Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's deja vu all over again for Cowboys

“It’s horrible. I played as hard as I could today and I just don’t understand why that keeps happening. I’m not going to play conservative. We had an opportunity to play against a big team, No. 13 in the nation, and I’m like, ‘We need to go out there and win.'" -- Wyoming quarterback Karsten Sween

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming junior defensive end Mitch Unrein compares the Cowboys recent troubles to the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray.

“The same thing keeps on happening over and over,” Unrein said.

Groundhog Day is an off-beat comedy where a self-centered TV weatherman, played by Murray, is sent to Punxsutawney, Pa., to cover the groundhog's annual appearance. Loathing the event, the character unleashes his bitterness on his producer and cameraman. The next day, he finds that he's doomed to repeat Groundhog Day -- again and again.

In the Cowboys case, it’s turnovers and turnovers early that lead to the opponents scoring. It seems to be a never ending battle the UW offense is fighting.

In the previous three games -- all losses -- the Cowboys had a turnover lead directly to a touchdown on their first possession.

On Saturday against Utah, Wyoming junior quarterback Karsten Sween’s second pass was tipped again into the arms of a defender -- Utes cornerback Sean Smith, and Smith ran it back 25 yards for the score.

Last week in the 24-0 loss to New Mexico, basically the same results came on the first play from scrimmage. This time it was on their second possession and eighth play.

The Cowboys would go on to have punt blocked and returned for a touchdown and freshman Tashaun Gipson muffed a punt return into the end zone that was recovered by Utah in the 40-7 Homecoming loss to the Utes at War Memorial Stadium.

“It’s horrible,” Sween said. “I played as hard as I could today and I just don’t understand why that keeps happening. I’m not going to play conservative. We had an opportunity to play against a big team, No. 13 in the nation, and I’m like, ‘We need to go out there and win.'"

What was Wyoming coach Joe Glenn’s reaction? Same verse, different story.

“It is a horrible reoccurring nightmare. I don't know what to tell you. We talk about it and we think we have pretty safe plays to stay away from them,’ Glenn said of the mistakes. “It’s just poor choices hurting us. You can’t get behind on a good team early. The plan was to stay close and make safe plays, bootleg out and not try to force it in. Karsten is old enough to know that you can’t try to fit something in where you can’t fit it in.”

Sween, the first of four Wyoming quarterbacks to again play in the game, was 8 of 18 passing for 52 years and three interceptions. UW signal callers were 10-of-23 68 yards and one score.

Redshirt freshman Chris Stutzriem directed the team’s only score late in the game when he connected for 18 yards to junior receiver Greg Bolling.

Sween said he did what he was supposed to do until throwing the football. It was a ball, he said, that he shouldn’t have thrown.

“It was a boot play and I rolled around and No. 11 is a real tall guy and he ran at me and I thought it would start to open up some room to the tight end,” Sween said. “When I threw it, all he had to do is tip it a little with his hand and it popped up and the corner picked it. I should have just thrown the ball away.”

The Cowboys actually had more yards on offense in the game -- 252 to 242 -- but about half of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

On several occasions, the Cowboys called a run play on third and long, sensing that they couldn‘t move the ball in the air. Until that one fourth-quarter scoring drive, it didn’t do them much good. Wyoming freshman punter Austin McCoy punted the ball nine times in the swirling wind.

“It’s frustrating watching, but that is what they call and that is what they have to run,” Unrein said. “They just have to go out and execute.”

No one is more frustrated than Sween, who admitted after the game that he is at the end of his rope.

“I’m trying to make plays. You can’t play to not turn the ball over,” he said. “I try to just play lights out and that happens. I don’t know what to do.”

At this point of time, and with the Cowboys seeing a bye for next week, Glenn isn’t sure what he is going to do as well.

What he did say was the only thing they can do is try to get the best players out on the field and coach them up.

“The quarterback carousel is crazy,” Glenn said. “We just can’t turn it over. Karsten, I thought, was at a place where he could get beyond the turnovers. Teams are good enough that you can’t help them out. You play a team like Utah and you help them out, you’re going to lose 40-7.”

Again, will the Cowboys go back to the quarterback merry-go-round?

“We’ll probably have to do it again,” Glenn said. “We’ll see. I haven’t even visited with Bob (offensive coordinator Cole).”

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