014 recruiting class

There were not a lot of surprises — good or bad — Wednesday as Wyoming received 19 national letters of intent from recruits to go along with the three players that already signed and are enrolled in school.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said when he was hired in December that he and his staff would recruit and sign players that were “above the line” that could play in the Mountain West.

“We thought if we could reach 20 that would have opp to play in the Mountain West, and not just play but win the Mountain West, we would have done well. We reached 22 guys,” Bohl said.

Bohl added UW could add a player or two in this class if the opportunity came up, but said the right players at the right positions would have to surface for that to happen.

“There is a purposeful reason why we are at 22,” Bohl said.

UW had its class wrapped up before noon. There was some drama as Snow College (Utah) defensive back Lee Crosby picked New Mexico over UW. Kind of ironic that the UW men’s and women’s basketball teams play New Mexico tonight, isn’t it?

A couple of other guys UW was recruiting also choose different schools. Athlete Jay McIntyre of Colorado, son of Colorado coach Mike McIntyre, will play for his dad and the Buffs. Receiver Ronald Nash Jr. from Iowa stayed home and signed with Northern Iowa.

UW did not sign a receiver in this class. Not a huge surprise since it returns seven receivers that caught passes last season, including three of its top four guys: Senior Dominic Rufran, sophomore Tanner Gentry and senior Jalen Claiborne. Bohl said a “program-changer” receiver did not emerge in this class, and also said what UW currently has didn’t make receiver a top priority in this class.

Here is the breakdown position-wise in this class: QB (3), OL (3), TE (4) DB (4), DE (3), DT (2), RB (2), LB (1).

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Christensen talks about confidence

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen was asked how his team’s confidence is Monday after it lost its fourth straight game, 48-7, last Saturday night at Boise State.

It’s probably not very high,” Christensen said. “Anytime you have struggles it’s not going to be where you want it. But we going to keep working hard, prepare and try to come up with some answers. We have another game on Saturday, you can’t sit there and feel sorry for yourself.”

Here is Wyoming's uniform combination for its home finale Saturday against Hawaii. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Here is Wyoming’s uniform combination for its home finale Saturday against Hawaii. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

UW’s top goal, and really its only goal left this season is to get bowl eligible. At 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the Mountain West, UW needs to beat 0-10 Hawaii at home Saturday and win at 6-4 Utah State next week.

The Cowboys first need to worry about beating a Hawaii team, that despite being winless has lost four of its game by one score. Christensen said the Rainbow Warriors are big on defense, and there are some weapons on offense, in particular junior running back Joey Iosefa, a 6-foot, 240-pound bruiser, who had 150 yards and a touchdown in Hawaii’s 28-21 overtime loss to San Diego State at home last Saturday, and senior receiver and return specialist Chris Gant.

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Young ready to help UW defense any way he can

Bill Young, Wyoming’s new quality control staff member in football, got to Laramie Sunday and was quickly put to work.

“I was up at 3:45 a.m. (Monday morning) because Jamar is a worker,” Young said with a laugh about interim UW defensive coordinator Jamar Cain.

The uniform combination for Wyoming's home game with Fresno State Saturday, which UW is promoting as a "white out" game. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

The uniform combination for Wyoming’s home game with Fresno State Saturday, which UW is promoting as a “white out” game. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Part of the reason Young was up that early is because UW practices during the morning hours this season. The long-time defensive coach and defensive coordinator at the college level attended UW’s Monday morning practice.

So what exactly does a quality control staff member do?

First, Young is not a full-time staff member. NCAA rules allow colleges to have nine full-time assistant coaches. Even though UW fired defensive coordinator Chris Tormey last week, it promoted graduate assistant Dwain Crawford to full-time status for the rest of the season to help cornerbacks coach Renaldo Hill with UW’s defensive backs.

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