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

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.”

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