Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sween gets starting job back

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior Karsten Sween (16) will start at quarterback Saturday at New Mexico.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

As expected, junior Karsten Sween will be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys Saturday at New Mexico.

In Saturday's humiliating loss to Bowling Green, the Cowboys went with four quarterbacks -- then starter, sophomore Dax Crum, Sween, senior Ian Hetrick and sophomore Chris Stutzriem.

Wyoming coach Joe Glenn indicated after the game that they would likely go with one QB against the Lobos, and based off of Saturday's performance, he said they had an idea of which quarterback had the better game.

Based on Saturday, it was evident that the Cowboys would go back to Sween, last year's starter who won the job by taking over for Jacob Doss two years ago. Against Bowling Green, Sween led all three scoring drives and was 10 of 16 for 84 yards. After Saturday’s game, Sween said he thought the coaching staff needed to pick a quarterback and stick with him. He admitted he wanted to be the guy.

“He lost the job and has come through the wrestles backs to win it back based on his play last Saturday and based on what he has done off the field,” Glenn said Tuesday of his weekly MWC coaches teleconference.

Glenn said that he has also been impressed with Sween off the field, even after he lost his starting job just before the season opener.

“I think he is more than a film rat than he has ever been,” Glenn said. “He’s having dinner three nights a week with the team in an effort to be closer to the team.”

Glenn added that Sween never was negative as a backup, despite the disappointment of long his job.

“He just worked harder to win the job back, hoping that some day his turn would come up again,” he said. “It has.”

Ironically, Sween got his first start as a Cowboy two years ago at New Mexico in the Cowboys’ 14-10 win. In that game, Sween was 19-of-32 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“When he was a freshman two years ago, we were 1-4 and lost at Syracuse, lost at Virginia,” Glenn said. “We limped into Albuquerque and Karsten started and that was his first win as a starting quarterback, and we went on to win five of our last seven to get bowl eligible. He’s got a history there and I think he has a comfort zone there. We weren’t a juggernaut on offense, but we protected the ball fairly good and did enough to win the game.”

This season Sween is 11 of 22 passing for 88 yards and two interceptions. Sween capped that strong finish two years ago by completing 128 of 212 passes for 1,304 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. As a starter last year, however, interceptions plagued him with 17 and he was 215-of-359 for 2,028 yards and 12 touchdowns.

In Wyoming’s two wins, it has turned the ball over just three times. In the Cowboys three losses, they have coughed it up 16 times.

Cutting down on the turnovers are the name of the game for the Cowboys, Glenn said.

“We’re looking forward to getting into a game where we can hang onto the ball, move the ball on offense and get some points,” Glenn said.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Moore: It's about finding a solution

Richard Anderson photo
David Leonard makes a catch in traffic Saturday against Bowling Green. Below is senior running back Devin Moore.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

It’s not about pointing fingers, Devin Moore said. It’s about getting the ship steered in the right direction.

Moore, a senior captain, said it is up to himself and the seniors to turn things around this season. Even if it means taking some of the blame himself.

A somber Moore was to the point Saturday after the Cowboys fell to Bowling Green 45-16 in a game the offense once again struggled. Although Moore had 114 yards rushing and one touchdown, he also fumbled once that led to a Bowling Green field goal. He also took the blame on the first of four pass interceptions that directly led to a touchdown.

Moore said the Wyoming coaches have put the Cowboys in position to make plays and they haven’t made them.

“I didn’t make plays, I didn’t get it done,” Moore said. “I ask you, don’t blame anyone else on the offense. I think it was mainly me. Wynel (Seldon) took one in for a score and Karsten (Sween) threw a great pass to David Leonard (29-yard completion) Dax (Crum) had us moving down the field well and Stutz (Chris Stutzriem) was throwing the ball well. He went for the home run ball a little early, I think and probably could have check it down. But at the same time when you’re heart is pumping so hard, it is kind of hard not to makes mistakes.”

Moore’s plan to begin the process of righting the wrongs: Sitting the seniors down and working things out.

“Mainly to keep everyone’s head up, not to point fingers or anything. Just try to go out here and get a win,“ he said. “I told the guys in the locker room already, we have a great coach and with Coach (Joe) Glenn, anything can happen. Coach Glenn is a great coach and he can make it happen for us and I believe he will make it happen for us. Rest assured, you’re going to see the Wyoming Cowboys not only fight for a great record, we’re fighting for our coaches and our teammates.”

Moore’s message to his teammates is all about finding a solution and not pointing fingers.

“I hate to go in and look at it like I am perfect; I can’t do that,” he said. “When I make mistakes, it is hard to go in and say ‘guys, we need to do this and we need to do that.’ It’s hard on myself when I am being looked to as a captain. I’m going to fight through it.”

Moore’s speech to the media is becoming all too common, he said, but it is one that he is going to stick to because he believes it can happen.

“I don’t have an answer right now of what we are going to do other than I need to basically hold on to the ball; I know that,” he said. “I hope no one put that on Sween, that was my fault, I kind of came out on the draw play a little early. Put it on me, that was my fault. The first pick, that was probably my fault, I should have got loose form the defensive lineman. Our quarterbacks are trying hard. They are putting the work in during practice, so hang in there with us.”

The Cowboys, 2-3, will look to turn things around Saturday at New Mexico, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Musical quarterback chairs leave all frustrated

Richard Anderson photos
Wyoming quarteback Karsten Sween looks for some running room Saturday against Bowling Green. At bottom, an all too familiar sight as the official signals that the Falcons have the ball after a Wyoming fumble.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

The broken record continued to spin Saturday for the Wyoming Cowboys.

Wyoming turned the football over five times, directly and indirectly leading to 24 Bowling Green points, which were more than enough in the Falcons’ 45-16 win at War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboy quarterbacks were basically equal opportunity offenders in turning over the football, as all four signal callers played and three of them coughed it up. Only senior QB Ian Hetrick failed to turn the ball over, but he also failed to move the football in his time out on the field.

Sophomore starter Dax Crum was 4-of-11 for 36 yards and two interceptions. Junior Karsten Sween was 10-of-16 for 84 yards and one interception and Chris Stutzriem was 2-of-3 for 4 yards and one pick. Hetrick was 0-of-2.

It proved to be musical chairs from the quarterback position, something the Wyoming coaches went to but didn’t want to see materialize.

“That is absolutely the last thing that we wanted to happen,” Wyoming offensive coordinator Bob Cole said. “With all things considered, we said one thing out there: ‘Don’t turn the ball over, we don’t really care what else happens, just don’t turn the ball over.’ It happened on three separate occasions, possibly four. We have to go back to the drawing board, back to square one and look at some film. I don’t know if we will pick a guy and stay with him, but that is the most likely scenario I say standing in front of you right now.”

Head coach Joe Glenn told the media after the game that he and Cole hadn’t talked yet, but they know which quarterback likely played the best on Saturday.

“Until I see the film, I’m not going to name a starting quarterback,” Glenn said. "We’ll just have to weed it out and probably give somebody the lion’s share of the reps."

It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to start running backwards as Bowling Green intercepted Crum early in the first quarter. On third down, nose tackle Michael Ream stepped in front of a Crum screen pass and ran it back to the 1-yard line, where he was hit and fumbled into the end zone. Bowling Green linebacker Cody Basler recovered near the end of the end zone for the touchdown. Glenn and Cole both said that the Cowboy quarterback would be on a short leash and they weren’t kidding. Sween came out on the next possession (three and out) and Hetrick and Sween followed on the next two possessions.

Sween’s interception came on a screen pass where he didn’t see the defender.

“Coach Cole told us that if we make one mistake, we’re out of the game,” Sween said. “That was my one mistake. I got another shot a the end and we drove down and scored. I felt like when I was in there that we drove the ball well. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to start the game in New Mexico. I just want to help this team win. I know we’re better than we have been playing. We just have to find a way to win.”

Crum came back late in the game after sitting out a majority of the contest. He then threw another interception.

“That is just the way it is, you know,” Crum said of his early exit. “It’s tough out there. We thought we had some plays that might be successful. We just couldn’t get anything going.”

I thought Karsten played pretty well when he got in there. I turned the ball over and Coach said I had a short leash, and that is just the way it is.”

Did the short leash and musical quarterback chairs affect the rest of the team? Some said yes, some said no.

“It doesn’t throw anything off, we were just trying to find the best guy to run our offense right now,” tight end Jesson Salyards said. “Hopefully, we’ll analyze things and figure out something for next week.”

Wide receiver Greg Bolling said the difference in quarterbacks does throw off their timing as receivers.

“Our offense is based off of timing routes,” Bolling said. “When they are getting different quarterbacks in, some are faster than another and some are slower than another. I know a couple of times, Karsten was a little off for me just because he plays a little faster than Dax, and of course, during the week, Dax was getting most of the reps at No. 1.”

Wyoming has 16 turnovers in its three losses and not turning the ball has been the obvious emphasis in practice and in the media.

The Cowboys said the turnover talk can be hard to get out of your head.

Sween said he missed a play to receiver David Leonard in the first half because he was afraid to throw an interception.

“I thought he was kind of open, but I tried to throw it away,” Sween said. “I didn’t want to throw him the ball because I didn’t want to make it a pick because I couldn’t see real well and I had to get away from the DN. I threw it away because I didn’t want to take any chances.”

Crum said that there are times that he has so much going trough his head, it does make it harder to perform.

“But there are no excuses for throwing interceptions,” Crum said. “Their guy didn’t throw any interceptions. It’s frustrating because you are trying your hardest. I’m playing as hard as I can. It’s not working out so far.”

So what is next for the Wyoming quarterbacks? It’s wait and see and hope for the best.

“I personally don’t know right now,” Salyards said. “I’ll leave that up to the coaches and see what they find out.”

“Whoever is playing, we need better production. I’ve been saying that for a few weeks,” Crum added. “Production is what matters. Whoever is in there has to execute and somehow make some plays for the team.”

Sween said he would like to see the coaches pick a starter and go with him.

“I think whoever they pick, they need to stick with because it is tough,” Sween said. “You do your job and you make one mistake and they put someone else in. There is a lot of pressure. I knew that if I made one mistake, that was it.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wyoming defense: No pressure here

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming senior linebacker Ward Dobbs returns an interception earlier against Air Force.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

There’s no doubt that turnovers have caused havoc with the progress of the Wyoming offense.

Turnovers have done the same with the Cowboy defense, which has been put in bad field position and left on the field longer than the Wyoming coaching staff would like.

Although the Cowboy defense has played well at times this season, a few more takeaways are in line with the team’s success Saturday when the Cowboys host Bowling Green at 2 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

“In order for us to win, we have to take the ball away from the other team a couple of times to give us field position,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. “Field position has given us trouble. I don’t recall many years where we just haven’t had better field position. Our returns are pretty good on kickoff and punt returns, but we’ve been bombed into our own area a lot this year. It seems like our average drive start is way in the shadows.”

With the Wyoming offense struggling as one of the worst statistically in the country, the pressure is on the Cowboy defense to try to make up for some of those woes. Glenn said verbally he tries not doesn’t put any pressure on the defense.

“They’ll help us score some points and help us with field position. It just has to break loose pretty quick,” Glenn said.

Bowling Green (1-2) has struggled at times offensively this season as well. Yet, their spread offense, led by quarterback Tyler Sheehan, has the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
Again, no pressure for the Cowboy defense.

Slowing down the Bowling Green offense could hinge on the pressure given by the Wyoming front line of John Fletcher, Fred Givens and Mitch Unrien, along with pressure from the line backing crew led by Gabe Knapton, Ward Dobbs and Westin Johnson.

“We have to step it up a little bit. They can’t do it with a three-man rush,” Glenn said. “Again, we’ll see (Mike) Breske with a combination of coverage stuff and pressure stuff. Us getting pressure on Sheehan has everything to do with us slowing down with what they are doing.”

Offensively, the Cowboys showed signs early against BYU that they had the ability to move the football, but then took several steps backwards and never got into the end zone. Changes are on tap offensively, Glenn said, but a little different that many might expect … it doesn’t really affect the quarterback position, at least at first.

“I know we got shut out last week, but you saw what I saw, there were points where we were moving the ball and throwing and catching it and protecting and those kind of things,” Glenn said. “ We need to settle the turnovers down and get some field position.”

In Wyoming’s two losses, it has turned the ball over 11 times; in the two wins, the Cowboys have three turnovers.

Glenn said the Wyoming offense might have a different look on Saturday.

“I think fans will be pleasantly surprised by some of the new stuff they will see,“ he said. “We’ll pull out some stops. I don’t know if we’re going to pull out all of the stops, but I am pretty excited to see the way things take shape on Saturday.”

One change could come with the added playing time of running back Darius Terry. In fact, Terry, starter Devin Moore and top backup Wynel Seldon all could be on the field at the same time.

“I think we have two really good running backs and I think you’re going to see a third one Saturday in Darius Terry, a little bit more than you have seen.,“ Glenn said. “Darius has really worked his way into the mix, so you might see some sets with two or all three of those guys out on the field at the same time. I’m fired up about that.”

With that said, balance again will be the key for Glenn’s Cowboys. Glenn said they will have a package that they think they can throw in and a package they think they can run in.

“We’ll go to the line of scrimmage a lot of the time with two different plays -- it might be a pass or another pass, it might be a screen or another screen, it might be a run or another run or it might be a run or a pass," he said. “We’ll try to take what is there. If they continue to give us the run and we think the run is there, then we got to take it. Our play-calling might be dictated on how they are playing on defense.”

The cowboys did receive some good news this week with sophomore receiver David Leonard’s health status. Leonard suffered a concussion against BYU, but has been cleared to play against Bowling Green.

“You take a test after so many days; check the systems of your concussion and he passed with flying colors,“ Glenn said. “We may limit him a little bit; we probably won’t throw him right in on punt returns just yet. He’s a vital part of what we are doing. We’re glad to have him back.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Turnovers too costly for Cowboys

Richard Anderson photo
The Wyoming offense has turned it over 11 times in the Cowboys two losses this season and just three times in the two wins.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

The last thing the Wyoming offense wants to do against quality teams is give them extra opportunities to score.

In lop-sided losses to Air Force and Brigham Young, that’s exactly what the Cowboys did. For the Cowboys to be successful the rest of the season, they have to win the turnover battle.

And that has to start on Saturday against Bowling Green.

“We played pretty good for much of the first half until the roof caved in with turnovers,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said Tuesday on the Mountain West Conference teleconference. “That has continued to plague us down the stretch last year and in the two games we lost this year.”

Wyoming was even with Ohio in turnovers in the 21-20 win and were three up on North Dakota State in the 16-13 victory. The Cowboys turned it over five times against the Falcons and six times against BYU.

“There is a direct correlation between turnovers and losing,” Glenn added.

With that said, Glenn isn’t going to make any major changes in the starting lineup, especially at quarterback. Yet, sophomore starter Dax Crum will have to not only move the offense, but hang onto the ball, whether it is via the fumble or pass interception.

Coaching the Cowboys, Glenn said that he has to look at turnovers and emphasize that they can’t happen until he tires of talking about it.

He’s getting tired of turnover talk and said he is sure everyone is tired of hearing him talk about it. But it is what it is.

“We have to accept the responsibility for who is at fault,” he said. “If we turn the ball over, we will rotate. We’ll go to the next guy and let him at a crack at it until we get somebody in here that can protect the football and protect our defense, because it is just killing us.”

If that is the case, Glenn said he hopes no one sees anybody but the starters on Saturday.

“It is so obvious that we have a decent football team, that can hang with anybody … we have proven that,” he said. “If we are smart about it, we can move the ball and keep the other team off of the field, as we did in the first half. But we cannot make the critical mistakes that just totally gives the game to the other team … as we did down the stretch last year.”

Glenn said they are going to be real about those mistakes.

“If they are not somebody’s fault, we’re not going to take them out, but if you stand there and you throw the ball to the other team or fumble the ball, we’re going to get somebody in there to protect the football,” he said.

Last week against the Cougars, Glenn tried three quarterbacks -- Crum, junior Karsten Sween and sophomore Chris Stutzriem. All three threw interceptions.

Glenn said he knows that they need quarterback continuity on offense, but they are only as good as they play.

“We have four quarterbacks who I think can all play here, that can do a good job,” he said. “But they can’t turn the ball over and that is what it is all about right now.”

The Cowboys inability to not hang on to the football puts a strain on the Wyoming defense.

“Punting the ball is not always a bad thing; we have a good defense,” Glenn said. “We can run the ball as well as anybody in the league; we have a good offensive line. When we turn it over, then we don’t have a chance. We hope that the guy who send in there knows that.”

Injury ward
Glenn said that going into Tuesday’s practice, most of the nicked-up Cowboys are making a run at returning. Receiver David Leonard, who suffered a concussion against BYU, is still day-to-day.

“He has to pass some testing that they haven’t gotten to yet, to see if he can rid himself of those systems of being concussed,” Glenn said. “He was not knocked out, but he would have probably taken a standing eight-count if he was in a boxing match.”

Falcons preparing for a physical Wyoming team

Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

There’s no doubt that two straight trips out West will be a little tough for the Bowling Green Falcons.

One advantage, though, is the Falcons aren’t making the two trips on consecutive weeks. Two weeks ago, Bowling Green fell to Boise State 20-7 in Boise State. They had a bye last weekend.

The Wyoming-Bowling Green kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

During their weekly Monday press conference, head coach Gregg Brandon and players Tyler Sheehan and Corey Partridge shared their thoughts on Wyoming and the bye week.

Brandon said he sees a big, physical team at Wyoming, offensively and defensively.

“Good size offensive linemen, a big physical back and a quick little scat back, so they can they can get in and out of things with those two guys," Brandon said. “Defensively, they are a stout, strong, physical football team."

Brandon also said Wyoming has good skill in its secondary.

"Their corners are athletic, their safeties tackles well and support the run," he said. “Their front seven are physical and stout. We are going to have to mix our run pass to be successful."

The former assistant coach at Wyoming (1987-90) said he remembers how the crowds the Cowboys can get, but he is not sure what to expect for Saturday’s game.

"You see on film that they have good crowds for their home games," Brandon said. “Coming off of a tough loss to BYU, I don't know what kind of crowd they will get. The three homes games they have had, they have almost filled the stadium. It looks like a great atmosphere just on film."

Sheehan, a junior quarterback, said the bye came at a good time for the Falcons, who opened the season with a 27-17 upset of Pittsburgh, but have since dropped two straight games. They also fell to Minnesota 42-17 at home.

"I think we got to focus on ourselves a little more,” Sheehan said. “We didn't have to game plan for a game that week, so we got to focus on what we have been struggling with. I think that has really helped our guys. Offensively, we have had the best three practices since the beginning of campus and it is always encouraging when that happens."

Sheehan is also expecting a tough time against the Cowboy defense.

"They are a big, bruising type of defense,“ Sheehan said. “Their front seven is pretty physical. I think we can expose them with some passing plays and the way we use our speed."

Partridge, a senior wide receiver, also said the Falcons were able to work hard on some of their deficiencies last week in practice.

"We went a little harder than most teams probably would in their bye-weeks,‘ Partridge said. “We had a couple practices here and there and really worked to get an attitude back that we kind of lost these last couple of weeks."

Partridge said he doesn’t know a lot about Wyoming, but on film, he thinks they are a physical team that likes to fly around and hit people.

“They have played some pretty tough teams. BYU is a great team and they stood in there and took their shots against BYU,” Partridge said.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

BYU rolls past Cowboys

BYU photo by Mark Philbrick
BYU defensive back Brandon Bradley breaks up a pass against Wyoming on Saturday.

PROVO, Utah -- Max Hall overcame somewhat of a slow start and threw three touchdown passes and No. 11 BYU extended the nation's longest winning streak with a second straight shutout, beating Wyoming 44-0 Saturday.

The Cougars have won 14 straight games, matching their longest winning streak of the decade and got back-to-back shutouts for the first time in 23 years. BYU last held two straight opponents scoreless in 1985, beating Wyoming 59-0 and Utah State 44-0 -- identical scores to the 2008 shutouts.

“I think the shutout is significant in terms of being back-to-back,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “The main emphasis of our program is how many points we can score and how many we can limit.”

The Cougars, who extended their Mountain West-record conference win streak to 17 games, have won their last two games by a combined score of 103-0, pitching back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1985 (same scores: 59-0 vs. Wyoming, 44-0 vs Utah State).

BYU was coming off a 59-0 win over UCLA last week and forced the Cowboys (2-2, 0-2) into six turnovers, returning two of them for scores. Scott Johnson ran a fumble back 64 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and David Nixon had a 19-yard interception return for a TD in the third.

"They're a real good football team and took advantage of all of our mistakes," Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said.

Hall finished 16-for-27 for 189 yards with no interceptions and Austin Collie had two catches for touchdowns. Harvey Unga ran for one score and caught a pass for another for the Cougars.

Devin Moore ran 14 times for 97 yards and quarterback Dax Crum was 15-for-28 for 119 yards for Wyoming, which hasn't won in Provo since 1987. The Cowboys fumbled four times, losing three, and had three passes intercepted in their first road game of the season. Wyoming finished with 273 yards of offense.

Hall has 15 touchdowns in four games and got to rest the entire fourth quarter for the second straight week. He could have taken off the third, too, after BYU broke open the game with three touchdowns in the second quarter.

Hall found Collie on a deep sideline route for a 62-yard touchdown that put BYU up 20-0 with 4:03 left in the quarter, then connected with Collie again on a slant in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the half. After gaining just 43 yardes in the first quarter, the Cougars had 192 in the second and scored three touchdowns, starting with a 1-yard run by Unga with 6:08 left in the period.

Wyoming drove to the BYU 36 on the opening possession, but gave the Cougars an easy score on a mental blunder.

Crum overthrew Greg Bolling in the flat, but the play didn't go forward and was a lateral instead of an incomplete pass. There was no whistle and the Cowboys didn't try to recover, leaving it free for Johnson to scoop and run 64 yards for a touchdown.

Nixon returned interception 19 yards for a touchdown with 8:25 left in the third. Brandon Bradley tipped the Karsten Sween pass and Nixon caught it and ran it back 19 years for the touchdown to make it 41-0.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cowboy offense has to step up

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming quarterback Dax Crum runs the offense in practice on Tuesday.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Wyoming’s best defense on Saturday against BYU could be its offense.

Essentially, the Cowboys need to stay on the field as long as possible offensively to keep the powerful Cougar offense off of the field.

“If we can control the ball, that would be good for our team,” Wyoming quarterback Dax Crum said. “They have a good offense, pretty potent. But if we can score early or get some time possession and shorten the game, that is what we’re going to try to do to win.”

Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at LaVelle Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.

The 3-0 Cougars caught the nation’s eye last week with a 59-0 win over UCLA. Rated 11th in the country in the USA Today Coaches poll, BYU is averaging 42 points a game in leading the Mountain West conference, while ranking fifth in the nation in passing at 387 yards a game.

But quarterback Max Hall and Co. can’t score if they are not out on the field.

That puts a little extra weight on the shoulders of the Wyoming offense, which has been among the worst in the country this season.

Three and outs will not be a welcome sight for the Cowboys.

“Way too many three and outs,” Wyoming receiver Greg Bolling said. “Coach (Bob) Cole has been expressing that to us. In our first three games, the first possession has been three and out.
That just can’t happen. It puts a lot of stress on our D. Our D has come through the clutch to help us out, but we have to start helping them out.”

A quick start would do the Cowboys wonders as well. Wyoming cored two touchdowns in the first half in the 21-20 win over Ohio in the season opener, but has not scored a touchdown in the first half since then.

“If we could come down and score right away, that would definitely be a good confidence booster,” Crum said. “But to go out there and get some first downs, that would be a better goal. We’ve been going three and outs in the first three games in our first possessions. We need to get some first downs, get something rolling, and that could lead into some scoring.”

As a team, the Cowboys are ranked 111th in the nation in points (13.3 ppg) and 112th in total offense, averaging 251 yards a game. The Cowboys are 57th in rushing (158.7 ypg) and 114th passing at 92 yards a game.

“We have to put it together more than any time this year,” Bolling said. “Our offense has been struggling, even into the past season coming into this season. Our defense has a good shot of at least slowing them down. They are averaging over 40 points a game and I don’t think they can do that against our D.”

Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore said that as long as they are winning games, he is fine with their numbers.

“We want to get better every game, that is what our focus is on. As far as putting numbers up, it will come in time,“ Moore said.

Moore leads the team in rushing and is second in the league with 297 yards. He broke out last weekend in the 16-13 win over North Dakota State with a season-high 145 yards.

The Cowboys will stick with the run game as their bread and butter, but both Bolling and Crum said they have to be ready to make plays with through the air.

“We have to take advantage of the situations. There has been a lot of opportunities down the field that we haven’t made in the passing game that we have made in past years,” Bolling said. “I don’t know if it is the lack of concentration when we get into the game or just anxiousness. But when we get our number called, we have to make the best of our opportunities. We have to get eight or nine people out of the box.”

“We have to protect the football and when they dial me up, make decisions to try and make some plays,” adds Crum, who is 32-of-58 passing for 273 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Crum said after the win over the Bison that one of these days he is going to throw for over 300 yards. Saturday would be a good time for that, unless he is passing on every play because of a large deficit. At the same time, he said what he wants the offense to do is move the football and keep it out of the hands of Hall and the Cougars.

“Numbers don’t mean anything. If we won 3-0 and we ran every play, I would be happy,” Crum said. “But if we could control the ball and get some big plays throwing the ball, that would be good.”

The BYU defense has been overlooked this season because of its offense’s prowess, and it is among the league leaders as well. BYU defensively is third in the conference in points allowed (14.7 ppg), and third against the run (907 ypg). The Cougars, however, are eighth in passing defense at 215 yards a game.

“I can’t say enough about them,” Moore said of the BYU defense. “They don’t get as much pub, but they are great athletes and they come out and play hard every game.”

Most believe the Cowboys will have to have its best game offensively against BYU to just be in the game. Crum said he hopes that is the case, and after a good Tuesday practice, he said that they are showing improvement.

“I think we have the potential to score some points,” Crum said. “We’ve just been stubbing our feet sometimes, turning it over. I think we can definitely score some points. Whether that comes this week or next week, I think it is going to happen.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Slowing down the Cougars

BYU photo
BYU quarterback Max Hall looks for an open receiver last week against UCLA.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

The numbers are daunting, among the best in the nation.

So, how do you stop Brigham Young?

For the Wyoming defense, it’s not so much about how to stop the Cougars, but what you do to slow them down. The Cowboys feel like they have what it takes defensively to match up with the BYU offense.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re excited,” Wyoming freshman linebacker Gabe Knapton said. “They have some big guys, but we’re just going to play our best game and play to our full potential and hang in there or beat them, hopefully.”

The Cougars are 10th overall in the country offensively, averaging 519 yards a game and 14th in coring at 42.7 points a game. Led by quarterback Max Hall, receiver Dennis Pitta and tight end Austin Collie, BYU is ranked fifth in the country in passing.

“These are always the most fun games, to be able to go to a ranked team’s house. It’s always a challenge, but I think we’re ready for it,” Wyoming sophomore safety Chris Prosinski said. “Coach (Mike Breske) has done a great job, and our players are real focused. It should be real fun.”

Through three games, it’s likely that the Cougars opponents haven’t had a lot of fun. All eyes will be on the Wyoming secondary, but the Cowboy defense as a whole will have to step up. It all starts up front with pressure.

“They are a great team, they have some big guys up front,” Wyoming junior defensive tackle John Fletcher said. “We’re just going to have to work our butts off to try to get to the quarterback. Hopefully, our coverages will hold up against their passing game.”

The BYU offensive line is big and built to protect the quarterback. Hall has been outstanding this season, completing 91 of 117 passes (77.8 percent), for 1,095 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last week, Hall threaded UCLA for seven touchdown passes, including six in the first half.

Getting to Hall won’t be easy, Fletcher said, because of his quick release.

“He’s got a good clock in his head, he gets rid of the ball real fast,” Fletcher said. “It’s going to have to be quick moves up front and hopefully get free on a couple of plays.”

The Wyoming defense doesn’t necessarily have to get to Hall to be successful, but must at least get him out of his comfort zone.

“I think if we get him moving out of the pocket, it will screw him up a little bit because he is used to just sitting back there, patting the ball once or twice and getting rid of it,” Fletcher said. “Hopefully, we can get enough pressure to get him out of the pocket and create some pressure for him.”

Next in line, the Wyoming linebackers not only have to help out with the coverage and slow down the run game, but put pressure on the quarterback.

“These are the types of guys you can’t really bull rush or run over,” Knapton said. “There’s a lot of work with the hands to just get around them rather than go through them.”

The BYU receivers are also among the best in the nation and will give the Cowboys a handful to cover. Prosinski said they are big and fast.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Prosinski said. “We have a good game plan, I think, and we’re just going to go out there and give it all that we have and see what happens. I think if we execute our plays and take care of our responsibilities, we should be good.”

Pitta leads the Cougars with 26 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns, with Collie catching 22 balls for 264 yards and three scores. Michael Reed also has 16 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns and running back Harvey Unga has 16 catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

“We’re going to have to definitely play lights out, play one of best games to slow it down,” Prosinski said. “They are passing the ball all over the place. Their tight end is one of the leading receivers in the nation. And they have a good core of wide receivers. Hopefully, we get a pass rush on them and we’ll sit back there and just cover our guys.”

Stopping the Cougars? Much of it is mental, Prosinski said, “knowing your job, knowing your responsibilities, getting your pre-snap read, just doing that kind of stuff. Physically, we think we have it and mentally, we just have to get it down.”

The Wyoming defense, rated in the Top 25 for much of last season, has played well again in the first three games of the season. The Cowboys are third in the conference and 37th in the country, giving up 292 yards a game. Wyoming is also 47th in the country in scoring defense at 18.7 points a game.

Knapton said the Cowboys will have to play to its full potential in Provo.

“If our D does that, we’re a pretty good defense,” Knapton said. “We’ve played good, but I don’t think we have played to our full potential. I hope we can do it Saturday.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Looking ahead to BYU

UW photo service
Wyoming linebacker Ward Dobbs, 29, and safety Derrick McMahen knock the ball away form a North Dakota state receiver on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

It‘s been a nice little three-game home stand to open the season for the Wyoming Cowboys.

Although the Cowboys have struggled at times, going 2-1, they have been home and that is always a benefit. Now, Wyoming hits the road for the first time and it probably couldn’t be at any tougher destination -- Provo, Utah and 14th-ranked Brigham Young.

The Cowboys thoughts quickly turned to BYU after Saturday’s 16-13 win over North Dakota State.

When asked Saturday after the game when the Cowboys start thinking about the Cougars, Wyoming senior running back Wynel Seldon said he already had begun that process.

“As soon as the last seconds ticked off the clock, now we have to switch and think about BYU and game plan it with those guys,” Seldon said. “We have to come out focused; we have to come out ready to control the ball and control the clock; just take it to them. That is a fundamentally sharp team. They have an NFL-caliber offense and defensively they are sound.”

The Cougars have been more than sound this season, they’ve played as well as any team in the country. On Saturday, 3-0 BYU crushed UCLA 59-0. Quarterback Max Hall threw seven touchdown passes, including six in the first half.

After talking in length about the win over North Dakota State, Wyoming coach Joe Glenn closed by saying the game is in the past and now is the time to start focusing on BYU.

“We don’t care who they beat,” Glenn said of the unbeaten Cougars, who own two wins over Pac-10 teams. “We’re going to prepare and do the best that we can and hopefully get the W.”

Expect the Wyoming secondary to have a busy day on Saturday trying to slow down Hall and his high-flying passing attack. Wyoming free safety Chris Prosinski said they have a lot of preparing to do for the Cougars, which began Sunday with film work.

Prosinski said BYU has the complete package.

“They are a lot like this team, they have a big tight end, a good wide receiver and big backs,” Prosinski said, comparing BYU and North Dakota State.

Offensively, the Cowboys didn’t have that compete game they were hoping for against North Dakota State. But after struggling in the first half, the Cowboys showed some improvement in the final two quarters.

Wyoming senior Devin Moore said they will work hard this week and show improvement.

“I think we are going to come out ready. BYU is a good team, one of the best teams in the conference,” Moore said. “We’ll put something together. The pass game, it was fine. We caught some big balls. I think a lot of the fans want deep balls and touchdowns right away. Just know that we’re working on it and it is coming.”

Looking back at the win
Offensively, the Cowboys stuck to their run game in many ways because North Dakota State was putting a lot of pressure on quarterback Dax Crum. The Bison sacked Crum five times in the game.

“We couldn’t block them for a while. They were beating us one-on-one and hammering our quarterback,’ Glenn said. “We couldn’t throw short and we couldn’t throw long. We ran hard at them and Bob Cole did a great job of mixing it up the various plays. I don’t think they exactly knew where the blocks were coming at or where the double teams were at. The kids executed and the backs ran hard.”

Crum said the offense wanted to go back to ore of a power running game instead of the zone attack.

“We wanted to just getting our MoJo back, establishing that we should be pushing them around,’ Crum said.

Crum was 11-of-17 through the air, but had just 90 yards. He said production in the passing game has to improve.

“Ninety yards, it has to get better; I have to do better,” Crum said. “ We got the win and that is the most important thing. I’m young and I have to learn and develop for the next game. One of these days I am going to break out and throw for 300 … hopefully. That’s what we’re going to have to do to win games down the stretch. We have a great running attack, but we have to do both.”

Defensively, the Cowboys got off to a slow start but like the offense, began to clamp down when it counted. Wyoming had three pass interceptions in the game, including two by Prosinski, with the other a big pic by senior Derrick McMahen late in the game that set up the game-winning field goal.

“We started off slow, definitely, but our defense gave up more yards than we would have liked to in the first half too,” Prosinski said.

Prosinski now has three pass interceptions on the season.

“That first one I have to give it to Marcell (Gipson),” Prosinski said. “He; he tipped it and the second one he got a good jam on him too. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and came up with the ball.”

Another milestone
While Moore and Seldon were moving up in the record books for career yards rushing, senior middle linebacker Ward Dobbs did the same in career tackles.

With his sixth tackles, Dobbs moved into 10th place with 262, moving ahead of John Wendling and Pete Benedetti

“I don’t think about that that much. The biggest thing I think about is that we won the game,” Dobbs said. “We forced some turnovers, which were huge. Give it to the team as a whole. It was one of those things where we just came out in the second half and started fighting.”

In fact, the Cowboys won the turnover margin with four takeaways to just one lost fumbles. That compares to five giveaways against Air Force to just one takeaway.

“Anytime you win the turnover margin, you are likely going to win the game,” Dobbs said.

Quote of the Day
Don’t get Crum wrong, he was happy with the fact that Jake Scott was able to kick the game-winner and he was a perfect 3-for-3 on the day. At the same time, he said he would just as soon prefer that Scott doesn’t get too many field-goal kicking opportunities -- that is, with the Cowboys scoring touchdowns rather than settling for field goals.

“That’s great that he made those field goals, but we have to be better; we have to finish drives,” Crum said. “We have to score touchdowns. It’s good to know that you have the kicker backing you up, but we would have been better off at 28 (points) or whatever, if we got touchdowns instead of field goals.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cowboys keep plugging away on the ground

UW photo
Wyoming running back Devin Moore steps over a North Dakota State player Saturday in the Cowboys' 16-13 win.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

So much for opening up the Wyoming offense.

The Cowboys, including head coach Joe Glenn, talked about making some changes offensively against North Dakota State Saturday after the dismal performance against Air Force in the previous week.

Both Glenn and offensive coordinator Bob Cole called the Air Force game an aberration.

Based on the first half against North Dakota State, the Wyoming offense looked to still be stuck in the mud. The Cowboys had just 71 yards of offense against the Bison and no points.

So what do the Cowboys do in the second half? They go back to the power run game. This time, it worked, as Wyoming rallied behind the running of seniors Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon for the 16-13 victory.

Moore had an outstanding game -- his best of the season -- with 145 yards on the ground and one touchdown.

“Coach Cole came into the locker room at halftime and said that we were going to run the ball,” Moore said. “He doesn’t care about what everyone was talking about, being conservative, and that we need to pass the ball. We were going to run the ball.”

As a team, the Cowboys ran for 176 net yards, 153 in the second half.

“He put in on our shoulders right then and there and the receivers said that we are out here to block and we’re going to do what we can,” Moore added. “If we get some passes, then we do what we can. We came out and in the first run, I don’t even know how it went. But we were ready. In the huddle, Kyle Howard, Tim Bond, they were getting us going, telling me, “D, you’re going to break this.’ The next thing I know I am in the open field. I give it all to the offensive line and Coach Cole.”

Moore snuck in from 2 yards out with 8:15 to go in the third quarter to finally get the Cowboys on the scoreboard.

“We just tried to come back.,“ Moore said. “The guys in the locker room were keeping ,my head up, I kept their heads up. We came back and we were on fire.”

In the second quarter, the Cowboys were threatening but Moore coughed the ball up on fourth and 2 on the North Dakota State 22-yard line

“We wanted to kick it off and let the defense get us going first; it went against us; we won the toss, got it and went three and out,” Moore said. “We were kind of down about that. That’s one thing our coaches have been on us is we have to let things go. It kind of held us back at first and I made a costly fumble, so I put it on myself; we were down in the red zone.”

Later in the second half, Moore ran his way into the Top 10 in career rushing at Wyoming. He now has 1,959 yards as a Cowboy.

That’s fine and dandy, Moore said, but he has other things currently on his mind than career statistics.

“I not even focused on that. I’m trying to do something as far as going to a bowl game,” Moore said. “It will come, I believe. I keep hearing a lot of about it, like I need to get my yards up if we want to win games and D-Mo, you have to put some points on the board. It’s stressful, but at the same time, my Mom, the coaches, they are telling me to not worry about that stuff. It will come. As long as we’re getting the wins, I’m doing something right.”

Seldon also moved to sixth place in career rushing for the Cowboys with his 56 yards on 13 carries. None of those yards were more important than his 10-yard gain in the final seconds that set up Jake Scott’s game-winning 29-yard field goal.

Seldon said the Cowboys could have easily been content with what they had, but wanted to get as close as possible for Scott. And who knows? Maybe Seldon scores a touchdown.

“That’s what is inside of me,” Seldon said. “I’m just hungry all of the time; I’m never satisfied. My appetite has never subsided. I just run with passion, run hard; that’s what I do.”

Seldon now has 2,197 career yards.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Comeback Cowboys come together

Richard Anderson photos
From left, Wyoming's Michael Ray and Darius Terry are all smiles after the Cowboys battled back to be North Dakota State on Saturday. At bottom, head coach Joe Glenn, right, hugs linebackers coach Marty English.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn knows the situation: Start winning …. sooner than later.

As the Cowboys headed into the locker room at halftime on Saturday, trailing 10-0 against upstart North Dakota State, Glenn didn’t have a very good feeling. A glass is half full kind of guy, Glenn was suddenly seeing the bottom of the water bottle.

By the time junior Jake Scott kicked a 29-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys to a 16-13 victory over the Bison, Glenn’s positive feelings were filling up again.

“This was the first time, maybe since 2,008 years ago, that somebody else rose from the dead,” Glenn said. “We were out and there with just hardly anything left in our locker room. Credit the kids, there was nothing said. We kind of circled some plays that maybe we didn’t get to enough in the first half. We just came out and got a little rhythm going, which we haven’t had in a while.”

Trailing by 10 points at halftime and not showing anything positive offensively against the Bison, the Cowboys had to not only regroup, but keep their heads up.

After giving up another field goal and now tailing 13-0, a couple of successful drives did just that.

“We all stayed focused by keeping our spirits up and keeping everything positive,” Wyoming senior running back Wynel Seldon said. “We just had to come together, focus in and just dig deep and actually do what we do in practice.”

Wyoming junior defensive end Mitch Unrein said the Cowboy defense went back out on the field confident that their offense would get the job done and the offense maintained their belief that the defense would not let the game get out of hand.

He was right on both parts.

“You can’t get down on the offense and they can’t get down on the defense; that’s what we pride ourselves on this year, not trying to blame anyone for anything,” Unrein said. “Mistakes happen, that’s just the game of football, so we went out there and tried to execute the best that we could. We knew we were the better team, and at the end, we came through.”

Wyoming sophomore quarterback Dax Crum didn’t exactly buy into his head coach’s resurrection theory, but he did say they were a different team in the second half.

“I didn’t think we were dead. We came back out and won the game,” Crum said. “In the locker room, we were just focused. They were kind of putting it to us. We just came together and got the win.”

Cowboy senior running back Devin Moore, who finished with 145 yards on the ground, summed up the win, perhaps in chronological order.

“The offense came through, the defense held strong and Jake Scott kicked the winning field goal,” Moore said. “We’re all happy right now.”

Happy and relieved.

"A win is a win and I’ll take a W any day,” Wyoming senior linebacker Ward Dobbs said. “It doesn’t really matter how. It’s a much better feeling now than last week.”

Sophomore receiver David Leonard said there is no other way to say it or look at things, especially with a team that has struggled to pick up victories as of late.

“We knew coming in they were going to be a really good team,” Leonard said. “We felt they were as good, if not better than the first two opponents that we played. It was a great win for us.”

If a football game or season can be compared to a 12-round boxing match, the Cowboys got back up from their knockdown last week in the loss to Air Force and struggled to stay on their feet in the first half against North Dakota State.

The second half, however, saw a little counter punching turn into a close decision in their favor. Saturday's comeback and win was just round three, Seldon said.

“We played the first two games and it was round one and two and we have to come back with round three,” Seldon said. “We came back at the half and pulled it together. Before, we had to focus in in the first half and we weren’t clicking, we weren’t focusing as a unit. We decided to mesh and bring things together and try to dig deep and pull out the win.”

Longtime Wyoming football fans won’t exactly put this is the same classification as the wild 48-45 comeback win over Air Force in 1988 or the 41-38 overtime comeback victory at Iowa State in 1996.

The 2008 Cowboys, however, have two come-from-behind victories in three games and will take them.

“We needed a win bad to get this team on the right path, to get rejuvenated for practice,” Wyoming sophomore free safety Chris Prosinski said. “This was big for this team.”

Play(s) of the Game: McMahen's interception, Scott's game-winning field goal

UW photo service
Wyoming coach Joe Glenn celebrate's the winning kick Saturday against North Dakota State. At bottom, Jake Scott and Derrick McMahen came up with the big plays a the end.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

One play led to the other, which led to a Wyoming victory.

Wyoming senior strong safety Derrick McMahen intercepted North Dakota State quarterback Nick Mertens' pass with just over three minutes left in the game and junior place kicker Jake Scott kicked a 29-yard field goal with just seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys to a big come-from-behind 16-13 win Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

“Derrick McMahen made a huge play to get us there and Jake Scott kicked the field goal,” Wyoming junior defensive end Mitch Unrein said. “It is a bunch of guys who are stepping up.”

For McMahen, it was his first career interception. It was Scott's first game-winner. Two firsts made a right for the Cowboys on Saturday.

Wyoming sophomore free safety Chris Prosinski had two interceptions himself in the game, but they paled in comparison with McMahen’s.

“That was huge. He was in the right place at the right time,” Prosinski said. “I knew he could do it. He has been making plays all fall and all spring. Hats off to him.”

McMahen said that he was helping with the cornerback, but he saw the North Dakota State receiver get inside of the Wyoming outside linebacker and Mertens was staring his guy down the entire way.

“I thought he was going to throw it behind me, but he threw it right to me,” McMahen said. “I just made sure I caught it.”

McMahen added that the Wyoming defense was just looking for that big opportunity at crunch time and whomever it came to, they were going to take it.

“It came to me and I took it,” he said with a smile. “Defense, we’re all ready to go. Whether you are first string or second strong, I was ready when they called upon me. I was the one who happened to make a play.”

Talking to reporters after the game, McMahen said that it hadn’t really hit him yet that he was able to make a game-saving play.

“Maybe tonight or tomorrow it will. I’m just going to enjoy the win, mainly,” McMahen said.

McMahen took the pick 15 yards back to the North Dakota State 28-yard line. In good field position, the Cowboys still needed to make a couple of plays to get the ball better in Scott’s kicking range. They did and he got his shot with just four seconds remaining.

Scott said he actually started thinking with about seven minutes left that he was going to get a chance to win the game. At that time, he said he began to visually imagine himself making that game-winning kick.

"At three minutes, we got the ball and I was thinking, ‘OK, it is coming down to it,’” Scott said. “My buddy, Nick Landess, came up to me and told me and everybody stayed away. Once I walked out there, I knew they were going to ice me, but I was ready for it. At the same time, I was still expecting to be able to kick it as they iced me. One more mental imagery, though, and I knew it was going right down the pipe before I kicked it.”

After North Dakota State called a time out to try to throw off Scott’s focus and rhythm, the snap was perfect to holder Ian Hetrick and the kick was true. The celebration began.

“That’s great for Jake. It is a real confidence builder for him,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. “He knocked them right down the middle, I think. We needed him big time. We needed 3-for-3.”
Scott also connected on a pair of 28-yard field goals - one late in the third quarter and the other midway through the fourth quarter.

It’s been an up and down career for Scott, who missed a short field goal in the opener against Ohio, but has been perfect ever since. In spring and early in fall, Glenn was a bit displeased with the consistency of his kickers, including Scott, as they searched to replace last year’s starter, Billy Vinnedge. A back injury also hampered Scott some this fall.

Scott is not only building his confidence, but the self-assurance of his coach and his team.

“I feel pretty confident right now,” Scott said. “I always felt like I had that type of confidence in myself. I had to make sure that the coaches saw it to.”

The only way to feel much higher, he said, is to keep making field goals.

“I’m going to keep building my confidence,” he said.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cowboys look to bounce back

UW photo
Cowboy freshman cornerback Tashaun Gipson tackles Air Force sophomore Reggie Rembert.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

There’s little time left for talking for the Wyoming Cowboys. They know they have to step things up and they have to do it Saturday.

The Cowboys will get that chance against North Dakota State Saturday at 1 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

After last week’s 23-3 loss to Air Force in the Mountain West Conference opener, the Cowboys were embarrassed, mad and hurt about their performance, especially on offense.

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn said they have put that game behind them with a good week of practice, but it is still hard for them to understand what happened offensively against a good, but not great Air Force team.

“Like anybody else, they have their pride and they are hurt. It’s how you rebound from that,” Glenn said. “You can’t see it on their faces, but I believe, especially on offense, that our kids believe they have something to prove. I know Coach (Bob) Cole puts on a happy face, but behind closed doors, it is tearing his guts out. He’s anxious to play a game and for us to move forward with our offense.

“I don’t know how you can be more sick than our offensive coaches. They feel like it is their fault and they let us down. I meet with them almost every night and all day and in meetings. I can tell you the kind of men they are. They’re very prideful, very successful coaches, everyone of them, every where they have been. For that to happen, it is an aberration; it is just not right. They want to roll their sleeves up and fight back. I’m saying they will bounce back.”

Against Air Force, the Cowboys had just 216 total yards on offense and turned the ball over five times. Quarterback Dax Crum was just 7-for-19 passing for 72 yards.

Wyoming will have to show improvement against a good North Dakota State team that defensively reminds Glenn of Ohio.

“They are similar-type athletes and they play with a similar attitude. They are a very well-coached team,” he said. “Everything thing they do has a meaning and they don’t give up much. You’re going to have to earn it. To score on them, you’re going to have to go on 14-, 15-play drives. They play really tough field position with their schemes. They’ll make you earn it every step of the way. You’re not going to try to get much over the top, I don’t think.”

While the Bison will blitz, Glenn said he doesn’t think it is their forte.

“If you look at tape and scratch where it itches, you get an idea. So anticipate some pressure and anticipate picking it up,” Glenn said. “When you expose yourself a little bit with pressure, you can get hurt. If you man blitz and you get beat mono e mono, it is not always for first downs, but it is for large chunks of yardage. They don’t want to play that way.”

In both games, including the 21-20 win over Ohio, the Cowboys have started slow. Glenn said it is always good to get off to a good start and that is what they hope to do. If not, he said they’ll have to come back like they did against Ohio.

“We’ve seen some adversity this year and have played through it,” he said. “We did a great job of fighting through it against Ohio. We fought from behind, we won, we made a great drive in the fourth quarter to win. We’re capable of doing that. We’re not capable of winning when we turn the ball over five times.”

As has been talked about all week, the Bison may be a Division I Football Championship Subdivision team, but not only are they a very good team, but they are ranked No. in the nation.

Glenn said that you can put this football team in whatever division you want; they are that good.

“They are a Division I football tram in every sense of the word: In their size, in their speed, in their talent, their coaches and their budget, probably,” Glenn said. “North Dakota State, whatever league they are in, they are in the top of that league. That’s the way their mentality is. Coach (Craig) Bohl and his group have done a great job. Our kids and our coaches know that there is a Division I team coming in here and a dang good one.”

After Saturday’s game, the Cowboys will return to MWC play and hit the road for the first time with a matchup against Brigham Young in Provo, Utah.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mertens the headliner as Bison quarterback

At left, quarterback Nick Mertens. At right, head coach Craig Bohl

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Nick Mertens was an understudy the past two years for highly decorated North Dakota State quarterback Steve Walker in consecutive 10-1 seasons.

With Walker now graduated, Mertens is receiving top billing. After two games, he’s getting rave reviews on his performance.

North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl said during his Missouri Valley Football Conference media teleconference on Wednesday that so far, things have gone well with Mertens at the helm.
“We have been fortunate that we have played at home against two opponents that I wouldn’t classify anywhere in the same category that Wyoming is,” Bohl said. “The thing that we have asked Nick to do he has delivered well. He’s got an excellent completion record. His decision making and his leadership skills in managing our offense has been very good.

“It’s his opportunity to lead our football team and we are well pleased with what he done so far.”

There is certainly pressure on the 6-foot-1 junior, who went into the season throwing just 16 passes, competing 10 for 166 yards. In two games this season, Mertens is an outstanding 31-of-41 for 490 yards, one interception and six touchdowns.

Bohl said that there is no question that there is some pressure on Mertens. Yet, it appears that he has handled the pressure well.

“There’s not a more highlighted position in football than the quarterback position and we had a four-year starter who led us in transition,” Bohl said. “We were a Division II school that had been 2-8 before Steve got here. We had two 10-1 seasons and Steve was an excellent quarterback. I’m sure Nick has felt that pressure. If I had a quarter for every time somebody asked me how our quarterback was doing, I’d be a wealthy guy now. He’s handled the pressure well right now. He’s confident, he’s grounded and he is a smart quarterback. He also has some good physical skills.”

Matching up
One advantage the Bison have had in the past couple of seasons, Bohl said, is their domination on the line of scrimmage. That physical advantage will be put to test against the bigger Cowboys.

“Certainly they (Wyoming) are a very physically talented football team,” Bohl said. “We have always felt that our strength has been our line of scrimmage with our size and explosion. They have five returning linemen back and their defense was in the Top 25 in every defensive category last year with a lot of those players back. It will be a challenge for us.”

Bison nicked up
The Bison could go into Saturday’s game without the services of preseason All-America running back candidate Tyler Roehl (high ankle sprain) and starting middle linebacker Tyler Henry (knee). Both suffered injuries last week in the 50-14 win over Central Connecticut State. Roehl had 100 yards rushing in just four carries before the injury and has 174 yards (9.2 yards per carry) on the season.

“We’re not going to keep anything from anybody; they are nicked up right now,” Bohl said. “I would anticipate that both will make the trip. How functional they both will be, we don’t know how they are going to come across. They certainly are not at full speed.”

If Roehl can’t go, Bohl’s bench has performed well this season as well. Last week, junior Pat Paschall ran for 117 yards on 14 carries yards and freshman D.J. McNorton added 40 yards on the ground. Redshirt freshman Matt Voightlander has 107 yards rushing in two games this season.

Also injured last week with a knee injury was starting left tackle Gerry Ebel, who will be out for a month.

“The guys have a good attitude. We’ve been working hard to do out there and give Wyoming a heck of a game and come back with a victory,” Bohl said.

Life on the road
The Bison will make their first road trip of the season, which always presents different elements and challenges, Bohl said.

“Certain players embrace those differences and others don’t handle it very well,” he said. “It does help us that we are a fairly senior-laden football team as we go into a lot of different places all over the country.”

Of course, there has been plenty of mention in Laramie and Fargo on the fact that the Cowboys play at 7,220 feet above sea level. The Bison play at 850 feet.

“We’ve never played at a location with the altitude of 7,200 feet. It’s a little bit higher than typically we play at,” Bohl said. “They talk about that a lot and we are going to go out there and get ready to play a foot ball game. Certainly a lot of people have made note of the altitude. It’s the highest stadium in the country. It will be a challenge.”

After Saturday’s game, the Bison open Missouri Valley Football Conference play on Sept. 20 at Youngstown (Ohio) State.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Glenn: Cowboys to open it up

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming quarterback Dax Crum and the Cowboy offense will look to pick things up Saturday against North Dakota State.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Wyoming head football coach Joe Glenn told reporters on the weekly Mountain West Conference teleconference that the Cowboys would have a different game plan on offense Saturday against North Dakota State than they had against Air Force.

Uh… that would help.

The Cowboys failed to get into the end zone last Saturday in the 23-3 loss to Air Force in their MWC opener in a game the Wyoming defense played well in but received little help from the offense. The Cowboys passed for just 76 yards in the game and had just 216 yards of total offense. Most distressing for Glenn and the Cowboys were the five turnovers -- four fumbles and one interception.

Saturday turned out to be a long and tough day for the Cowboys, who were looking to take it up a notch against the Falcons after the 21-20 win over Ohio in the season opener. The Wyoming offense, under new quarterback Dax Crum and new offensive coordinator Bob Cole, took a couple of long strides backwards against Air Force.

“We’ve been game planning, every since Saturday night. We just about have our game plan put in,” Glenn said Tuesday morning. “We just have to get back on the board, I think everybody knows that. There’s nothing I can say about last Saturday that is good. We tried to put a pretty conservative plan together. The game was going to get over in a hurry and when you turn it over five times, I don’t care how you game plan, you can’t game plan for that. We didn’t protect our defense, which is so important.”

Crum, after a fairly consistent opener, never got untracked, passing for just six yards in the first half as the Cowboys were trying to establish a power run game against the smaller Air Force defense. While Wyoming’s backs -- seniors Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon -- ran well, the offense didn’t make the plays and turned the ball over too many times.

“We didn’t throw well, we didn’t catch well. It was just a horrible day,” Glenn said. “I know many fans are upset and I understand that. But as I said, it is two rounds of a 12-round fight. We’re 1-1. Anybody who saw Ohio and Ohio State play has to know that we beat a pretty good Ohio team, and we’re capable of playing good football.”

Glenn said they will likely simplify things against the Bison and try to open things up offensively with a more aggressive passing attack.

“We’ve got to throw the ball and make some plays in the passing game,” Glenn said. “You look back and see how devastating it was. We can do it. We going to have to have Dax play a little better and we’re going to have to help him a little bit; maybe simplify things and find a way to make some money in the passing game. Early would build some confidence.”

Glenn said the loss was devastating for the team, the coaches and the players. But he said one game does not make a season one way or the other.

“We need to rebound from that loss; we’ll have to rebound against a very tough North Dakota State football team,” he said.

About the Bison

The game will be the first between the two schools. In fact, Wyoming has never played a team from North Dakota in its 1,000-game history. The Cowboys will get that chance in game 1,001.

The 2-0 Bison come into the game rated first in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll, blasting Central Connecticut State 50-14 last week in Fargo, N.D.

North Dakota State has played just four times against Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (1-A) teams, but is 3-1, including two big wins over Central Michigan and Minnesota last season.
Glenn said they won’t come into Laramie intimidated.

“Don’t give me any of that crud about being a -- I still call it I-AA -- team,” he said. “They come in here with a whole lot of wind in their sails. One of the films that we’re watching from last year was the 40-14 win over Central Michigan, which was back-to-back MAC champions and a 27-21 win in front of 60,000 people in Minnesota.”

In fact, he said the Bison will likely come in with a chip on their shoulder.

“I know when I coached at Montana, we had a chance to play Division I schools and they want to show everybody, especially the players who might have gotten passed up to play Division 1A,” he said. “We’re going to have to rebound and do it against a very tough opponent.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Defense continues to shine for Falcons

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming running back Devin Moore is hauled down by an Air Force defender Saturday after a short gain.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Second-year Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has his defense to fall back on.

At times during his post-game interview session with reporters on Saturday, Calhoun might have sounded much more stoic than ecstatic when talking about his offense.

But defensively, Calhoun liked what he saw, as his Falcons held Wyoming to 216 yards of offense and forced five turnovers in the 23-3 win over the Wyoming Cowboys at War Memorial Stadium.

“I’m pleased with the way we played today. When you look at the points, most of them were scored off of turnovers,” said Calhoun, whose team is now 2-0 on the season.

Basically, 16 of the team’s 23 points came via the Wyoming miscue. The Cowboys lost four fumbles and Air Force intercepted one pass.

Yet, the second-year Air Force coach would have preferred to get into the end zone a little more often.

“It was a little frustrating to only get field goals as points, and in the next few games, we have to turn those into touchdowns,” Calhoun said.

The Air Force offense did break one big play -- a 74-yard run by Kyle Halderman, who was caught by Wyoming safety Chris Prosinski at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Shea Smith took it in from there.

“I thought for sure Halderman’s run would get into the end zone. On a play like that, you have to make sure you don’t hit a triple and then squeeze in a run, you want to be able to get a score on that play,” Calhoun said.

As an offense, the Falcons finished with 276 yards of total offense -- 261 yards on the ground and 15 passing. This is coming off of a 500-yard day last week against Southern Utah.

“I think it is evident that we have to play faster on both sides of the ball. It seemed like we left a lot of big plays out there on the field,” Calhoun said. “Coming into today’s game, I thought it would be a defensive struggle and it was when both offenses were methodical.”

A bright spot for Calhoun certainly was the play of his team’s defense. Linebacker Chris Thomas, defensive end Ryan Kemp, Rick Rickets and free safety Aaron Kirchoff all recovered fumbles, with Thomas, cornerback Reggie Rembert and defensive end Jake Paulson delivering the hits that forced the giveaways. Linebacker Brandon Reeves had the pass interception for Air Force.

“Our defense today was good. I thought we played solid, we faced an inexperienced quarterback, but that’s going to change in the next few weeks,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun was also pleased with the fact that the Falcons were able to win their Mountain West Conference opener away from home. It proved to be a good start for the team.

“Any time you win on the road, it’s a big win,” he said. “But when you beat a team that has a tough defense and a good offensive line, then it becomes a little bigger. We have to be able to grow exponentially game by game this season. It usually takes years to do that, but we need to find a way to make that faster.”

Offensive struggles perplexing for Cowboys

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming running back Wynel Seldson looks to get past an Air Force defender on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Wyoming offensive coordinator Bob Cole had somewhat of a faraway look when he talked to the media after Saturday’s stunning 23-3 loss to Air Force at War Memorial Stadium.

The architect of the new Wyoming offense probably felt like he had just misplaced his floor plans.

“I’m a little shocked right now, to be honest with you,” Cole told reporters. “I don’t know any other way to explain it. None of us saw that coming. We thought we would be able to do both (run and pass). We were pretty decent as far as running, but we never got in sync. We put the ball on the ground five times and if there was one point of emphasis going into the week, it’s these guys try to strip the ball every single down and they got us five times. We just never got untracked.”

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn summed up the day in six words: “Five turnovers, story of the game.”

The Cowboys had four fumbles -- three by sophomore quarterback Dax Crum and one by senior running back Wynel Seldon -- and Crum threw one interception.

The result ended in either good field position for the Falcons or stopping a nice drive offensively by the Cowboys.

Either way, it turned into disaster for Wyoming, which fell to 1-1 on the season. Air Force, 2-0, broke a 3-3 halftime tie with 10 points in the third quarter and 10 more in the fourth.

“We almost looked like we didn’t practice and that is embarrassing for me because we practiced hard and we practiced effectively,” Glenn said. “You have to look at our team today on offense say, ‘Hey, you guys are not very good,’ and we are good, we have good players. We have to play to our ability. We didn’t today and that is for sure.”

The small but quick Air Force defense didn’t do anything that the Cowboys hadn’t prepared for; the Falcons just executed. The Wyoming offense very seldom executed.

“Looking back at it, we just had so many opportunities and we just couldn’t convert,” Crum said.

Wyoming running backs Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon actually had a good first half and statistically, not bad games as a whole. In the first half, Seldon had 64 yards on nine carries and Moore added 59 yards on nine rushes.

The Cowboys moved the football well between the 20s, but could never finish off a drive by getting the ball into the end zone. One drive in particular ended with place kicker Jake Scott missing a 27-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. After a Ward Dobbs’ interception, Scott converted on a 47-yard field goal, the only score of the game for Wyoming.

“We were running the ball so good, we wanted to try to impose our will on them and kind of lean on them because we had such a big size advantage,” Crum said. “But when it came time for me to make some plays, I just didn’t get it done today.”

Seldon appeared to be on his way to a big game with that strong first half, but he carried the ball just one time in the second half -- and fumbled on the Wyoming 12-yard line. The miscue led to a field goal.

Seldon, who was charged with the phantom fumble and touchdown return in last year’s 20-12 loss at the Academy, had Saturday’s play reviewed by game officials and again had it ruled that his knee was not down.

“That’s on me. I can’t put it in the ref’s hands because nine times out of 10 it is going to stay,” Seldon said. “I take onus on that and I have to stop letting the ball go when I am on the ground.”
As it turned out, that was Seldon’s last time on the field in the game.

“If that’s the move they had to do, I’m just a player and I have no control over that,” he said. “All I can do is keep coming back and try to produce and keep pushing forward.”

Seldon said the Cowboys’ troubles on Saturday came down to the lack of focus. At times, he said they made plays with “good passes, good blocks, good runs.” He said the intensity and passion was there.

Just no focus.

“We have to maintain our focus throughout the game and play by play,” Seldon said. “We can’t get excited about big plays and then take plays off. Air Force is real disciplined and we knew that coming in. If there were any mistakes going to be made, we had to minimize them because they are known to capitalize on those mistakes.”

Last week against Ohio the Cowboys were able to get past a few inconsistencies on offense. On Saturday, those problems came back to bite them.

Both Cole and Glenn said that all has to stop.

“We’re not a bad football team,” Glenn said. “We have some players on offense who are capable. I really liked our game plan coming in here, and you guys have to be saying, ‘Whoa, you did?’ But we can’t turn it over five times; that’s just the bottom line.”

Cole, who was brought in this season to fix a lethargic offense, said it is all on his shoulders. If something else goes wrong, he said, he’ll look in the mirror before he comes down on the players.
“If we don’t play well on offense, I’ll be the first guy to stand up and take responsibility for it. If we do play well, then the kids did a great job and so did the coaches,” Cole said.

The solution? It might be as simple as honing things down offensively.

“Anytime I have been in trouble in this business, you subtract, you don’t add,” Glenn said. “My hunch is that is the way we will go.”