Friday, August 14, 2009
Quarterback battle brewing in positive way
Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior quarterback Robert Benjamin looks to avoid the rush of defensive tackle Mike Neuhaus in Friday's scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium.
By Richard Anderson
There was a slight admission by first-year Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen Friday that the quarterback albatross of last season was changing face.
And just maybe, the battle at quarterback would be decided by strong play rather than of elimination from poor performances.
That battle appears to be headlined by senior Karsten Sween and junior transfer Robert Benjamin, especially after Benjamin’s spectacular scrimmage in which he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
“Without looking at film, he (Benjamin) does possess a lot of play-making ability,” Christensen said. “He can do some things, throwing the football and also with his feet. We’ll have to evaluate the film; there is a lot that goes into it.”
Benjamin finished the scrimmage completing 12 of 17 passes for 178 yards, the three TD passes, one long touchdown run and one interception. Sween was outstanding as well, completing 12 of 16 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown.
Both played with the first and second string offenses intermediately. Christensen and his coaching staff will have a better idea of how they both performed after watching film, which they did later on Friday.
“We’ll see who they are playing behind, we’ll see who they are playing against. We’ll evaluate every situation, decision making and all of those things and we’ll see where we are at when we get done with that later today,” Christensen said.
Benjamin showed a strong arm with touch in completing touchdown passes of 55 yards to wide receiver Travis Burkhalter, 24 yards to tight end Orlando Arnold and 25 yards to wide receiver David Leonard. He also sprinted in from 38 yards for a running touchdown.
“I did pretty good, you know,” Benjamin said. “I always expect to do good, so I just tried to come out and do my best. I helped my team, the offense, win the game, and we came out on top.”
Benjamin wasn’t perfect. Senior defensive tackle John Fletcher made sure of that when he leaped high to pick off an early pass from the junior on the line of scrimmage.
“That was just big Fletch making a play. I couldn’t do nothing about that,” he said. Benjamin, however, knows that turning the ball over, whether by fumble or interception, has been a problem for the Cowboys and that has to stop.
“The less turnovers a game, the more that you win,” he said. “We had four today, we have to cut that out.”
Sween wasn’t as spectacular, but he was steady and showed some form that got him into the starting lineup initially as a freshman.
With that said, Christensen said he wasn't ready to name a starter or even list Sween and Benjamin as the top two candidates for the job.
“Really, all four quarterbacks are competing well,” Christensen said. “They (Benjamin and Sween) have a slight edge right now, but Dax is doing some good things out here and Austyn Carta-Samuels is doing a fantastic job also. He throws the ball very well, makes great decisions and knows where to place the ball. He competition is still on.”
That competition has senior defensive tackle Mitch Unrein impressed. After all, he goes up against them all in practice.
“I think every single quarterback is going out there and showing us what they have. Each one of them is doing really well,” Unrein said. “But I think those two (Benjamin and Sween) are in competition for that lead spot. It’s a pretty tight race and we’ll just have to see how fall ball ends.”
Wyoming quarterbacks finished the day completing 25 of 51 passes for 420 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Again, Unrein was impressed and encouraged.
“They put it on the defense. We really don’t like that when they take it to us like that out on the field, but it gives us confidence too, knowing that we are going to be able to put points on the board for us and our defense,” he said. “As long as we go out and do our job, we’ll be fine.”
Did Benjamin, who arrived late this summer after completing his studies at Phoenix College, think he made enough impression Friday and in practice to be considered No. 1.
“I’m not really sure, yet,” Benjamin said. “Coach still has to evaluate the film, and I have many more practices to get better. Hopefully by then, we’ll find out."
The low-key Benjamin added that he just goes out and let’s his ability take care of itself.
“I don’t try to talk to much about it; I just go play,” he said.