Sunday, August 31, 2008

UW NOTEBOOK: First-timers fare well


From left, Gabe Knapton, Tashaun Gipson, Donate Morgan.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

There was more than one sigh of relief Saturday afternoon after the Wyoming Cowboys squeaked out a 21-20 win over Ohio at War Memorial Stadium.

Yes, the Cowboys were grateful for the win. A few players, however, were pleased to get that first Division 1 game under their belts.

“This was probably the most fun that I have ever had in my life. I’m so amped up,” Wyoming redshirt freshman linebacker Gabe Knapton said. “There for a while in the first series, I was a little nervous, but as soon I got the hang of it, I settled down and played well.”

Other first-timers on the D-1 level included sophomore Dax Crum at quarterback, freshman Tashaun Gipson at cornerback and junior Donate Morgan at wide receiver.

“Today, I didn’t even feel like a true freshman,” Gipson said. “I put on my cleats and my pads and I looked over to the other 10 guys and I felt like a veteran. When I came out and saw the crowd, that’s when the true freshman kicked in.”

Gipson’s older brother, sophomore cornerback Marcell Gipson, got his first start of his Wyoming career, although he played a few games briefly his freshman season.

The Gipson brothers were able to be on the field together basically for the first time in their competitive careers. They shared a distinctive moment after the game.

“I talked to him during the game, but after that it was a special feeling that me and him accomplished our first win together,” Tashaun Gipson said. “That was special, something between me and him.”

Crum, who won a spirited battle with incumbent quarterback Karsten Sween, said he slept well before the game with his parents in town and basically wasn’t too nervous about his first start.

Crum connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Morgan for what proved to be the game-winner. Morgan was asked by reporters how he thought Crum handled his first start. Morgan’s answer was that he did great.

Morgan was then quickly asked how he thought he did for his first D-1 game.

His answer? Pretty much the same.

“I handled it real good. I got a touchdown, so that was great,” Morgan said with a smile. “At first, I had butterflies because this was the first time playing on the D-1 level. After that first snap, I was like, ‘Let’s just play ball.’ I think I did real good today.”

Redemption

Wyoming senior safety Quincy Rogers got a big pass interception for the Cowboys in the fourth quarter, as Wyoming was clinging to the one-point lead. Rogers stepped in front of a Theo Scott pass intended for Robert Preston on the 9-yard line. It was basically Scott’s only mistake of the game.

Rogers said he had to make the play … coming off of a mistake he made on the same play earlier in the game.

“Earlier, he ran the same exact route and I missed it and I got into trouble; Coach (Mike) Breske was yelling at me,” Rogers said. “I seen them line up and I saw the tight end; I thought it would be the same exact route. The tight end stayed in to block so I ran to the center of the route. I didn’t think the quarterback was going to throw it. He was on for much of the day and when I saw the ball coming, my eyes were like getting big. I said to myself, catch it, catch it, catch it.”

Defense bends but does not break

The Wyoming defense gave up just 13 points in the game, with the other seven points coming from a 100-yard kickoff.

Yet, the Bobcats seemed to have the Cowboys on their heels a times, especially in the first half. Scott was outstanding with his short passing game, completing 26-of-35 for 224 yards and a touchdown.

“That’s a pretty tough football team,” senior linebacker Ward Dobbs said. “They put together some plays against our D. I’m just thankful that we picked it up in the second half.”

Tashaun Gipson said he came into the game knowing they were going to try to test them at cornerback, with their inexperience.

“That was one of my biggest concerns for us being young, me and my brother,” he said. “The defense played well overall. I thought we cracked down a little heavier than we did (in the first half). They ran shorter routes than we expected. Watching film, they seemed like a deep-pass team and they were going to test us long. We were expecting the deeper routes and we gave up some short routes, and I had to come up and make tackles.”

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn defended the Gipson brothers, saying they didn’t get beat deep.

“They’re standing here in the winner’s circle,” Glenn said. “I know you have to grade the film, but they might have played a little light. Marcell hadn’t played in three years and the last time Tashaun played he was a quarterback at Kimball High School. This is a big difference, playing a Division 1 football game. I didn’t see any bombs over their head. They played off a little bit, more than I thought they might. But you know what, they are standing in the winner’s circle today.”

Knapton said the defense was kind of flat for a while, but picked it up in the second half. Knapton easily made his best play of his young career late in the second quarter when he stopped Ohio running back Chris Garrett for no gain on fourth and 2 on the 16-yard yard line.

“I just saw the flow, got to the left and followed it; the hole opened up right there and I just grabbed him,” Knapton said.

The Wyoming defense had just one sack of Scott in the game -- by linebacker Jake Edmunds -- but put good pressure on the QB in the second half. Junior defensive tackle John Fletcher said he Ohio linemen did a good job of getting in their stances early because they played off of the ball.

“It was hard for us to rush them,” Fletcher said. “We just have to keep working and working and we finally got it.”

When it was all said and done, the defense gave up just one touchdown in the game.

“Everybody just calmed down and played together a little bit,” Dobbs said. “We just played responsible defense like we were supposed to. We’ll go back and look at the film; I’m sure there are things we can work on. As of right now, I’ll take it.”

Special teams not so special

The Cowboys were ranked 118th out of 119 teams in kickoff coverage last season and that didn’t improved against the Bobcats when Donte Harden returned a kickoff 100 yards for a momentum-swinging touchdown.

“Special teams was better after we gave up a huge kickoff return again. We’ll work on it; we have worked on it,” Glenn said.

Wyoming freshman punter Austin McCoy also had a tough day with three punts for 77 yards, including a long of 46 yards. Brought in for short-field punting, McCoy had one punt of a net 2 yards, when he lofted it up high, but for only 12 yards, followed by a 10-yard penalty.

Sophomore Nick Landess had one punt for 37 yards.

1-0 is better than 0-1

To regurgitate an old sports cliché, a win is a win. That’s exactly what the Cowboys got as Glenn reminded reporters after the game with a smile.

“A one-point difference in any sporting event makes a huge difference,” Glenn said. “You’d be hounding me for what is wrong (in a loss) and I’d have about the same answers only we won today and you can’t hound me.”

New offensive coordinator Bob Cole agreed: “There are 55 teams right now 0-1, so we’re going to take that and run with it.”

Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore said that it is always good to start off with a win.

“You want to come out with your motor running. One and 0 … that’s what it does for us,” Moore said. “We’ll come back next week with our heads up high and not down. We’ll still have a chip on our shoulder, we’re still hungry, but we just had a bite to eat. We’re going for 11 more bites and hopefully we can get them.”

Good crowd

The announced crowd of 20,403 on a holiday weekend pleased the Cowboys and Crum, who likely played in front of the largest crowd of his career to date.

“The atmosphere was great today. We have an awesome fan base,” Crum said. “It gets loud in there. Our students are loud and they know when a big play is coming and they should get loud. That really picks you up as a Cowboy.”


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cowboys have to hold on one more time


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming and Ohio players shake hands at the end of of the season opener Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

One tick, one play, one more chance for Ohio.

After the Wyoming Cowboys couldn’t quite seal the deal in running out the clock on Saturday, a punt and a couple of pass completions gave the Bobcats one more try to win the game.

Ohio quarterback Theo Scott was able to spike the ball and stop the clock with one second left on the Wyoming 45-yard line.

A desperation pass could turn into disaster for the Wyoming Cowboys in their season opener.

Scott, who was 26-of-35 passing in the game for 244 yards, was able to get off the pass under heavy pressure from Wyoming defensive tackle John Fletcher. The Wyoming secondary, led by cornerbacks Marcell and Tashaun Gipson and safety Quincy Rogers, was able to get back in center field and knock the pass down to preserve the 21-20 Wyoming victory.

The game was somewhat of a grind for the Cowboys all day and that last play didn’t help the heart rate either.

“I just hoped that God didn’t give them a miracle,” Wyoming senior linebacker Ward Dobbs said. “That’s all you can hope for; just hope that those guys didn’t let anybody get past them. It’s going to be a thrown-up ball, it was just one of those plays.”

Fellow redshirt linebacker Gabe Knapton also had confidence in his defensive teammates.

“I was a little nervous, but I knew our defense would pull through and make the play,” Knapton said.

Although Scott had an outstanding game against the Wyoming defense, most of his yardage was on short routes that the Cowboys had played a little off on. The UW secondary hadn’t given up much on the deep ball.

Tashaun Gipson said he knew that last play had to be a deep ball … or maybe the hook and lateral.

“That’s why I didn’t go so far back in the end zone and stayed around the 20-yard line,” Gipson said. “When he threw the ball, that’s when I knew it was game over. I knew one of our guys was going to touch the ball, some way, some how.”

Ohio had originally thought about attempting a 63-yard field goal by kicker Barrett Way, sending Way out onto the field and lining up for the attempt. But Wyoming called time out and the Bobcats came back out with its offense.

That left Wyoming running back Devin Moore feeling a little better about the situation.

“I thought they were going for a 62-yard field goal,” Moore said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Anything was possible.’ When I saw that they put the offense back on the field, I knew we pretty much had it then.”

Rogers actually knocked the ball out of teammate Marcell Gipson’s hands after Gipson apparently was going to try to intercept the ball. Rogers said he didn’t want to take any chance of a deflection into an Ohio receiver’s hands.

“We had just went over it. I told him to just knock it down. I saw him go up for the pick and I thought, ‘Is he really going to try to get it?’” Rogers said. “I just knocked it down.”

Fletcher’s pressure made sure that Scott didn’t get much on his throw.

“I was just hoping that nobody caught it in the end zone,” Fletcher said with a smile. “I just hit him as hard as I could and hoped that I could affect the throw somehow.”

Running game builds momentum


UW photo service
Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore gets into the end zone in the first quarter against Ohio on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore certainly has fond memories of playing Ohio last season in Athens, Ohio … he had a career high 198 yards rushing in the win against the Bobcats.

There was no career day in line for Moore on Saturday in the return match at War Memorial Stadium, a 21-20 Cowboy win. The Ohio defense, as expected, stacked it up in the middle to try to slow down the Wyoming running game and was successful until late in the game.

As a team, the Cowboys ran for 160 yards on 40 carries, but had just 62 yards in the first half.

“It was good for us to run the football so effectively in the second half -- we didn’t have that many yards in the first half,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. “I said at halftime that I felt the difference in the game would be who rushed the ball better. We came around in the second half. The idea was to work hard on our running game, but also wear them down a little bit. Everything worked our right. We averaged four yards a carry and that is good stuff.”

Moore finished with 82 yards on the ground on 25 carries, but was most effective later in the game, despite getting his lone touchdown run in the first half.

“I wouldn’t say that they were tired, but the offensive line just started opening up holes," Moore said.

Wyoming center Tim Bond said it was the Bobcats’ plan to stop their running game.

“They did a pretty good job,” Bond said. “We got our big plays in and we came out on top.”

When the Bobcats were beginning to wear down a bit defensively, the Cowboys went to their "quick” offense, which was just a very fast huddle.

“Late in the game and being up at this altitude, I knew they were going to be worn out by the fourth quarter,” Bond said. “We started to do our quick offense that worked really well last year. I don’t think they could breath. I think we were more determined than they were.”

The Cowboys finished with 271 yards of total yardage in the debut of new coordinator Bob Cole’s offense. Once they went to more of a power game with fullbacks Greg Genho and Josh Biezuns, the Cowboys began to sustain some drives, including the winning drive that was capped with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Crum to Donate Morgan.

“We thought we had a good shot at running read zones early on, and they did a good job of bottling it up,” Cole said. “We switched gears and went to more of a power game and that helped out quite a bit. They were determined to stop the run and put eight, nine guys in there. To the O-line’s credit, the back and tight ends, we still got it done when we needed to.”

PLAY OF THE GAME: Crum TD pass to Morgan

Wyoming receiver Donate Morgan

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Early in the fourth quarter, things were getting a little antsy on the Wyoming sidelines and in the stands.

The Cowboys, expected to debut some flash with a new quarterback in Dax Crum and a new offensive coordinator in Bob Cole, had only been so-so in what was proving to be a surprising battle with Ohio.

So surprising was the Bobcats up by six. After some early success, the Wyoming offense needed something sustained and get back into the end zone.

That finally happened thanks to some heads up play by both Crum and wide receiver Donate Morgan.

Wyoming had moved from its own 16-yard line to the Ohio 23 on 12 plays, mainly on the ground with strong running by seniors Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon.

Crum, however, found Morgan, who was also starting his first Division I game for the Cowboys, down the left sideline and perfectly hit him on the run for a 23-yard touchdown pass.

After the extra point, the Cowboys had their first lead of the game at 21-20 and they held on for the victory by the same score.

“It was a great ball by Dax,” Morgan said. “At first, it was supposed to be a spin route, but I saw that I had beat him, so I went deep and was praying that he would get me the ball on time, and he did. We scored and that won the game for us. That was a great job by our quarterback.”

It’s a play that doesn’t always have the same results. It all depends on the receiver’s ability to run and the defender’s ability to stay with him.

“On that particular play, if he gets up on that corner, he is just supposed to convert it and go,” Crum said. Originally, I was looking to the Y side and I came back and I saw that he had gotten by the corner and I just let it fly.”

It’s not only Morgan’s job to try to get past his defender, but to let Crum know that he is open.

“When they press on cover two, we are always told to go deep and if we get past them, just throw our hands up,” Morgan said. “I threw my hand up because I got past him and it was a touch.”

Crum has successful debut


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming quarterback Dax Crum led the Cowboys to a tough 21-20 win over Ohio on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

His coach likened him to Major League pitcher Greg Maddux; his teammates had George Patton-like thoughts dancing in their heads.

Sophomore quarterback Dax Crum opened his career with the Wyoming Cowboys with high marks Saturday in the Cowboys 21-20 win over Ohio at War Memorial Stadium.

Crum was not spectacular, but effective, especially in the fourth quarter, as the Cowboys rallied to win their season opener. Crum was 14-of-22 through the air for 111 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, workman-like numbers for a player in his first Division I game.

“Dax is the winning pitcher. Maddux is a winning pitcher all of the time,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. “The other guy might have thrown better, but you throw away the stats and Maddux wins. That was kind of like what we did today."

Ohio quarterback Theo Scott was 26 of 35 passing for 224 yards and one touchdowns. Scott, however, was the losing pitcher.

Crum, who came to Wyoming and won the starting quarterback position over incumbent starter Karsten Sween in a tight battle, had about 40,000 eyes on him for much of Saturday’s game.
It proved to be a huge relief for Crum to get the first game out of the way.

“I’m glad to have gotten through that first game and see what it was like to play in front of a big crowd,” Crum said. “It was my first Division I start and I think I will be a better player next week.”

Crum certainly had his ups and downs -- a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jesson Salyards and a 23-yard scoring pass to Donate Morgan. He also threw two interceptions, something that the Wyoming coaching staff has insisted is a key for quarterback survival.

Both pass interceptions came off of deflections from Wyoming receivers.

“He only had one bad throw,” Glenn said. “He sprinted left and they jumped the route that he was going to throw to. He should have thrown it out of bounds and he knows it. Sometimes he tries to do too much and that is something we have talked about a lot going into this game. We had a little trouble last year with the interceptions, so he tried to throw back across his body and the only guy in this game I saw who could do that is John Elway … we’re not John Elway yet.”

Despite those two interceptions, Crum battled back to lead the Cowboys to the win.

“I try to stay even keel because everybody makes mistakes,” Crum said. “Running backs fumble, defensive players miss tackles. It is important as a quarterback to stay even keel and have the same level of confidence throughout the level.”

New offensive coordinator Bob Cole said Crum has confidence in his ability, which was instrumental in selecting him as the Cowboys starter.

“I think you need that playing quarterback,” Cole said. “He could have easily hung his head and let things go downhill. That’s a positive sign for our football team, that he is not going to do that. He always feels he can make a play and you need a guy like that back there. Hats off to him.”

Crum’s teammates like what they see and call Crum the leader of the Wyoming offense. Center Tim Bond saw composure out of Crum on Saturday.

“He’s a new guy, but you couldn’t tell that,” Bond said. “You would have thought he was a fifth-year senior. I was very impressed with his performance.”

Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore took it a step further and called Crum a “true” leader.

“He’s a comfortable guy under center. That’s what you need,” Moore said. “When we’re in the huddle, he’s still cracking jokes, just keeping us alive, so to speak. He’s letting us know that we’re going to go down and score a touchdown. He doesn’t like field goals.

“When you have a guy like that in the huddle, you can’t get your head down. I think he came back and executed well.”

If Crum had a few butterflies before his first start -- which would be entirely understandable -- he didn’t let it show on Saturday. With his parents in for the game, he said he felt right at home.

“I slept great last night. I got to see my dad and mom and I hadn’t seen them in a few months, so that was a big relief for me,” Crum said. “I really wasn’t that nervous before the game. I was just ready to go out there and try to get a win for the Cowboys.”

And that’s all that the Wyoming coaching staff, his teammates and UW faithful can ask for.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cowboys ready to host Bobcats


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming quarterback Dax Crum hands off to running back Devin Moore during an earlier scrimmage.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

It’s down to just a wakeup for Joe Glenn and his Wyoming Cowboys.

The anticipation is over for the Cowboys, as they open the 2008 football season on Saturday (noon), by hosting Ohio at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

“They’re ready and I’m excited,” Glenn said as he enters his sixth season at the helm “When I first put my little chalkboard up, it said 266 and a wakeup, and now it says one (on Thursday) and a wakeup. Our guys have worked hard to get where they are at and they feel good about themselves.. We’re sky-high about our team and their chances. We’ve gone through 43 practices since spring, so they are way-ready.”

The Cowboys look to improve on last year’s disappointing 5-7 overall record, including late-season collapse in which they lost six of their last seven games.

“We have a lot of new faces in the lineup and they have to show up,” Glenn said. “But I am very confident that they will. I’m way excited to see this team play a football game.”

Ohio returns 15 starters -- eight on offense and seven on defense -- from a team that finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in Mid-American Conference (MAC), tied fourth place in the seven-team East Division of the MAC.

Among the top returning players for Ohio is tight end Andrew Mooney, who earned Second Team All-MAC honors as a junior in 2007. Mooney, a native of Lubbock, Texas, led Ohio in both receptions (34), receiving yards (498) and touchdown receptions (9) in ‘07.

Gone is Ohio’s all-time leading rusher, running back Kalvin McRae who ended his career in 2007 with 4,398 career rushing yards. Also gone is starting quarterback Brad Bower, who threw for 1,766 yards in ‘07. Junior Theo Scott is the projected starter at QB. Scott played in 10 games as a sophomore last year completing 63 of 109 pass attempts (.578) for 743 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He was also the second leading rusher on the team with 40 carries for 120 yards.

Ohio is coached by former Nebraska player and head coach Frank Solich, who is in his fourth year at the helm. Solich is 19-18 overall with the Bobcats.

“He’s now had several years to put his hand print on that football program. You can see it from the way that they play,” Glenn said. “They play really hard and they are going to be fundamentally sound. He has a group of guys on the staff that I have coached against and have admired from afar. I just have terrific respect for Frank, his coaching staff and his team.”

Saturday’s game marks to debut of sophomore transfer quarterback Dax Crum, who beat out incumbent Karsten Sween for the job in a tightly-fought battle this spring and into the fall.

“I’m very confident in Dax and I think he is confident in himself as well,” Glenn said. “Again, it’s his first game. But he’s tall, he sees well and he knows where the football has to go. I’m way-fired up to see this guy play. He has a lot of pizzazz and he has a lot of spring in his step. I’m anxious to see him to play, just as we all are.”

The big key for Crum to hold on to his job is getting the Cowboys into the end zone and not turning the ball over. Sween had 17 interceptions last season, which led the MWC.

“He has to realize what he can and cannot do, there’s no doubt of about it. It’s fun to take chances and make great plays, but you can’t take chances and mis-fire in there," Glenn said. "You can miss, but it better be on the ground and not in somebody else’s hand.”

When Wyoming struggled offensively last season, the Cowboys’ opponents jammed up the middle, stopping the potent running game of Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon.
A consistent passing game will help alleviate that potential problem.

“We want to run the football, there’s no doubts, but if you have numbers problems in the box, it makes no sense,” Glenn said. “It will filter everything back to the eighth guy and he stand in there unblocked. With that said, we want to go seven on seven on a hat. We’ll get busy, and see what we can do. Just as soon as we get more guys in the box we have to be smart enough, and we’ll be smart enough to figure it out.”

After Saturday’s game, Wyoming opens league play on Sept. 6 at home against Air Force.

Fletcher named to Lombardi Watch List

Wyoming junior defensive tackle John Fletcher is one of 59 players added to the 2008 Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List .

Fletcher, who was a Second Team All-Mountain West Conference selection as a sophomore, ranked No. 11 in the nation in sacks his sophomore season. He was named a 2008 Preseason First Team All-MWC pick by conference media prior to the start of this season.

Fletcher is one of 11 Mountain West Conference players named to this year’s list.

The 39th annual Rotary Lombardi Award, presented by Wachovia, honoring the top lineman in the Football Bowl Subdivision and benefiting the American Cancer Society, will be presented in Houston on Dec. 10 at the Hilton Americas Hotel.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Givens anchors Cowboys talented d-line


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior noseguard Fred Givens works a drill against an offensive lineman during spring drills.

Editor's Note: This story was previously published on a previous version of Wyoming Sports.org last spring:

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Call him Fast Freddy or Freddy Frontline and Wyoming junior noseguard Fred Givens will respond. He’s fine with the nicknames. That wasn’t exactly the case when Givens first came here from Chickasha, Okla., three years ago.

At the time, Givens was a rookie in a foreign land and he basically kept to himself. A starter last year at the noseguard position, Givens is not only coming around as a player, but coming out of his shell.

“When Fred first got here, you couldn’t get him to say his own name,” UW defensive line coach Lance Robinson said. “Now, he jokes and he has become a leader for the younger kids. It’s like watching your own kids grow. It’s pretty rewarding to watch him transform; he came here as a kid and now he is becoming a man.”

It has just become a matter of being comfortable in your surroundings for Givens, who played a big part of plugging the middle for the nationally-ranked Wyoming defense last season.

“When I first got here, I was the new kid and I didn’t talk that much,” Givens said. “Now that I’ve gotten to know everybody on the team, you learn that everybody here is a good guy and you learn to open up. I’m just having a good time now.”

Last spring in a break between drills in the Indoor Practice Facility, Givens was chasing around Robinson’s young son, Wynn, who was giving him a bad time. When the elder Robinson returned from the break, one of the Cowboy D-linemen suggested that both Wynn and Givens take a time out.

“He always likes to get me when my back is turned,” Givens said with an own mischievous look on his face. “Today, he decided to pick up some of those little black rubbers off the field and throw them at me. It was tough to overlook that. He ended getting a whole handful of them.”

Lance Robinson said he tries to coach with a family atmosphere. He said that if you asked any of the D-linemen, they’ll tell you that Givens fits in like kin.

“We’re all family members; he’s really opened up a lot,” Robinson said. “When he first got here he was real quiet. Now, he is a little more outgoing; he says a lot more. He’s worked really hard in school and in the weight room to get where he is at right now.”

That transformation has paid off on the field as well. Last season, Givens finished with 45 tackles, including 15 solo tackles. He had four stops for losses and one sack.

At 6-foot-1 and about 300 pounds, Givens has the stereotypical build for his position. Low to the ground, Givens was also a good wrestler in high school. The combination has made him an effective nose guard.

“They (wrestlers) understand leverage and know where their body is and where people are pushing on them,” Robinson said. “That’s helped him tremendously. He is built so low to the ground that his center of gravity is a lot lower than the O-linemen he is going against. It’s a big advantage for him.”

While most defensive linemen try to gain weight, Givens has been on a crusade this past off-season to lose weight. He’s about 15 pounds lighter than he was last fall. Givens said he wants to lose about four more pounds.

The weight loss is two-fold, Givens said: To be quicker and to have the ability to be a pass rusher.

“Last year I was more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. This year, I’ve widened my game a little more to become a pass rusher,” he said.

With talented backup nose guards such as senior Rob Hollway, Givens knows that to be on the field as much as possible, he has to be more versatile.

“You can’t just be a run stopper,” Givens said. “If you want to be the starting nose guard, you have to learn to do both, the run and pass rush.”

Another makeover for Givens has been in the classroom.

“He’s really turned that around and is doing a great job,” Robinson said.

Givens said it was his lack of maturity and motivation that had him struggling in the classroom in his first year at Wyoming.

“When I first got here, I didn’t have my parents over me. I’d wake up and go lift, but I was like, ‘school doesn’t look that good today.’ Now, it is an everyday thing. Now, missing class is not an option. I don’t like to miss class anymore.”

A communications major, Givens said he would like to either go into broadcasting or coach football once his playing days are over.

“I’d like to stay involved in the sport, so coaching would be perfect for me,” Givens said.

As Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn likes to say, Givens has had a couple of birthdays since he first enrolled at Wyoming. It has shown on and off the field.

“People say I am shy, but I just like to read people before I open my mouth,” Givens said.

UW football wins SADDLE Cup

By Wyoming Sports.org

The University of Wyoming football team has won the SADDLE Cup award for the 2007-08 academic year. The SADDLE Cup is an annual competition between all of the University of Wyoming athletic teams.

The winner of the SADDLE Cup is the team that acquires the most points by participating in a number of personal development exercises, academic workshops and community service projects throughout the year.

“I’m so proud of how these young men have given back to the school and the community through their work in the classroom and their community service,” Wyoming head football coach Joe Glenn. “Our team gpa this past semester was a 2.75, which is the highest grade-point average I can remember of any team I’ve coached at any school. Good citizenship is also important to these young men, and I’m very proud of them for winning this award.”

The competition was devised by the UW Athletics Office of Academic Support to recognize student-athletes who make a commitment to involve themselves in campus and community activities. The Cowboy Football team acquired the most points during the 2007-08 academic year.

“Having the football team win the SADDLE Cup after soccer had won or shared the SADDLE Cup for the past three years is a testament to the growth of our program and the pride that all student athletes have for UW and the state of Wyoming,” said Conrad Chavez, Assistant Athletics Director for Academic Services. “As we continue to increase our programming as it relates to the SADDLE Cup, we look forward to increased competition amongst all of our teams.”

The acronym SADDLE stands for: Student Athletes Dedicated to the Development of Leadership and Engagement. The competition is a component of the NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills Program. The NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills program was designed to support the development of the entire student-athlete during his or her higher education experience. CHAMPS/Life Skills outlines five commitment areas: Academic Excellence, Athletic Excellence, Personal Development, Career Development and Service to the Community.

This year’s awarding of the SADDLE Cup will take place at a Wyoming football game later this season.

UW makes football improvements

The UW Athletics Department will introduce a number of improvements when the 2008 college football season kicks off on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. Upgraded video boards in the north and south endzones, combined with an improved sound system have been added to enhance the fan experience at games this season. As part of the improved audio system, fans will be able to hear the Cowboy Sports Network broadcast throughout the concession areas in the stadium.

Another important improvement that has been made to better serve the parking needs of disabled fans is additional ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessible van parking in the Indoor Practice Facility (IPF) lot, just north of the new Indoor Practice Facility, and in the ADA Shuttle lot located at 20th and Garfield one block south of Grand Avenue between the former Laramie Athletic Club and the UW Office Annex.

ADA accessible parking for automobiles is also available in lots AA, D, S, FA, H and HC, as well as the IPF lot and the ADA Shuttle lot. ADA accessible parking is on a first-come, first-serve basis. When ADA parking fills up at one location, parking attendants will be available to refer fans to other lots where ADA parking is still available. There will also will be two shuttle buses transporting fans from the ADA Shuttle lot to the stadium. The two shuttlle buses will run both pregame and postgame. The shuttle buses will drop fans off at Gate 1 on the southwest corner of War Memorial Stadium pregame and will pick fans up at the same location postgame.

While there is ongoing construction still in progress on 15th Street between Grand Avenue and Willett Drive, 15th Street will be open to traffic on gamedays.

The Brown & Gold Outlet is opening a satellite store on gamedays inside War Memorial Stadium. The store will be located underneath the stands on the southwest corner of the stadium, providing Wyoming fans with a comfortable and convenient area to purchase their Cowboy gear.

Also among the improvements will be an experimental postgame tailgate party, referred to as the “5th Quarter.”

The “5th Quarter” will be similar to the pregame tailgate parties already held at Cowboy games. The “5th Quarter” postgame parties will include various vendors, food choices and games available for children. The postgame events will be held in the same location as all UW pregame tailgate parties -- the practice field on the south end of War Memorial Stadium. The events will feature a family atmosphere, as they will be alcohol free. Three “5th Quarter” tailgate parties are planned this season -- following the Ohio game this Saturday, after the North Dakota State game on Sept. 13 and following the Utah game on Oct. 11. For more information on the “5th Quarter” postgame tailgate parties, please contact University of Wyoming Sports Properties at (307) 766-5020.

Fans are reminded that season-tickets and single-game tickets are still available for purchase through the UW Athletics Ticket Office. Tickets may be ordered online at www.wyomingathletics.com, or fans can call the ticket office at 800-922-9461 or 307-766-4850.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Glenn, Solich go way back


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn, right, watches a drill with assistant coaches Chris Knutsen, left, and Chad Germer. Glenn will begin his sixth season at the helm against old friend, Ohio coach Frank Solich, bottom.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

They’re two Nebraska boys, on and off the field.

Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn and Ohio head coach Frank Solich go back in time; Solich, as a long-time player, assistant and then head coach for the Cornhuskers and Glenn, a Lincoln native who observed the Cornhuskers as a high school student-athlete and later as a coach at Doane College.

“I’ve known Frank since the 60s and I’ve admired the guy about as much as anybody in this business,” Glenn said Tuesday during the weekly MWC Coaches Teleconference. “He’s a terrific friend, a great football coach. He just signed a five-year contract with the Bobcats; they got a good one. I just think the world of Frank.”

Ohio and Wyoming open the season on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium with a noon kickoff. The Bobcats return the home-and-home series with Wyoming, as the two teams played last season in Athens, Ohio, a wild 34-33 Cowboy win that was marred by 12 turnovers between the two teams.

Glenn said that Solich will bring a hard-nosed, tough team into War Memorial Stadium.

“He’s now had several years to put his hand print on that football program. You can see it from the way that they play,” Glenn said. “They play really hard and they are going to be fundamentally sound. He has a group of guys on the staff that I have coached against and have admired from afar. I just have terrific respect for Frank, his coaching staff and his team.”

Glenn said he expects the Bobcats to be a little different offensively this season, with a new quarterback and the graduation of Ohio all-time leading rusher Kalvin McRae.

“They were pretty much a downhill team with Kalvin,” Glenn said. “They have an excellent quarterback in Theo Scott. He played some last year. He wasn’t the pitcher of record most of the time. He is a big dude. As he goes, so goes the Ohio offense.”

Scott played in 10 games as a sophomore last year, completing 63 of 109 passes for 743 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He was also the second leading rusher on the team with 40 carries for 120 yards.

“I think they will split the field more and try to get him out in space, either in the passing game or let him do the zone read or let him do other options where he is a potential ball carrier … to take a little load off of the tailback position,“ Glenn said. “Not that they haven’t replaced Kalvin McRae, but they have not named a starter and they have a stable of four guys who they have talked about … and they are all good. Theo is a guy who can run around, throw on the run and make things tough on you. The more he gets outside the box, the scarier he is.”

Defensively, Glenn said the Bobcats are led by 6-fioot-4 defensive end Jameson Hartke.

“He knocked a pass up in the air against us last year, caught it and went in for a touchdown,” he said. “They are just a bunch of guys who have good speed, good tacklers, fundamentally sound, don’t mind to blitz a little bit and get after you.”

Punting battle still up in the air

Although freshman Austin McCoy is listed as the starting punter to replace Billy Vinnedge, Glenn said that the position is still a tossup between McCoy, sophomore Nick Landess and junior Cody Bousema.

“If we are inside the 50 and we have to go hang punt, it will be Austin McCoy,” Glenn said. “He is the one who can put the most air under the ball. After that, honestly, it is going to go down to a game-day decision by Coach (Chris) Knutsen. The three punters -- one gets the ball off a little faster, one hangs the ball a little higher and one kicks the ball a little deeper. We’re crazy about statistics here, trying to chart hang time and operation time. It is so minuscule about the difference. All three could get some action and we’ll see who is the best with the bullets flying.”

Leonard looks to make most of opportunity


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming sophomore receiver David Leonard looks to get past senior safety Derrick McMahen during a recent practice.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Editor’s Note: Part of this story was published in a previous version of Wyoming Sports.org during spring drills.

David Leonard got a jump into the Wyoming starting lineup at Y (inside) receiver and punt returner with the recent shoulder injury to redshirt freshman Brandon Stewart. Leonard knows what Stewart is going through; he made a nice little comeback last spring of his own.

Leonard didn’t get the jump on spring ball that he would have liked. A sophomore from Overland Park, Kan., he had hernia surgery over the Christmas break and was slow to recover. He missed a few early practices with some complications and then struggled a bit in his return.
Leonard thought he had picked a good time for his surgery, but his recovery was much slower than anticipated because of his how he trained, running and cutting on routes. He said recovery has been a matter of being patient.

“You can’t do a whole lot when you are not 100 percent, because the guys you are competing out here with are all great athletes, great receivers,” Leonard said. “I rehabbed a lot and I am happy to be back.”

His doctor had some early concern that there might be another problem. He didn’t and after being checked out, everything was fine.

“He (his doctor) said I was going to be a little sorer,” Leonard said.

Yet, he just wasn’t’ feeling right.

“I sat out a little more so I could get ready and participate in the scrimmages,” he said last spring. “It’s feeling a lot better. I feel like I can run with these guys; I’m getting back to where I was.”

One of the top receivers out of Kansas in 2006, Leonard came to Wyoming and made a nice adjustment in his freshman season, with 13 catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Penciled in as the starter at the H (inside receiver) position at the beginning of spring ball, Leonard looks to make a major contribution to a unit that is talented, but a little green.

“I’m trying to make more of an impact this season,” Leonard said. “I think we have a receiving corps that can do a lot of damage this season, a lot of things. I want to have more of a role, if that means from a leader standpoint or making plays on the field. I’m just trying to do my part and hopefully take the receiving corps to great success this season.”

While the Wyoming receivers lack a lot of experience, they don’t lack speed, led by Greg Bolling, Donate Morgan, Chris Johnson, Travis Burkhalter and Stewart, when healthy. Leonard said you can probably put him in the “possession receiver” category.

“I wouldn’t classify myself as a burner,” Leonard said. “But I hope the quarterbacks have confidence in throwing the ball to me because I have sure hands. That’s one thing every receiver wants. Hopefully, I can get some safeties with the stride, because it is a little deceptive when I run.”

He’ll get his chance Saturday against Ohio, as the Cowboys open the 2008 season at noon against the Bobcats at War Memorial Stadium.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cowboy scrimmage notebook


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming sophomore Dax Crum looks to pass Wednesday in the Cowboys scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

If you look purely at completion percentage, new starting quarterback Dax Crum had an outstanding scrimmage on Wednesday.

Crum was 7 of 9 through the air against the No. 2 defense. Yet, he threw for just 34 yards and no touchdowns. The result got him an “all right” from offensive coordinator Bob Cole and an “I have to look at the film” from head coach Joe Glenn.

What did Crum think of his and the offense’s night? How about “fine,” considering the circumstances of a scrimmage.

“It’s tough to get into rhythm in these scrimmages when you rotate all of the different teams,” Crum said. “I thought we did fine out there. We have a good defense. We did fine. We completed some balls and we had some good runs, scored some touchdowns. The offensive line did great. We did fine.”

Probably the only thing that Crum hasn’t done in the two scrimmages is have much success going deep. He almost got a big pass down the sidelines for Greg Bolling that was just knocked away, but drew a penalty flag. The Cowboys first unit later scored on a 2-yard run by Devin Moore.

It’s that type of play that the Cowboys are expecting in the season opener against Ohio next week.

“You can’t read into these scrimmages too much because they are all artificial,” Crum said. “When you get into the flow of the game, you are going to get some big plays and get other stuff going that you don’t get in a scrimmage. You don’t just sit the ball down and say go. When we play Ohio, we’re going to get plenty of big plays.”

Burkhalter’s big day

There were a couple of big plays in the scrimmage, though, when third string quarterback Ian Hetrick connected for 32 yards with tight end Orlando Arnold and fourth-string QB Chris Stutzriem found wide receiver Travis Burkhalter for an acrobatic 46-yard touchdown pass in heavy traffic.

For Burkhalter, it was a play he looks to make this season; one the Wyoming wide receiving corps needs to make to open up the running game.

“If we can spread the field, we can help D-Mo (Moore), Darius (Terry) and Wynel (Seldon) in the run game,” Burkhalter said. “The coaches have asked us receivers to do our job. They say we get paid to catch the ball and the quarterbacks get paid to throw the ball to us. We’re not perfect, but that is why we have scholarships, to make those plays. If we can do that, our run game will be great next week.”

Getting ready for Ohio

Glenn said after the scrimmage that the Cowboys were already preparing for Ohio.

“Guys are breaking down formations, situations and those types of things,“ he said. “We’re well along the way on that.”

Glenn was asked if his players would welcome the opportunity to finally play somebody else other than themselves.

“Forty-four practices against the same, ugly guy,” he said with a laugh. “The same guy wearing our colors, that’s not right. It’s time, especially against green. We’re starting to hate green already.”

Glenn was also asked about last year’s game at Ohio in which the Cowboys survived 34-33 despite turning the ball over seven times.

“That was the only time I went into a locker room and had nothing to say,” Glenn said. “You just have to play football; you can’t give them the ball.”

About Ohio

Glenn said the Bobcats have had two scrimmages as well, with the offense winning one and the defense the other. He said the Cowboys will have to be ready for quarterback Theo Scott, who he said is the fastest player on the team.

Glenn said to expect some option football out of Ohio head coach Frank Solich.

“Frank was an option guy at Nebraska,” he said. “Mike (Breske) and I have talked a lot about what kind of option we will see. Breske has to get ready for some option football. We didn’t shut these guys down last year: They were 15 for 30 passing; I think they passed for over 200 yards. Number 2, Garrett (Chris), ran a kickoff back for a touchdown. We weren’t very good in kickoff coverage last year, so I hope we’re better than that.

“Chris (Knutsen) put a note on the blackboard that said: ‘Somebody sign up for kickoff coverage’ and it was almost the whole first team defense. Those guys know how important that is. We really have to do a good job against number 2. We can’t let him get loose on kickoffs and I hope he gets about 10 tries.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Offense improves, but still struggles


Richard Anderson photos
The Wyoming defense stuffed the Cowboy running game on Wednesday, giving up just 51 yards. At bottom, sophomore quarterback Dax Crum hands off to senior running back Devin Moore.


By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Better … yes. Good enough … no.

So said the Cowboys on the Wyoming offense Wednesday in the second major scrimmage of fall drills. The Cowboys scored two touchdowns and kicked four field goals, compared to no touchdowns and one field goal last week.

Still, the No. 1 offense struggled for much of the night, finally scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run by Devin Moore, which culminated a six-play, 50-yard drive.

Moore’s touchdown run ended the 74-play scrimmage, which lasted about one hour and 10 minutes.

“We weren’t going to leave the field until the number one offense scored, so that was a great way to end the scrimmage with them getting in the end zone,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said.

Earlier in the scrimmage, the No. 2 offense scored the first TD of the night on an eight-play, 70-yard drive versus the No. 2 defense when redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Stutzriem completed a 46-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Travis Burkhalter. Burkhalter made an outstanding juggling catch between two Cowboy defenders in the end zone.

Glenn generally was still bothered by too many mistakes.

Wyoming had one pass interception and five offensive penalties for 25 yards.

“The things I didn’t like were the penalties,” Glenn said. “It was pretty much the same guy jumping off-side up front. The holding calls -- one called back a touchdown and one took back a 35-yard run. Those are devastating to an offense. You have to play by the rules of the game.”

The offensive accounted for 236 yards of total offense -- 185 passing and 51 rushing -- for an average of 4.1 yards per play. After a decent opening scrimmage running the ball, Glenn was a bit displeased with his backs on Wednesday.

Senior Devin Moore finished with 38 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown and senior Wynel Seldon added 19 yards on four attempts.

“We want to be more of a downhill running team than we have been,” said Glenn. “When you block power, you have to put it in there. We have to get up in there and get in a street fight. It has to be a fist fight. We have to go in there with elbows and ivory and mouth pieces flying. We’re going to get four (yards). If we can’t, it is going to be a long season. We need to run tougher.”

Glenn said that Moore, known for his moves, has to get a little stronger between the tackles.

“He wants to hit a home run every time he gets up to the plate,” Glenn added. “That is just not going to happen. With that said, I want us to run downhill and run hard-nose. Our linemen are hanging their hat on it a little bit. It is something we need to get better at.”

Sophomore quarterback Dax Crum, in his first scrimmage after being named the starter on Friday, completed 7 of 9 passes for 34 yards. Junior Karsten Sween was 4 of 9 for 37 yards and one interception. Stutzriem connected on 4 of 7 pass attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown and senior Ian Hetrick was 2 of 4 for 34 yards.

Wyoming offensive coordinator Bob Cole said Crum did “all right.”

“He changed a couple of plays and threw a couple of nice passes,” Cole said. “Overall, we’re a lot better football team than that. We improved, but we still have a ways to go and we will get better.”

The leading receiver was Burkhalter, who pulled down three passes for 71 yards, including the 46-yard TD reception. Three other Cowboys -- junior tight end Jesson Salyards and junior wide receivers Greg Bolling and Donate Morgan -- each had two receptions.

“In terms of the passing game, Travis Burkhalter made a great catch. That is a big step forward for him,“ Glenn said. “Some of the defenses’ blitzes got to us off the corner tonight, but that is something we will work on more as we prepare for Ohio.”

Better stats

A couple of areas that the offense improved upon from its first scrimmage were limiting turnovers and sacks. The one turnover was significantly better than a four-turnover night for the offense in the previous fall scrimmage. The offense line gave up only three sacks to the defense in the final scrimmage, compared to nine sacks allowed in the first scrimmage a week ago.

Defensive studs

Redshirt freshman linebacker Brian Hendricks led the way with 12 tackles (two for losses of 10 yards, one sack for a minus eight yards). Other outstanding defensive performances were turned in by senior linebacker Ward Dobbs (five tackles and two tackles for losses), junior linebacker Weston Johnson (four tackles, including one tackle for a loss) and senior linebacker Jake Edmunds (four tackles, including one sack).

“The pressure the defense put on our offense coming off the edge was hard to handle,” Glenn said. “I know our defense was successful at that last year, and I think we will be again this year. We have some pretty good corners.

“Our number one defense is pretty good, but we need to protect them. We can’t allow a punt to be blocked like we did on our first punt attempt tonight.”

Senior strong safety Michael Ray picked off a Sween pass and returned it 39 yards. The only fumble of the night came when senior free safety Derrick McMahen hit Moore on the sideline, with the ball going out of bounds.

Special teams work

Nick Landess, Cody Bousema and Austin McCoy continue to battle for the starting punter spot.

Landess, after having his first punt blocked, had kicks of 56 and 45 yards for a 50.5-yard average. Bousema punted twice for 43 and 34 yards, placing his 34-yarder on the 10-yard line and averaging 38.5 yards. Freshman McCoy had the lowest average of 33.5 yards, but his punts of 32 and 35 yards both ended up inside the 20-yard line at the 16 and 10-yard lines.

“Our punters did well tonight,” said Glenn. “They had nice high punts, with good hang time. We’ve got to pick a punter, but I don’t know who it will be. We feel good about that competition. If I had to pick someone with an edge right now, it would have to be number 28 (McCoy).

“Nick Landess will kick off for us. He’s done a good job of kicking high and deep. A week ago, I would have told you that Jake (Scott) was home free on sewing up the place-kicking job, but we have to take another look at that after this week.”

Scott, after converting four of five field goals a week ago, hit on only two of four on Wednesday night. Scott was successful from 36 and 38 yards, but missed from 31 and 38. Landess connected on his one field-goal attempt, a 34-yard field goal, while Braden Shoop also made his lone attempt from 27 yards out.

“We can’t be 50 percent in the kicking game,” said Glenn. “That can’t happen. We’ll probably look at several guys in practice. Number twenty-one (Scott) has the most experience, but right now he is a 50 percent guy and that is not good enough. We have to be better than that.”

Linebackers Knapton, Hendricks not letting youth and inexperience get in the way


UW photo (top)/Richard Anderson photo (bottom)
Wyoming freshman linebacker Brian Hendricks wraps up senior running back Devin Moore Wednesday night in a scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium. At bottom, Gabe Knapton will start this season at the inside linebacker position.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Both are redshirt freshmen. Yet, Wyoming linebackers Gabe Knapton and Brian Hendricks aren’t letting youth and inexperience stand in their way.

Knapton has worked his way into the Cowboys’ starting lineup at MIKE (inside) linebacker -- he earned that honor after spring drills. Hendricks, No. 2 on the depth chart at SAM (outside) linebacker, isn’t far behind, especially with the type of effort he had Wednesday night in Wyoming’s second and final major scrimmage of the fall.

"It’s real exciting now, I’m having fun and learning new things,” Knapton said. “I’m getting pretty excited about going out there and playing.”

Knapton and Hendricks will get that opportunity for real on Aug. 29 when the Cowboys open the season at home against Ohio.

Pure talent is what has elevated both Knapton and Hendricks. The learning curve, at such a young age, is keeping both hitters level-headed. They both said there is still plenty to learn and to improve on.

“I think there is a bunch of mental stuff to overcome. I feel I am there physically. I have been working hard in the off-season, just getting ready,” Knapton said. “It’s all about knowing the sets and things, but each day I’m getting better and better.”

Hendricks sounds like a broken record, although his comments came after Wednesday’s scrimmage, compared to Knapton’s remarks earlier this season.

“It’s a lot of mental stuff, coming from a small school (Burlington, Colo.). It was kind of like, just tackle the guy who has the ball,” Hendricks said. “Week-by-week, I am trying to get better and learn the system; just trying to be consistent, keep my technique up and just go hard.”

Consistency is the biggest thing the coaches are looking for, Hendricks said.

“If you make one good play out of 10, it doesn’t matter; you have to be consistent every play,” Hendricks said. “It’s the major thing.”

Hendricks, with 12 tackles on Wednesday (two or a loss of 10 yards and one sack for minus eight yards), was a dominant force. Yet, he said he could have done better.

“I made some good plays, but at the same time, I made some mistakes,” Hendricks said. “I’ve got some things to work on, but I am trying to stay positive and just do the things that we are taught in practice and try to make a play.”

A couple of plays Hendricks made on Wednesday were two open-field tackles of Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore.

“D-Mo is a shifty man. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a chance to go pro,” Hendricks said. “I just tried to stay in there and tried to not let him bounce out."

The sky is certainly the limit for both players, especially for Knapton, who has been described by head coach Joe Glenn already as one of the best linebackers that he has coached.

Knapton won’t go that far, but he said if they continue to make the progress that they have already made in their short tenure with the Cowboys, they are in for a special careers.

“By the time we get up to being seniors, we will have so much experience, it will be real good,” Knapton said.

Knapton has plenty of confidence to go with his talent, certainly an attribute that is important in such a position. He is on pace of where he hoped to be at this point of his collegiate career. In fact, he might be ahead of what he had hoped for.

Then again, maybe not.

“I expected to be maybe … well, no, not really, I’m pretty much on track,” Knapton said with a smile. “I kind of wanted to be a starter right away.”

With just a week to go before that season opener, Hendricks is not only pleased with his progress, but with the defense’s ability as a whole. He said the Cowboy defense has plenty of room for improvement ahead of them.

“Hopefully, we’re going to be better against Ohio; we expect a lot,” Hendricks said. “I’m pretty impressed with what we did (Wednesday night), but again, we’re going to have to be a lot better for Ohio.”

Cowboys second scrimmage


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cowboys to change up second scrimmage


Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming running back Darius Terry looks for some more yards in last week's scrimmage.

By Wyoming Sports.org

The Wyoming coaching staff got what it wanted last week when it named a starting quarterback following the first scrimmage of fall drills. It’ll change a bit Wednesday night with the season opener just around the corner.

The Cowboys will scrimmage for about 75 plays at War Memorial Stadium, beginning at 5 p.m.

Wednesday’s scrimmage will differ from the first scrimmage of the fall. Rather than starting each series of the scrimmage from the offense’s own 25-yard line, this second scrimmage will see offensive series coming out of the offense’s end of the field, some series beginning at midfield and some series beginning in the defense’s territory. The other difference will come in the form of more repetitions for the No. 1 and No. 2 units on both sides of the ball. The younger players making up the No. 3 units will see very little action. The No. 1 offense will again face the No. 2 defense, while the No. 2 offense will go against the No. 1 defense.

“The defense had really great field position last week; this week we will try to put some pressure on the defense by starting in their territory some,” said Cowboy head coach Joe Glenn. “We want to get a lot of kicking and punting into this scrimmage, and put some game-like pressure on our kickers to see how they react. We will also incorporate some kickoff return and kickoff coverage.”

This second fall scrimmage will be the final game-like situation the Cowboys will be placed in leading up to their home opener against Ohio on Aug. 30

Glenn said he has been pleased with the performance of sophomore quarterback Dax Crum since naming the Arizona native the starter last Friday.

“This is the first time we’ve scrimmaged since naming Dax the starting quarterback, and I might add that he’s been playing really well in my opinion,” said Glenn. “He might miss a read here and there, but he’s been performing well and Coach (Bob) Cole has been working very closely with him this week. Dax has made some big plays and is getting more and more familiar with his receivers. I think that was another reason we felt we needed to name a starter last week at quarterback, so that he and his receivers could continue to improve their timing and their chemistry.”

Hospital Ward

Several players will miss Wednesday's scrimmage. The most recent injury came to redshirt freshman Brandon Stewart, who was the projected starter at one wide receiver spot and at punt returner. Stewart injured his left shoulder in practice on Monday running a fly sweep in red-zone work. He will likely be out several weeks.

Also injured on Monday and out for the scrimmage will be redshirt freshman linebacker Bryson Studnicka (left toe sprain). Starting left offensive tackle Ryan Otterson suffered a right ankle sprain in Wyoming’s first scrimmage a week ago and he will miss this week’s scrimmage. Also injured in the first scrimmage and out for this week will be junior linebacker Zeb Whipp (neck sprain). Other players out with injuries include backup linebackers Jimmy DeAndrea (fractured left thumb) and Mark Oliver (left Achilles strain), backup center Travis Hillen (right shoulder), freshman offensive lineman Levi Salmans (dislocated left knee cap), freshman linebacker Ben Durbin (left shoulder) and redshirt freshman Marcus Felker (right elbow sprain). Senior starting linebacker Mike Juergens has been ill with a virus this week and his availability for Wednesday night is uncertain.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Receivers need to step up


Richard Anderson photos
Wyoming junior wide receiver Greg Bolling runs the fly-sweep with quarterback Karsten Sween earlier in practice. At left, senior receiver Chris Johnson runs past Tramaine Brown during a drill.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

In some ways, the running duo of Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon can only be as good as the Wyoming Cowboys passing game performs, whether it is from the quarterback or from the wide receivers.

Halfway through last season, opposing defenses began to stack things up in the box and take away the Wyoming running game. With no passing game so to speak, the Cowboy offense struggle.

“We probably have the two best running backs (duo) in the nation. I don’t want to sound boastful about those two, but they are just that good,” Wyoming junior wide receiver Greg Bolling said. “If we can help them in any way by making pass plays so people can respect that and not put eight or nine people in the box, that will help.”

It’s all about making plays, Wyoming senior receiver Kyle Jacobo said.

“When they do pack it in the box, we have to win one-on-one situations and make them scared of playing man-to-man,” Jacobo said. “We have the capability to do that with the speed that we have. That’s when we will come back and run Devin and Wynel right up their butt.”

In Wyoming’s five wins last season, it averaged 219 yards of net rushing per game. In their seven losses, the Cowboys ran for just 90 yards a game. In most cases in the losses, the passing game struggled, even if it put up some higher numbers.

“Last year we had teams eight in a box, nine in a box on us because we couldn’t stretch the field,” Wyoming senior wide receiver Chris Johnson said. “I think we’re different this year. We’re not as veteran as last year with Hoost (Marsh) and Mike (Ford), but we are a lot different; each and every one of us brings something different to the table. We all feel that teams, as far as packing the box on us, that is not possible this year.”

The Wyoming wide receiving corps doesn’t have a lot of experience -- Bolling, Johnson, sophomore David Leonard and Jacobo have the most experience and only Bolling has considerable experience (second on team with 35 receptions).

Because of that, Bolling said it is his duty to come back this year as the position leader.

“Not as much as a vocal leader, but be a leader by going out and showing these young players how to do things on the field,” he said.

Those young guys include redshirt freshman Brandon Stewart, sophomore Travis Burkhalter and redshirt junior Donate Morgan. Stewart and Morgan will play their first games a Cowboy when Wyoming opens the season on Aug. 30 against Ohio. Burkhalter plated six games last season, catching three passes for 12 yards.

“Obviously, I have to show them how it is done in the film room, show them how to study defenses and things like that, but just come out here and play with nothing but heart and do our assignments to the best of our ability,” Bolling said. “We have probably the best wide receiver corps that we have had in a long time, with speed on the outside and speed on the inside as well.”

Possibly the biggest key for the Wyoming passing game is to utilize its speed, something the Cowboys appear to have an abundance of with Bolling, Johnson, Burkhalter, Morgan and Stewart.

“If we want to go ahead and go down the field, I say we can use that speed. Speed will be a big key for us this year, to stretch people vertically,” Bolling said. “Getting open is technique-wise, breaking down routes and reading defenses and getting into certain spots where the quarterback knows we are going to be.”

Johnson likes the all-around versatility of the receiving corps this season.

“We have big guys, we have strong guys, we have physical guys and we have speed guys,” Johnson said. “We have guys who can go up and get the ball, guys who can make people miss. I think we have more talent than we did last year. It is just a matter of going out on the field and getting it done.”

For the Wyoming offense to overcome last season’s problems, it will have to show balance between its running game and its passing game. The Cowboys feel they took a step in the right direction last Friday by naming sophomore Dax Crum as the starting quarterback. Moore and Seldon have had solid fall camps and the Wyoming offensive line has the most experience than it has had in Joe Glenn’s tenure.

It all goes back to the receiving corps.

“We’re coming together as a unit,” Johnson said. “We still have things we have to work on, but I think we’re really going to help the running game this year. We’re going to open the field up for D-Mo and Wynel, so they can do what they do best.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Crum named Cowboys starting QB


Richard Anderson photos
Dax Crum, pictured Wednesday before the scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium, was named the Wyoming starting quarteback on Friday over incumbent Karsten Sween (below).

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

For much of his career, Dax Crum has enjoyed success -- first at Horizon High School in Phoenix and then at Mesa Community College.

In other words, he has always been “the man.”

In high school, Crum passed for over 4,000 yards and was named First Team All-State and Desert Valley Region Player of the Year.

After leaving Arizona State after one redshirt season, Crum earned Honorable Mention National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-America honors and was named the NJCAA Co-Region I Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Western States Football League at Mesa Community College.

The past six months as a Cowboy has been laborious for Crum. But he’s “the man” again after being named the starting quarterback for Wyoming on Friday for the season opener against Ohio.

“I think this entire process humbled me a little bit,” Crum said Friday after practice. “It was arduous the last six months not knowing what was going to happen. I feel really proud to have this opportunity and I am going to make the best of it.”

Crum was picked over incumbent starter, junior Karsten Sween. After Crum came to Wyoming last semester, he and Sween had battled through spring drills and in the first two weeks of fall practices.

“It has been a battle, and we feel we have two very good quarterbacks,” Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn said. “But at this point, we have to get one guy ready for the opener against Ohio. Dax will get the start, but Karsten needs to stay sharp and I know he will. We feel good about both of them.”

First-year offensive coordinator Bob Cole said after practice on Friday that it came down to who they felt would move the football the most. Crum did that a little more than Sween Wednesday during the first major scrimmage.

“The way the scrimmage was structured, with the ball being placed on the opposite 25-yard line, that was pretty much my stupid idea to put the offense in the hole every time we went out on the field,” Cole said. “The reason for that, I wanted to see which three or four guys could drive down the field without making mistakes and get us in scoring position.”

Crum was just 4 of 7 passing for 33 yards, but he had a 10-play drive that resulted in a missed field goal and a 12-play drive that was capped by a field goal.

Sween was just 2 of 2 passing for 14 yards and had one fumble. He is 343-for-571 for 3,342 yards in 21 games in his career, but has 25 interceptions to his 21 touchdowns.

Sween said he is frustrated in the decision, but will be a team player.

“I thought I had a good scrimmage for what I had given me. But like I said before, I support the coaches’ decision,” Sween said. “I’m getting ready for Ohio and I have to be ready to play. There are a number of things that could happen that would put me in the game. I’m just getting ready. I’ll take fewer reps in practice because Dax is getting ready. But I have to stay sharp to go in, whenever that might be.”

Cole said that coming up with the decision was not an easy thing for him to do.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of fun yesterday, calling those guys in one at a time, talking, especially Karsten. He’s such a great guy and a mature person,” Cole said. “He handled it like a great person would handle it. He said, ‘I’ll do anything for the team, that’s your decision. I’m disappointed, but I’m here for the Cowboys 100 percent.’ I have all of the respect in the world for him.”

Crum said that he thinks the coaches believe he gives the Cowboys the best chance to win. “That’s the main thing,” he said. “I’m just blessed and this is just a dream come true for me.”

Wyoming senior running back Devin Moore said it is important for the team to know who is going to be their starting quarterback.

“We know who the coaches are behind and where their heads are and what type of leader this guy is,” Moore said. “We’re happy with the decision and we’re behind him 100 percent.”

Crum will get most of the reps during practice.

“As a starter for any of the 1s, they have to get the bulk of the reps because they are the guys in their fighting,” Crum. “It might not be fair for everybody, but that is how it has to be to get ready to win against Ohio.”

While Glenn, Cole and Sween have all maintained that Sween has to be ready to play as the backup, Crum said he won’t look over his shoulder and worry about not getting the job done.

“Even if you are a returning starter, you have to perform,” Crum said. “I’m not really trying to worry about that; I’m going out there to try my hardest and execute. I’m not trying to think about any of the negatives right now.”

Gipson brothers to start; depth chart released


Brothers Tashaun, left, and Marcell Gipson

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

The brothers Gipson will be patrolling the defensive secondary after all.

To no one’s real surprise, sophomore Marcell Gipson was named the starter at boundary cornerback on Friday as the Wyoming coaching staff released the official depth chart for the season opener in two weeks against Ohio.

At field cornerback will be younger brother Tashaun Gipson, a true freshman.

“These two are very talented players,” said Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn in a prepared release. “They have a unique combination of speed, toughness, athleticism and competitiveness. Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to play on the defensive side of the ball. It takes a blend of all the attributes I mentioned to describe Marcell and Tashaun. These two guys are a rare breed -- they’ve got it."

The Cowboy defense returns seven starters from a unit that ranked 22nd in the nation in total defense a year ago, but both starting cornerbacks, 2007 seniors Julius Stinson and Michael Medina, are gone. The Gipson brothers of Dallas, Texas, will step into those starting spots.

“All that’s left is they have to have a short memory -- that is part of playing that position,” Glenn added. “They are young, and with young players you will have some mistakes, but for every mistake they make they will make a lot more big plays. And wait until people see how they hit.”

The Cowboys also turned to Buffalo native Chris Prosinski in the starting role. Wyoming’s defense has three experienced safeties returning in seniors Quincy Rogers and Michael Ray and the sophomore Prosinski. All three rotated last year and will continue to in 2008, but the safeties have been moved around some from last year. Rogers, who started at free safety a year ago, will start at strong safety. Ray, who was the starting strong safety last year, will back up Rogers. Prosinski, who was the backup at free safety in 2007, will now start at the free safety position. A fourth safety who has earned a spot in the rotation is senior Derrick McMahen, who will back up Prosinski.

“Quincy (Rogers) is an experienced veteran,” said Glenn. “He leads both by example and as a vocal leader. Chris Prosinski brings added speed to our defense, and has the ability to cover deep routes with a flair. There will be times when we play three safeties, and Michael Ray is a guy who has done a great job of fitting into the eight-man in the box defense that Coach (Mike) Breske uses sometimes. Michael Ray will continue to be an integral part of our defense.

“Derrick McMahen has also played himself into the mix, and we all feel Derrick will make a contribution this year. I will mention one other player at safety, who had a rough start to fall practice. Brian Kuhtz got sick with a virus shortly after fall camp started, but is a big guy (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) who can run and make plays and in time will contribute to our defense and special teams in a big way.”

Other than the quarterback position in which sophomore Dax Crum was named the starter (see related story on Wyoming Sports.org) and the defensive secondary, much of the depth chart remained the same from spring drills among the offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, running backs and fullbacks. At tight end, junior Chris Sundberg has battled back from a right knee injury that ended his 2007 season prematurely, to be listed as the co-starter at tight end with returning starter Jesson Salyards. Those two will also be utilized together in two tight-end sets for the Cowboys. Sundberg received a sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA this summer, and so enters the 2008 season as a junior rather than a senior.

At wide receiver, junior Greg Bolling is back after missing spring drills due to academic ineligibility. He is the projected starter at one outside receiver spot. Junior Donate Morgan has earned the other starting spot at outside receiver, while redshirt freshman Brandon Stewart is listed No.1 at the slot receiver position.

On special teams, one kicking position has been decided. Junior Jake Scott is the clear choice at place-kicker. Scott hit four of five field goals in Wyoming’s first fall scrimmage on Wednesday, including two from 41-yards out.

“Jake (Scott) has really made a move this fall,” said Glenn. “I’m so happy with his confidence and his poise. He’s ready for a great season. You can feel a difference when he takes the field now -- it’s total confidence. He’s hitting the ball as good as I’ve ever seen him. His timing has been great. He’s getting the ball up quick, and his accuracy has been outstanding. I’m looking forward to watching Jake this season.”

The punting position is still locked in a three-way competition between sophomore Nick Landess, true freshman Austin McCoy and junior-college transfer Cody Bousema. The three are listed as co-starters with two weeks to go before the season opener.

“One of the better battles we’ve got going is at punter,” said Glenn. “All three kids have been hitting the ball well with excellent hang time. We’ll continue to track all their kicks in practice for the next few days before naming a starter there.

“We’re also very happy with our deep snappers -- not only four-year starter Danny Dutmer, but Chris Sundberg has been doing a nice job snapping for punts. Garrett King is our backup to Danny for field goals and PATs. Garrett has improved dramatically, and will get some reps. Ian (Hetrick) and Kyle (Jacobo) have done a great job holding. We’ve also worked David Leonard into that spot some.”

The Cowboys will continue two-a-day practices through next week. Wyoming will hold its second and final scrimmage of the fall on Wednesday in War Memorial Stadium, beginning at 5 p.m.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dobbs enjoying return as defensive stopper


UW photo
Wyoming senior linebacker Mike Juergens sacks senior quarterback Ian Hetrick Wednesday the first fall scrimmage.

By Richard Anderson
Wyoming Sports.org

Ward Dobbs was back in his element on Wednesday night: Scrimmaging, knocking heads, having a blast.

While most eyes were on the still apparently unsettled quarterback situation, Dobbs and his mates were once again doing their part, controlling the field.

After an uneventful spring in which he had to sit out drills rehabbing his shoulder, it’s been a good fall start for the Wyoming senior linebacker.

Wednesday night was another step in the right direction.

“It’s fun, it’s been a while,” Dobbs said with a smile. “It was a long, boring off-season, sitting around and watching spring ball and all that. It’s good to be back here. The biggest thing is that it is fun, fun being around the guys.”

Not only has Dobbs regained his health after off-season shoulder surgery, he said he is feeling better than ever. That could spell trouble for the rest of the Mountain West Conference.

“It’s by far the best that I have ever felt since I have been here,” Dobbs said. “I’m pretty excited about that.”

The Wyoming defense dominated the 122-play scrimmage, holding the offense to a combined 330 yards of total offense -- 134 passing yards and 196 rushing. Wyoming’s defense sacked Cowboy quarterbacks nine times for a minus 70 yards, and recorded 15 tackles for losses for a minus 101 yards. The UW defenders recovered three fumbles and intercepted one pass.

“I think we’re on the right path,” Dobbs said. “I think there are things we need to work on. We just have to make sure that everybody is on the same page and how you become successful on defense is everybody doing their job. When people get excited and try to do too much on defense, that’s when you leave those big comeback lanes and big plays happen. I think that if we can get everybody on the same page and just keep getting better, then we will be looking pretty good.”

Making a statement early

It didn’t take long for the Cowboy defense to get into the act, as sophomore cornerback Marcell Gipson intercepted an Ian Hetrick pass and returned it 37 yards.

“I read it the whole time,” Gipson said. “I just wished that I would have scored.”

Gipson is expected to get the starting nod at boundary cornerback, with younger brother Tashaun Gipson, TJ Atwater and Keith Lewis all in the mix for starting jobs.

“I leave it in the coaches’ hands. All I can do is come out here and practice as hard as I can,” Gipson said. “I’m rooting for my little brother, I can’t lie. I’m hoping he can pull it out by Aug. 30.”

Not a happy camper

Glenn was less than pleased with how his offense performance on the evening, especially his No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense.

“I give the defense credit tonight,” Glenn said. “But I will say that we played a lot better offensively all week in practice than we did tonight. We showed no emotion on offense. We were flat. I can’t say that we played very well at any spot.

“We want to move the ball. We didn’t move the ball tonight as well as we have over this first couple of weeks of fall practice. I think once we establish that we can run the ball effectively, the passing game will fall in place with that, but tonight we didn’t run it like we have been.”

Glenn said the offensive coaches are especially disappointed that they didn’t get into the end zone.

“The offensive staff wanted to start every series from their own 25-yard line to see which quarterback could drive the ball down the field,” Glenn said. “In the next scrimmage, we will probably mix up the starting position for each drive and give the offense some field position to work with to start.”

Getting their kicks

Junior place-kicker Jake Scott was four of five in field goals, connecting on two 41-yard field goals, a 26-yard attempt and a 23-yard kick. His only miss came from 37 yards out. Freshman Kolten Jelden also made a 23-yard field goal.

Punting the football, sophomore Nick Landess averaged 45.0 yards on five punts, including a long of 61. Sophomore Cody Bousema averaged 48.8 yards on five punts, with a long of 55. Austin McCoy, a true freshman, also punted five times and averaged 39.2 yards, including a long of 50 and a 40-yard punt that was downed at the two-yard line.

Next week

The Cowboys will scrimmage again next Wednesday, beginning at 5 p.m.