Saturday, April 4, 2009

Positive news offensively is good news

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior wide receiver David Leonard grabs a pass on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson

Any positive news is good news for the Wyoming offense … at least compared to the last couple of seasons.

Even if it comes at the expense of a beat up Cowboy defense … in spring drills.

With that in mind, the Cowboys are excited abut how the last couple of scrimmages have gone. In its special scoring system, the offense outscored the defense 38-27 on Thursday and 51-23 on Saturday.

We moved the ball, but again, I will have to look at the film,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said after Saturday’s 85-play scrimmage in the Indoor Practice Facility. “You have to understand that we have a number of guys defensively down. It’s not a true indication of where we are at, but I am certainly happy with the progress that we are making and implementing the offense and getting the whole system of the plays called and getting them executed. We’re making progress in that way.”

Progress is the key word here. Turnovers were a bugaboo the last two years and on Thursday, there was one lost fumble and one tipped-pass interception. On Saturday, there was just one fumble and it was on the last play of the scrimmage.

“That’s the biggest thing with the whole team, to hold onto the ball,” Wyoming redshirt freshman James Caraway said. “We got a lot of turnovers and we don’t want that. We want to be a completely different team than last year. Everybody, we’re all trying to hold onto the football. That is big aspect of it.”

Caraway, along with senior Darius Terry and sophomore James Davis, are looking to take over for the departed Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon, two of the top rushers in UW history.

On Saturday, Caraway scored twice on runs of 1 and 13 yards and finished with 44 yards on 13 carries. As a team, the Cowboys ran for 132 yards on 36 rushes.

“I think the running backs are doing a nice job of running hard,” Christensen said. “As we got going, Caraway started hitting the hole a little better instead of dancing. I feel good about that position right now. Again, we’re down some receivers also and we had some guys step up and make plays.”

Through the air, three Cowboy quarterbacks combined to complete 29 of 42 passes for 257 yards and one touchdown. Senior Karsten Sween was 17-of-26 for 154 yards one and one touchdown and junior Dax Crum was 11-of-12 for 98 yards.

“Everyday all of our quarterbacks become better,” Christensen said. “It’s a lot for a quarterback. We don’t necessarily always need a guy to go out and win the game. He just needs to manage the game and not lose it. When we’re not turning the ball over and we’re not taking sacks, we’re doing good things.”

In these scrimmages, the Cowboy QBs are dressed just like the other players and are not wearing their “don’t hit me blue uniforms.”

Christensen said it is difficult to evaluate the quarterbacks and see how they are going to react if they don’t put them in live situations.

“If they are never going to get hit, then everybody is brave then,” he said. “We feel at this point and time that we have to see what they can do when the heat is on, and they are responding well.”

One of the big keys for improvement this season in Christensen’s no huddle, spread offense, is also the ability of the Wyoming wide receivers. This is also an area where depth is a little thin, without senior Donate Morgan and sophomore Mike Sando.

Junior wide out David Leonard had six catches for 64 yards and an 18-yard touchdown reception from Sween, while junior Travis Burkhalter added five catches for 57 yards.

“We’re down in numbers right now, so we have to stay in it mentally,” Leonard said. “I think we’re coming out, especially in the scrimmages, for the first time and getting a real taste of the speed of it.”

Again, a healthy Wyoming defense probably makes these offense versus defenses a wash. Early in the spring, the defense had won the matchups.

Confidence on offense, however, they get it, will never be taken lightly in the future.

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