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’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.”

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