Saturday, August 22, 2009

More cons than pros on Saturday

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming quarterback Robert Benjamin looks to escape from the defense of Alex Toney Saturday in the team's third scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson

Generally happy with the way his team has practiced so far in fall drills, Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen has been less pleased with the way his team has scrimmaged, particularly the last two scrums.

That was the case on Tuesday when the defense battled back after the offenses dominance in the first scrimmage. At times, it was more of the same in the Cowboys’ third scrimmage Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

Christensen was not happy with the 12 dropped passes (see story below). He was also a little perturbed with the teams mental toughness, the play of his offensive line and even the team’s running attack. The mental toughness, or lack of it, was a team-wide problem, Christensen said.

“We look fragile out there,” Christensen said. “We play one quarter of football and we look like we played 10 quarters. We have to get tougher as a football team. We’ll get this evaluated again when we get back to work on Tuesday.”

The Wyoming offensive line struggled Saturday on special teams when defensive end Corey Orth blocked a field-goal attempt. Then on three straight point after touchdown kicks, senior defensive tackle John Fletcher nearly blocked the kicks. The offensive line also was flagged four times for 65 yards during the scrimmage.

“I’m not very pleased with the offensive line, because four of the five penalties were on them,” Christensen said. “We have a lot of work to do there. We have a guy that’s been around on the field goal team that gets blown up every single time and gets kicks blocked. To say that I am pleased with them, absolutely not. We have to get tougher, we’re not very disciplined right now. We’re not very tough, but we’ll get them there.”

Of course, in a scrimmage situation, when one side of the football does not play well, the other side takes advantage. Christensen credited the 6-foot-6 Fletcher for putting pressure on his blockers. “It was a heck of an effort by John Fletcher,” Christensen said. “He gets a hand on almost every one. I’m excited about him. It’s all based on effort. Coach (Jerry) Montgomery has done a great of coaching that block team.”

The Wyoming running game also had just137 yards on 30 rushes. And that was with a 65-yard touchdown run by James Caraway.

“They are still running sideways,” Christensen said of his running backs.

“I’m going to have to go in and teach the team that the end zones are at the end off the fields and not on the sides, because they like to run that way. They haven’t figured that one out yet.” Caraway was the lone bright spot, with 65 yards on three rushes.

“He didn’t get as many touches as I would like, but he did run better. He made a big run on that one series. He’s getting better,” Christensen said.

All was not lost, though, as Christensen was happy with he defense once again and possibly for the first time this spring, he was pleased with the special teams, particularly the kicking game.

“Our defense is doing a nice job, not giving up the big play. They continue to play well,” he said. “We have come a long way with our special teams, our kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return; I think we’re making progress in those areas."

Injury report
Christensen said there were no serious injuries on Saturday and updated the status of freshman receiver Chris McNeill and freshman linebacker Devyn Harris, both of whom were injured in the first scrimmage.

McNeill, who suffered a mild concussion, is back practicing, but still out of contact.

“He’ll begin some limited contact next Friday and then the following week he’ll be ready to go,” he said.

Harris, out with a knee injury, will be out of action for some time, if not the entire season.

“He’s probably six weeks out. We’ll see where we’re at that time,” Christensen said.

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