Friday, August 14, 2009

Offense: Lot of yards, but far from perfect

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming senior tight end Orlando Arnold races down the field on a 24-yard touchdown reception Friday in the first scrimmage of the fall at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson

Dropped passes and turnovers.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen inherited those dirty words when he took over from Joe Glenn after last season.

Even after an impressive first scrimmage offensively on Friday, Christensen said they are a ways from washing their hands of those miscues.

“I’m not going to be pleased until we stop turning the football over,” Christensen said. “The bottom line is, if you turn the football over, you are not going to have a very good chance of winning. We need to work on that.”

Despite 420 yards passing and 395 yards rushing, the Cowboys turned the ball over four times with two interceptions and two fumbles.

“Obviously, we had a couple of fumbles by a young guy. There were a couple of interceptions that you can’t have, so we need to eliminate turnovers,” Christensen said. “I was pleased, though, with the ones and twos and the tempo. I was pleased with how the quarterbacks ran the offense and orchestrated us down the field and scored points. Pleased at this point of time, but certainly have a lot of work to get done.”

Although the Cowboy receivers caught the ball much better on Friday, one or two dropped passes are one or two too many as far as Christensen is concerned.

“We caught the ball better, but we’re still not good enough. We had drops today,” he said. “When you have too many drops, you are consistently going to be stalling the offense. You can’t have drops in this offense. But we’re making progress. We’re better today and hopefully we’re better tomorrow. That’s a challenge for these kids. We’re going to come out (Saturday) morning in full pads and get up a very competitive practice and see if we can do it back-to-back-to-back-to-back."

Speaking of turnovers
The Cowboy defense has a little motto that “it is all about the ball.” With the four turnovers early in the scrimmage, the UW defense showed improvement from last season.

The two fumbles came when the defense stripped freshman running back Alvester Alexander before the whistle was blown.

Wyoming senior defensive tackle Mitch Unrein said they have been working on doing just that in special drills in practice.

“On defense, that’s what we try to stress -- take the ball away, rip it, strip it and then get it back so the offense can score some points,” Unrein said. “All of the drill work is paying off. Each day when we start practice, we do a turnover circuit. It just becomes second nature getting on that ball and scoop it out.”

The Big O
One Cowboy who is looking to make an impact offensively this season is senior tight end Orlando Arnold. The 6-foot-4 and 230-pound athletic Arnold looked the part on Friday, hauling in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Robert Benjamin, outrunning the Wyoming defensive backs the final 20 yards. He caught two passes for 34 yards.

Christensen said that Arnold, who didn't catch a pass last season, has had a strong camp.

“He’s made a number of big catches, taken big hits without coughing up the football,” Christensen said. “He has performed extremely well. I’d say that if there was one guy who was the most improved right now on this football team, it is Orlando Arnold. He’s done a good job so far in camp.”

Scary hit
Late in the scrimmage, freshmen wide receiver Chris McNeill caught a pass over the middle and was spun around and hit hard. Although he hung onto the football, McNeill didn’t get up. He was lifted into an ambulance on a board and taken to Ivinson Memorial Hospital.

Later on Friday, it was determined that McNeill suffered a slight concussion. He had a concussion earlier in fall camp and sat out a couple of days.

“He’s got feeling from head to, so he has no full loss of feeling. It’s precautionary to put him on the board, get him to the hospital and get him some x-rays,” Christensen said after practice, before learning of the concussion. It’s always scary when a kid goes down and doesn’t get back up. He took a big hit and got twisted around a bit and bent his neck, but I think he will be fine. It was a heck of an effort, he caught the football. He’ll be good to go.”

Kicking update
Senior Jake Scott and sophomore Austin McCoy have the “leg up” on the UW kicking duties, with Scott the front runner at placekicker and McCoy in line for the punting duties. Junior Nick Landess has been injured and is not in the running as of now.

“He probably won’t be competing until school starts,” Christensen said of Landess. “He has injuries off and on since spring and he is still not healthy. He won’t be in the competition at this point and time.

McCoy punted four times during the scrimmage for a 42.3-yard average, including a long of 51 yards.

In addition to the one 28-yard field-goal attempt that McCoy made and Scott missed during the scrimmage, each kicker successfully made field goals from 26 and 31 yards prior to the start of the scrimmage. McCoy was also successful from 40 yards prior to the start of the scrimmage, while Scott missed his 40-yard attempt. McCoy’s totals for the day were a perfect 4 of 4 in field goals and 7 of 7 in extra points. Scott was 2 of 4 in field goals and 7 of 7 in extra points.

Depth chart
Christensen said there will definitely be movement in the Wyoming depth chart after Friday’s scrimmage.

“We’ve got 10 practices under our belt and evaluation based on today’s scrimmage and all nine other practices add to it,” he said. “We visit every single day about every single player as a staff personnel wise. There will probably be some shake-up going into tomorrow. We have three more scrimmages, so we’ll continue to bounce things around until we get guys in the right spots.”

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