Hill continues to draw high praise

No game for Wyoming football this week, but the praise continues for true freshman running back Brian Hill.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

Hill had his third consecutive 100-yard game with 122 yards on 25 carries in the Cowboys’ 20-3 home loss to Utah State last Friday. Hill didn’t lose any yards, and his long run was 18 yards against a Utah State defense that allowed 90 rushing yards per game entering the contest.

“I think what we learned from Friday night is it’s going to take more than one guy to get him down,” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. “He had some easier opportunities against Fresno State (Hill had 281 yards in that game on Nov. 1), but against Utah State he didn’t have a lot of big runs — just one of 15-plus yards. It took two to three guys to consistently get him to the ground.

“For a guy that has played mostly in the last three games (this season) and to have more than 500 yards rushing in a variety of different ways — tough inside runs and big runs to the outside where he showed his speed — he’s going to have a chance to be real dynamic here. He already has been.”

Hill has 574 yards and an average of six yards per carry this season. He is second on the team with four rushing touchdowns.”

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Numbers aren’t pretty for Cowboys at midway point of season

For those who stayed up and watched Wyoming’s 38-28 loss at Hawaii, I commend you.

For all the coverage from the game, go to wyosports.net.

No need to rehash a lot of the bad from that game, which saw the Cowboys give up 513 yards of total offense and be outscored 28-7 in the second half.

At the midway point of the season, UW is 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain West. If certain numbers don’t improve, the Cowboys will be hard-pressed to win many more games in the second half of the season.

The Cowboys are tied for 120th in sacks with four in six games. San Jose State, Kent State and Navy are the only teams with fewer sacks than UW. Three of UW’s four sacks are by its linebackers. One is by a defensive lineman — senior defensive tackle Patrick Mertens — and none by the defensive ends.

UW also allows 31 points, 202.3 rushing yards and 421.3 total yards per game, and teams have converted 49.5 percent of their third downs. All areas that need to improve, but will they? First-year coach Craig Bohl said after the Hawaii game there is plenty to improve upon, but can the Cowboys do it?

Offensively, UW needed to play its sixth game to score more than 20 points in a game, and one of its four touchdowns against Hawaii was scored by the defense. Its 18.3 points per game is 116th in the country.

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UW-Florida Atlantic postgame thoughts

Will say this for Wyoming, it likes to do things the hard way — and do them late.

An 88-yard pass to senior receiver Dominic Rufran from senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard led to an 18-yard game-winning field goal by senior kicker Stuart Williams with 15 seconds to play as UW beat Florida Atlantic 20-19 Saturday.

Didn’t get video of the Rufran catch, or the turnover the Cowboys forced prior to that on a FAU fumble by junior quarterback Jaquez Johnson. Senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha forced the fumble, and senior linebacker Jordan Stanton recovered it.

Here’s is UW’s final few offensive plays, and Williams’ game-winning field goal:

Do you see a theme with the heroes of the game for UW? See my column in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net to read that.

A couple of other thoughts from the game:

–The Cowboys’ defense was great, as Florida Atlantic only scored one touchdown in five chances in the red zone. That one time was set up by a 65-yard punt return by Lefty Whitehead. Here is video of that and some other highlights from the third quarter — not many highlights for the Cowboys.

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Bohl addresses some defensive issues

Two issues about Wyoming’s defense was brought up to first-year Wyoming coach Craig Bohl this week.

–The Cowboys have no sacks from their defensive ends, and only one sack from a defensive linemen through three games.

–UW has allowed opponents to convert 51 percent of their third-down chances, including 9 of 11 in last week’s 48-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

Bohl didn’t seem too concerned about the play of the defensive ends. Any sacks or tackles for loss against Oregon and junior Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota would have been tough.

There were times UW pressured him, but Mariota outran the rush and most of UW’s defense for 71  yards and two touchdowns.

In the Cowboys’ 17-13 win over Air Force on Sept. 6, they had two sacks — one by senior defensive tackle Patrick Mertens. The Falcons threw a lot early, but UW faced more of a run-oriented option offense.

UW had one sack in its 17-12 season-opening win over Montana, but it pressured and hit quarterback Jordan Johnson a lot and kept him out of sync for most of the game. Doing that is just as important as getting sacks, and could be a key in Saturday’s home game with Florida Atlantic.

The Owls have a dual-threat quarterback, much like Johnson and Mariota, in Jacquez Johnson. It would be nice if UW sacked him a lot, but more importantly, not let him get into a rhythm where he can hurt the Cowboys with his legs and his arm — especially the deep pass. Continue reading

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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Scrimmage notes and quotes

Normally after Wyoming football or basketball games I offer some postgame thoughts.

Can’t do that after UW’s first scrimamge of fall camp Saturday in Laramie since it was closed to the public and media.

The scrimmage was not scored, but the offense scored one touchdown and made two field goals. The offense gained 255 yards of total offense (3.8 yards per play) and turned the ball over once. But the day belonged to the defense as it had seven sacks, nine tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.

Here is what first-year UW coach Craig Bohl had to say after the scrimmage:

The defensive standout was senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha with a scrimmage-best nine tackles and five solo stops. Nzeocha also had a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“I was encouraged with Mark, and he’s done as well as anybody picking up the defense,” defensive coordinator Steve Stannard said. “He’s a smart guy, not vocal, but very smart. He’s athletic and has a great burst. He’s (strongside) right now and (weakside) in or nickel package.”

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UW’s defense gets boost with Mertens, Harris

The Wyoming football program got some good news this week when the school announced that defensive tackle Patrick Mertens and linebacker Devyn Harris were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Here is the story: http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/football/ncaa-grants-harris-mertens-a-sixth-year-of-eligibility/article_de2dc0ee-7da0-11e3-9fd0-0019bb2963f4.html

Devyn Harris

Devyn Harris

This is good for UW because it needs all the help it can get defensively. We all know how much this group struggled last season  by allowing 36.7 points, 220.2 rushing yards, and 482 total yards per game.

Both players bring a lot of experience back, which can’t hurt. Combined, both have played in 74 games and started 48.

Patrick Mertens

Patrick Mertens

The weakest part of UW’s defense last season was the defensive line, and with new coach Craig Bohl wanting to run a 4-3 scheme, the importance of interior linemen is huge. Mertens doesn’t solve all of UW’s issues there, but it gives it another guy that his proven with 107 career tackles.

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VIDEO: Marqueston Huff

Wyoming senior free safety Marqueston Huff talks about his new haircut, facing a must-win from here on out for the team to get bowl eligible and looks back at his senior class in this interview done on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 in Laramie, Wyo.

For more UW’s game today against Hawaii, see today’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. And, log on to wyosports.net for more video interviews with UW senior football players and news about today’s game.


D-line learning to play tired

First-year Wyoming defensive line coach Jamar Cain has been trying to teach his guys something from the first day he met them.

“We have to learn to play tired,” he said.

What does that mean? Here’s my video interview with Cain where he explains:

But basically, UW’s defensive linemen need to learn how to maintain their technique and fundamentals when they are tired because once those slip, then bad things happen.

And they get tired fast as there have been only six healthy and/or game-ready guys to play through the first five games.

The Cowboys may get a little help for this week’s homecoming game against New Mexico. Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Awrabi (foot) is listed as a backup behind sophomore Eddie Yarbrough. Cain hopes to get Awrabi about 10 plays. Awrabi has not played in a game for UW, and has been hurt pretty much the entire time he’s been on campus.

“He will make us better by playing and doing his job,” Cain said. “He’s been doing pretty good in practice. I’ve been keeping him after practice and working with him, and he’s been coming in on his own to watch film with me and our graduate assistant.”

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UW football practices indoors

Wyoming practiced in its indoor practice facility Tuesday morning, but it wasn’t because the weather outside in Laramie was bad.

The weather forecast for the Cowboys’ game at Texas State Saturday night in San Marcos, Texas, is for temperatures in the high 70s to low to mid-80s by kickoff time (5 p.m. MT). There is a 60 percent chance of rain, and the humidity levels will be in the 60 percent range.

“We tried to get the heat turned up in here a little bit and get acclimated to the temperature,” coach Dave Christensen said. “We can’t make it 75 in here, but it was good. They got a good sweat going.”

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