Saturday, October 11, 2008

Despite O's struggles, defense staying positive

UW photo service
Wyoming junior defensive end Mitch Unrein sacks Utah quarteback Brian Johnson on Saturday. Pictured below is linebacker Mike Juergens.

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming senior linebacker Mike Juergens is still having fun, regardless if anyone else is. He doesn’t intend that to change. Junior defensive end Mitch Unrein is on the same path.

Juergens, Unrein and the Wyoming defense once again did their part, holding the high-powered Utes to just 242 yards of offense and basically 20 points in the 40-7 loss Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

Utah scored three times unconventionally, once on a pass interception, once on a blocked punt and another time on a muffed punt return that was recovered in the end zone.

Even some of the other scores against the Wyoming defense came from a short field, often caused by the Wyoming offense’s inability to move the football.

Juregens admits he is a little frustrated with the end result, but not displeased with the way he and his defensive teammates are playing.

“I’m proud of our guys defensively,” he said. “I thought we played really good today. Defensively, we shut them down. I felt like we played lights out defensively. Sometimes things just don’t go our way and we can’t get that monkey off of our back right now.”

While there is some aggravation in the locker room and in the stands, not much of it is directed towards the Wyoming defense. All they can do is keep coming out and playing with heart, Juergens said.

“This comes down to how much passion do we have? How much heart do we have? All of that sacrifice that we’ve done, it’s coming out there and playing every Saturday and having fun,” Juergens said.

Is Juergens still having fun? He said he is. It’s the only way he knows how to play the game.

“The minute you hang your head or you start doubting yourself or start doubting somebody else, that’s when you start getting dominating by the other team,” said Juergens, who had a team-high 10 tackles -- five solo and five assisted. He also had two sacks for a loss of seven yards. “The minute you start moping around and you don’t start playing and remembering what this game is all about, that’s when you get worked, that’s when you get dominated. My head is up and my chest is out. I’m proud of our whole defense. We’ll get things done. We’ve got to.”

In the last four games, the Wyoming offense has turned the ball over for a score early in the game, meaning the Cowboy defense has to play somewhat out of a hole. Unrein, who had one sack and also had 10 tackles, said that while is tough, it is something they can’t think about.

“You just have to go out there and get them off the field as fast as you can and give your offense another shot,” Unrein said. “That’s all you really can do. If we can give our offense more chances to dissect and see what they are messing up on, they can go out there and find something that works and go and do it.

“There are five games let … there is a lot of football left. We just have to keep playing. No one can get down on itself. Once the offense starts thinking, ‘Oh, can’t mess up, can’t mess up,’ that’s when they do mess up. They just need to go out there and react and play and they will be fine.”

For the time being, Jurgens said he is going abstain from worrying about the anemic Wyoming offense or even talking about it. He’s just concentrating on his and the defense’s job.

All I can do as a defensive player is trust and do my part,” he said. “That’s all I can do, really.”
With the Cowboys now on a bye week and not back in action until Oct. 25 at TCU, what should the Cowboys do? Unrein said they need to work hard and, you guessed it, enjoy what they are doing.

“I think we just need to relax … have fun,” Unrein said. “It seems like no one on the offense is really having fun. That is something they need to do, take a step back and look at the situation and say, ‘OK, we have five more games left and we need to make the best of it.’ I think this bye week is going to be good for us because we can look back and reflect on what they been doing. If we can find that little spark, once we get going, we will be hard to stop. We just haven’t found it yet.”

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