Two Cowboys earn MWC football honors

Wyoming sophomore running back Alvester Alexander and junior defensive end Josh Biezuns were named Mountain West Conference football players of the Week Monday.

Alexander ran for 147 yards and a school-record five touchdowns in last Saturday’s 44-0 home win over Colorado State. He is fifth in the MWC in rushing with 66 yards per game, is second in rushing touchdowns with 14 and seventh in scoring (7.0 points per game). Alexander finished the season with 792 yards and an average of 4.2 yards per carry.

Biezuns had 3.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss against CSU. He led UW with 6.5 sacks, which is tied for second in the MWC, and 10.5 tackles for loss.

Here some other football stories from around the MWC, including a vote of confidence for CSU coach Steve Fairchild from his boss.

UW-CSU photos and quotes

First off, check out some photos from Wyoming’s 44-0 win over Colorado State Saturday by Wyoming Tribune Eagle photographer AAron Ontiveroz. This was AAron’s final sports assignment for the WTE and WyoSports. He recently accepted a photographer job at The Denver Post.


Here are some leftover quotes from the game:

–“That’s the funnest I’ve had playing football for a while now. … You couldn’t ask for any other way to go out in keeping the Bronze Boot here against our arch rivals, and doing it the way we did.” — senior free safety Chris Prosinski

–“They were yakking and talking the whole game. I had to punish them a little bit.” — sophomore running back Alvester Alexander, who ran for 147 yards and a school-record five touchdowns.

–” I was real proud of the kids up front. They came off the ball. They blocked well and gave Al some running lanes. Alvester did a good job of carrying the load for us. He’s a young man getting better every single day and maturing as a Division I tailback.” — coach Dave Christensen

–“(CSU) saw the last couple of games we played and maybe they thought we were a pushover coming into the game. But we thought if we got three-and-outs right away and if the offense scored some points they would quit and lay down. Which as you could see, they did.” — junior defensive end Josh Biezuns

–“This was by far No. 1. I don’t think we’ve ever had a game like this since I’ve been here.” — senior cornerback Marcell Gipson on how this game compared to the others in his career.

–“I met (Friday) morning with every kid I recruited here and talked about the most important thing for next season was (the CSU) game and would springboard us into the off-season. They believe in what we’re doing. We have great athletes. We’re going to get better. We’re going to stay the course, stay positive and we’re going to be fine.” — Christensen

–“We’ve been playing well together the whole year, and I think we’re learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses up front. We know what everybody can do and what everybody can’t do. We know how to get to the quarterback now.” — Biezuns, who had 3.5 of UW’s six quarterback sacks in the game.

–“We’re going to recruit 25 more guys. We recruit across the board at every position. We have a lot of kids in our program that have been here for six months, or a year and six months. We have to keep developing them.”

UW-CSU postgame thoughts

History was made in the 102nd Border War football game between Wyoming and Colorado State.

And fortunately for UW it was all good.

The Cowboys won 44-0 for their most lopsided win in the series. It was its first shutout since their 24-0 Border War win in 2006. It was the most points scored in coach Dave Christensen’s two seasons, and most points in a regulation game since Sept. 4, 2004.

And, it was UW’s first back-to-back wins in the Border War since 1991-92.

Those things help erase some of the bad memories of what was a 3-9 season.

Other than a missed extra point and a couple of early drives on offense, UW was flawless. It threw for 267 yards, ran for 212 and held CSU to 162 yards.

Sophomore running back Alvester Alexander ran for 147 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. It was the hardest he ran all season. CSU did a horrible job of tackling Alexander, and many other players the entire game.

Alexander also broke the school record for touchdowns in a season with 14. The guy really ran well near the end of the season.

The defense recorded six sacks. It had 14 in its first 11 games.

That may be the most shocking statistic of them all. But it wasn’t like true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas was under constant pressure. At times he was, but UW’s linebackers and defensive backs didn’t allow many open receivers for Thomas.

I liked what junior receiver Mazi Ogbonna did in the game. He has five catches for 65 yards. He did a lot of damage on short passes and running after the catch. Ogbonna was expected to give UW speed and a deep threat when he came in from junior college this season. There weren’t any deep passes, but he did show me some speed and skill.

Where was that all season?

See my column in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for more on that.

Junior defensive back Tashaun Gipson recorded his team-best third interception. He was playing cornerback at the time, but also played some at safety for sophomore Shamiel Gary, who was in uniform but didn’t play. Gary returned to Laramie Monday after a death in his family and practiced. Coach Dave Christensen said he wasn’t mentally ready to play, but expects Gary to be fine and back next season.

Didn’t get to talk to sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. There was a delay doing player interviews as a fire alarm went off in the weight room of the Rochelle Athletics Center. He was gone by the time we got to getting players out for interviews. Nice to see him play well. He was 23 of 32 for 267 yards, and ran for 46 yards and a touchdown.

It was his best game since he threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opener against Southern Utah, and the most passing yards since that game. Carta-Samuels needed a game like this.

Good way for UW to end the season. Coaches will hit the road Sunday to recruit. Winter conditioning starts in January and spring ball in March.

UW-CSU five things to watch

1. Lead by example: It’s been a frustrating season for every UW player, coach and fan. Sophomore quarterback Ausytn Carta-Samuels may be the most frustrated, and he let it be known after last week’s 42-16 loss at UNLV.

“A lot of miscommunication and we weren’t prepared. We didn’t do a good enough job as a team — players, coaches and everybody. We didn’t do a good enough job to prepare are be ready to win a football game. That’s why we lost. It was evident when we got out on the field. We got our (butts) kicked in all phases of the game. It’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating. … It’s not fun right now.”

Carta-Samuels was called out on these remarks by MountainWest Sports Network college football analyst Kelly Stouffer this week, and Carta-Samuels issued an apology to the network.

Frustration is one thing, but letting them show in public is another. Not only does Carta-Samuels need to play better — along with all of his teammates –but he needs to lead better.

2. Stop the run: Simple concept but probably the most important thing the Cowboys need to do on the field. Colorado State is a pro-style offense that needs its run game to set up its play-action passing attack. We all know UW’s struggles here (go back to the San Diego State game). If UW can slow down the run enough it should neutralize the play-action pass.

3. Pressuring Pete: True freshman quarterback Pete Thomas and started in every game for CSU. He’s thrown for the second-most yards in the MWC, and leads in completions and attempts. He also leads in interceptions. Thomas has improved significantly as the season has progressed. The worst thing UW could do is let Thomas be comfortable in the pocket. The Cowboys must pressure Thomas and not let him get into a rhythm.

4. Better special teams: This area has struggled in recent weeks, especially the kickoff return coverage. But there’s more: ophomore kicker Ian Watts missed an extra point and field goal last week, a UNLV punt hit off a UW player that resulted in a turnover and an onside-kick attempt failed after UW’s first touchdown of the game. The Cowboys need to make more plays on special teams, not give them away.

5. Last chance: We’ve heard all week that the Border War should be enough for players to get up for this game, despite the fact both teams have combined for just five wins. The team that comes out with them most energy and focus likely will win. Does UW have anything left in the tank after losing six straight games? We shall see.

But based on those last six games, it’s hard for me to think the Cowboys will win. Are they capable of winning? Absolutely. But such was the case at New Mexico and UNLV and it didn’t happen. I would like to see UW end on a winning note, but I don’t see it based on the past six weeks, and in particular, the last two weeks.

Final score: CSU 31, UW 17

Hope you will join me for the final live game blog of the season starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Here is the link

More Gipson at safety

Wyoming junior Tashaun Gipson played safety in high school back in Dallas, but was moved to cornerback when he signed with the Cowboys in 2008.

It’s been a good move as he’s played and started every game of his career. Gipson tied for the team lead last season with three interceptions, and is tied for the team lead this season with two.

Gipson played some safety in last week’s 42-16 loss at UNLV because sophomore strong safety Shamiel Gary didn’t make the trip due to a death in his family. Gary is back in Laramie this week, but coach Dave Christensen said Wednesday Gary won’t play in UW’s season-finale against Colorado State at noon Saturday.

So, there’s a good chance Gipson will play more at safety along with Gary’s back up, sophomore Luke Ruff.

“He played well, although he didn’t get challenged a whole bunch,” said Christensen on Gipson’s play at safety last week. “But he was very adepqauate where he was and very effective in what he was doing.”

CSU is third in the Mountain West Conference in passing at 233.2 yards per game, and true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas has thrown for the second-most yards (2,565) in the league. He also is tops in attempts, completions as well as interceptions (12).

When Gipson plays safety, true freshman Marqueston Huff replaces him at cornerback. Don’t be surprised if we see a lot of that against CSU.

“It was comfortable back there,” said Gipson of playing safety. “I envisioned making a couple of mental mistakes, but I didn’t. Things seemed to flow for me back there.

“Safety is a lot less stressing than cornerback. If you can be a good cornerback I feel you can be an even better safety.”

It could be a preview of where Gipson will play next season.

Join me for the final live game blog of the football season at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for the 102nd Border War game between UW and CSU. Here is the link

Gary won’t play against CSU

Wyoming sophomore starting strong safety Shamiel Gary won’t play Saturday against Colorado State.

Coach Dave Christensen confirmed that after Wednesday’s practice in Laramie.

Gary, who is tied for the lead in the Mountain West Conference with 9.4 tackles per game, missed last week’s game at UNLV due to a death in his family, and was back home in Oklahoma the entire week.

Gary returned to Laramie this week and was at practice Wednesday. Christensen didn’t elaborate more on why Gary wouldn’t play.

Gary started the first 10 games of the season and has 48 solo tackles and 46 assisted stops. The 48 solo tackles are second-most on the team. Gary started all 13 games last season as a true freshman and was fifth on the team with 98 tackles.

Sophomore Luke Ruff started for Gary at UNLV, and junior cornerback Tashaun Gipson  also moved over and played some at safety, a position he played in high school and feels comfortable playing.

Join me for a live chat on UW sports at 3 p.m. Thursday. Here’s the link

CSU’s Brewer promises Border War win

Colorado State senior linebacker Ricky Brewer promises a Colorado State win over Wyoming Saturday. He didn’t play in last year’s game because he was suspended for the year.

This guy is good. He had 15 tackles in the 2008 Border War and seven in 2007.

Here is another CSU story on senior running back Leonard Mason.

Mutual respect

Dan Hammerscmidt played football at Colorado State, is a graduate from the school and is a long-time assistant coach there.

Hammerschmidt knows about the Border War rivalry with Wyoming. He also knows UW’s program well.

Hammerschmidt was UW’s assistant head coach and receivers coach last season. He was part of a coaching staff and team that went 7-6 last season and won the New Mexico Bowl.

After the season, Hammerschmidt had a chance to return to CSU to be the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. His young kids were born there. The combination of family and opportunity to return home were too good for him to pass up.

UW and CSU play at noon Saturday in Laramie for the 102nd time, and Hammerschmidt is one of the few who can describe what this game and rivalry is like from both perspectives. But for now, there is just one thing on Hammerschmidt’s mind.

“We need a win, just like they do,” he said as both teams enter the game with a combined five wins and out of bowl contention.

“I have a lot of friends on the staff, and think a lot of those kids on the team. I look at it differently that way. It’s a good crew up there. I probably don’t look at quite like some of the other guys do just because its been so recent.

“Thank goodness its the Border War. Usually that’s enough to play for anybody. If it wasn’t I think it would be a little tougher to keep them all focus and not thinking about things like the depth chart, spring ball, Christmas vacation, etc.”

Hammerschmidt coached nearly all of the current group of UW receivers last season.

“They stepped up and it looks like they’re making plays for them this year,” he said. “This week I don’t want to see them play great, but every other week I wish them luck.”

UW senior Zach Bolger has high praise for Hammerschmidt. Last season was the first Bolger saw playing time after redshirting in 2008 after transferring from NAIA Jamestown College.

“Coach Hammer gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I would love to run into him and have a couple of words with him. More than anything, I just want to tell him thanks for everything he did for me.

It’s Border War week

“It’s our rival game, and that makes it the most important game on our schedule. It will always be the most important game on our schedule.”

That’s what Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said during his Monday news conference about Saturday’s game with Border War rival Colorado State. Kickoff is at noon at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

Both teams are having down years. UW is 2-9 overall, 0-7 in the Mountain West and guaranteed to finish last in the conference. CSU is 3-8, 2-5.

But the Bronze Boot traveling trophy is on the line, as well as bragging rights and a bit if pride and self-worth to the winner heading into next season. UW will try to win back-to-back games with CSU for the first time since 1991-92.

“For me, this being the last game and our situation as a team, this is pretty much like the Super Bowl,” senior receiver Zach Bolger said. It’s a must-win game in my eyes.”


Other news and notes from Monday’s news conference with Christensen and interviews with players:

–True freshman running back Robert Herron (concussion) won’t play against CSU. He is in Laramie after he suffered the injury late in the UNLV game and stayed the night at a Las Vegas hopsital.

–Christensen is uncertain if sophomore starting strong safety Shamiel Gary will play. Gary missed the UNLV game because of a death in the family. He is back in Laramie.

–In his last two games, redshirt freshman receiver T.J. Smith has led UW in receiving yards and has caught 5 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.

–This will be the last game for 13 UW seniors.

For more on three of those senior, who happen to play receiver for the Cowboys, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang

This is a football/basketball week here, so join me Tuesday (weather permitting) for a live blog from the UW men’s basketball game at Northern Colorado. We will start at about 6:45 p.m. Here is the link