Saturday, November 1, 2008

Stutzriem delivers in first college start

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming redshirt quarterback Chris Stutzriem checks a play at the line of scrimmage Saturday against San Diego State.

By Richard Anderson

Redshirt freshman Chris Stutzriem went to bed Friday night relaxed and got up Saturday morning refreshed, knowing that he was going to start at quarterback against San Diego State.

That composure was evident on the field as well, as he led the Cowboys to a dominating 35-10 win over the Aztecs at War Memorial Stadium for their first Mountain West Conference win of the season, snapping a five-game slide.

“Stutz is a smart quarterback and he had great composure today,” said redshirt freshman wide receiver Brandon Stewart, who caught a 69-yard touchdown pass from Stutzriem in the second quarter. “He stayed in the pocket and knew what he had to do to make the plays that he had to make. The line blocked very well today and gave him enough time to throw and enough time to go through his reads. He executed when he had the chance.”

Stutzriem got the nod after junior starter Karsten Sween suffered a concussion last week in the loss to TCU and was unable to go against SDSU. Stutzriem, who had appeared in four games this season and was 8 of 12 passing for 55 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, was just 6 of 10 passing against the Aztecs, but for 166 yards. He also had a 58-yard pass to Stewart late in the second quarter that set up another touchdown.

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn said he thought that Stutzriem managed the game well, doing what offensive coordinator Bob Cole asked him to do.

“He just played within himself,” Glenn said. “I think Coach Cole really called the game for him. Where Stutz really came through, is you hardly ever read the go route on a bootleg route. That guy is just going to run the corner. All of the sudden, the corner fell off and saw that the crossing route was coming and Stutz was smart enough to find the guy. He threw a bomb to Brandon Stewart. The butter play, the long post route, Stutz feeds that one in just beautifully. Those were big throws for a kid making his first college start.”

Certainly pleased with his performance, Stutzriem was happier for the win. In fact, he deflected the credit from himself to his teammates.

“We got a W, that’s the big thing,” Stutzriem said. “It makes things a lot easier with those two guys behind me (Wynel Seldon and Devin Moore) and that offensive line. How about (fullback) Greg Genho? I think we ran power plays about 50 times and he took all of the reps. That takes a tough guy to do that.”

The Cowboys ran for 378 yards on the ground.

“I thought he played pretty well,” Cole said. “The offensive line gave him a lot of protection and obviously the running game was clicking today.”

Stutzriem actually miss-fired on his first pass attempt to Chris Sundberg on third down on the first possession. It was during the second possession, where he connected for 11 yards to tight end Jesson Salyards, when he said he started feeling comfortable. Thanks to strong running by Moore, the Cowboys went down and scored and never trailed again in the contest.

“I messed up a couple of times on the run check; I have a long ways to go,” he said. “But like I said, it is a lot easier when those two guys behind me can rush for 4 or 5 yards a carry.”

While Stutzriem didn’t have to throw the ball much with the running game in high gear, the Cowboys credited the young quarterback with making the right calls at the line of scrimmage.

“Most of the plays, Stutz had to put us in the right run or get us out of plays,” Glenn said. “We actually called a few more passes that Stutz checked out into a run. Would you believe a quarterback would do that? They were loaded up to where we were going with the ball.”

When asked about his young quarterback, Wyoming senior offensive guard Kyle Howard called Stutzriem "awesome. "

“I love that guy in there,” Howard said. “He’s fired up, he’s young, he really, really wants to win. That was obvious in his play today. He managed the game real well; he played excellent.”

Seldon called him perfect.

“You couldn’t ask for more,” Seldon said. “He was making good audible checks at the line; he was changing plays to make big plays happen. He’s heavy in the film room; he’s a real good learner. He is willing to make big plays happen. We need that on the field; we need that leadership.”

It’s that leadership that Moore hopes they can count on for the rest of the season.

“Chris Stutz is not a redshirt freshman, he’s a senior. The guy is a true leader,” Moore said. “At halftime, the coaches came in and wanted to bring us up, reminiscing on the past because at San Diego State, we were up 21 and they came back and beat us. It didn’t take the coaches to do it and before I could say anything, Chris Stutz stepped in and said that we’re not going to let up and we’re going to come out and run the ball; let’s get 200 yards this half. He’s a leader now. I think we have found our quarterback. Hats off to him, man.”

If it were up to Moore, he’d go with the freshman.

“I think Sween is a great guy and he can get it done also, so I don’t think you can go bad either way here. It’s like a Wynel Seldon-Devin Moore here,” Moore said. “Now we have two quarterbacks who can get the job done. Chris Stutz is poised. He can sit in the pocket and he can deliver the ball in time.”

Both Glenn and Cole, however, would not go that far in naming Stutzriem the starter for next week’s game at Tennessee.

“I’m just going to enjoy this win and watch film tomorrow,” Cole said. “They both have played outstanding and I will look at it and go from there.”

“I got to see the game film, too; see where Karsten is at, if he is still struggling with headaches,” added Glenn. “We’ll just take it one day at a time."

Stutzriem, meanwhile, said it is all about what is best for the team.

“Karsten is a great guy. He was positive; he is a good quarterback. I hope everybody sees that and knows that. If he gets the nod, I’m going to back him 100 percent, just like I know he would for me.”

On Friday night, after dinner with is parents, Stutzriem went home and watched some ESPN on TV before falling asleep.

“I woke up this morning and everything felt good,” Stutzriem said.

Any difference in his morning?

“I had a couple more pieces of ham than usual,” he said with a laugh. “Everything was good.”

For much of Saturday, everything was good for the young quarterback, his teammates, his coaches and the UW faithful.

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