Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Offense improves, but still struggles

Richard Anderson photos
The Wyoming defense stuffed the Cowboy running game on Wednesday, giving up just 51 yards. At bottom, sophomore quarterback Dax Crum hands off to senior running back Devin Moore.

By Richard Anderson

Better … yes. Good enough … no.

So said the Cowboys on the Wyoming offense Wednesday in the second major scrimmage of fall drills. The Cowboys scored two touchdowns and kicked four field goals, compared to no touchdowns and one field goal last week.

Still, the No. 1 offense struggled for much of the night, finally scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run by Devin Moore, which culminated a six-play, 50-yard drive.

Moore’s touchdown run ended the 74-play scrimmage, which lasted about one hour and 10 minutes.

“We weren’t going to leave the field until the number one offense scored, so that was a great way to end the scrimmage with them getting in the end zone,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said.

Earlier in the scrimmage, the No. 2 offense scored the first TD of the night on an eight-play, 70-yard drive versus the No. 2 defense when redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Stutzriem completed a 46-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Travis Burkhalter. Burkhalter made an outstanding juggling catch between two Cowboy defenders in the end zone.

Glenn generally was still bothered by too many mistakes.

Wyoming had one pass interception and five offensive penalties for 25 yards.

“The things I didn’t like were the penalties,” Glenn said. “It was pretty much the same guy jumping off-side up front. The holding calls -- one called back a touchdown and one took back a 35-yard run. Those are devastating to an offense. You have to play by the rules of the game.”

The offensive accounted for 236 yards of total offense -- 185 passing and 51 rushing -- for an average of 4.1 yards per play. After a decent opening scrimmage running the ball, Glenn was a bit displeased with his backs on Wednesday.

Senior Devin Moore finished with 38 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown and senior Wynel Seldon added 19 yards on four attempts.

“We want to be more of a downhill running team than we have been,” said Glenn. “When you block power, you have to put it in there. We have to get up in there and get in a street fight. It has to be a fist fight. We have to go in there with elbows and ivory and mouth pieces flying. We’re going to get four (yards). If we can’t, it is going to be a long season. We need to run tougher.”

Glenn said that Moore, known for his moves, has to get a little stronger between the tackles.

“He wants to hit a home run every time he gets up to the plate,” Glenn added. “That is just not going to happen. With that said, I want us to run downhill and run hard-nose. Our linemen are hanging their hat on it a little bit. It is something we need to get better at.”

Sophomore quarterback Dax Crum, in his first scrimmage after being named the starter on Friday, completed 7 of 9 passes for 34 yards. Junior Karsten Sween was 4 of 9 for 37 yards and one interception. Stutzriem connected on 4 of 7 pass attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown and senior Ian Hetrick was 2 of 4 for 34 yards.

Wyoming offensive coordinator Bob Cole said Crum did “all right.”

“He changed a couple of plays and threw a couple of nice passes,” Cole said. “Overall, we’re a lot better football team than that. We improved, but we still have a ways to go and we will get better.”

The leading receiver was Burkhalter, who pulled down three passes for 71 yards, including the 46-yard TD reception. Three other Cowboys -- junior tight end Jesson Salyards and junior wide receivers Greg Bolling and Donate Morgan -- each had two receptions.

“In terms of the passing game, Travis Burkhalter made a great catch. That is a big step forward for him,“ Glenn said. “Some of the defenses’ blitzes got to us off the corner tonight, but that is something we will work on more as we prepare for Ohio.”

Better stats

A couple of areas that the offense improved upon from its first scrimmage were limiting turnovers and sacks. The one turnover was significantly better than a four-turnover night for the offense in the previous fall scrimmage. The offense line gave up only three sacks to the defense in the final scrimmage, compared to nine sacks allowed in the first scrimmage a week ago.

Defensive studs

Redshirt freshman linebacker Brian Hendricks led the way with 12 tackles (two for losses of 10 yards, one sack for a minus eight yards). Other outstanding defensive performances were turned in by senior linebacker Ward Dobbs (five tackles and two tackles for losses), junior linebacker Weston Johnson (four tackles, including one tackle for a loss) and senior linebacker Jake Edmunds (four tackles, including one sack).

“The pressure the defense put on our offense coming off the edge was hard to handle,” Glenn said. “I know our defense was successful at that last year, and I think we will be again this year. We have some pretty good corners.

“Our number one defense is pretty good, but we need to protect them. We can’t allow a punt to be blocked like we did on our first punt attempt tonight.”

Senior strong safety Michael Ray picked off a Sween pass and returned it 39 yards. The only fumble of the night came when senior free safety Derrick McMahen hit Moore on the sideline, with the ball going out of bounds.

Special teams work

Nick Landess, Cody Bousema and Austin McCoy continue to battle for the starting punter spot.

Landess, after having his first punt blocked, had kicks of 56 and 45 yards for a 50.5-yard average. Bousema punted twice for 43 and 34 yards, placing his 34-yarder on the 10-yard line and averaging 38.5 yards. Freshman McCoy had the lowest average of 33.5 yards, but his punts of 32 and 35 yards both ended up inside the 20-yard line at the 16 and 10-yard lines.

“Our punters did well tonight,” said Glenn. “They had nice high punts, with good hang time. We’ve got to pick a punter, but I don’t know who it will be. We feel good about that competition. If I had to pick someone with an edge right now, it would have to be number 28 (McCoy).

“Nick Landess will kick off for us. He’s done a good job of kicking high and deep. A week ago, I would have told you that Jake (Scott) was home free on sewing up the place-kicking job, but we have to take another look at that after this week.”

Scott, after converting four of five field goals a week ago, hit on only two of four on Wednesday night. Scott was successful from 36 and 38 yards, but missed from 31 and 38. Landess connected on his one field-goal attempt, a 34-yard field goal, while Braden Shoop also made his lone attempt from 27 yards out.

“We can’t be 50 percent in the kicking game,” said Glenn. “That can’t happen. We’ll probably look at several guys in practice. Number twenty-one (Scott) has the most experience, but right now he is a 50 percent guy and that is not good enough. We have to be better than that.”

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