Monday, September 28, 2009

Carta-Samuels, Watts earn MWC honors

UW photo/Ian Watts was named MWC Special Teams Player of the Week. At right, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels earned offensive honors.

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen has not been afraid to go with his youngsters, starting six true freshmen Saturday in the 30-27 win over UNLV.

The Mountain West Conference recognized those efforts, naming a pair of Cowboy freshmen as its players of the week. Wyoming true freshmen Austyn Carta-Samuels and Ian Watts were both honored by the conference on Monday.

Carta-Samuels was named the Co-Offensive Player of the Week, along with TCU junior quarterback Andy Dalton. Carta-Samuels led Wyoming to a 30-27 victory over UNLV in his first career start. He completed 24 of 37 passes (64.9 percent) for 234 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 144.7. Carta-Samuels also rushed for 34 yards for 268 yards of total offense.

The freshman guided Wyoming on scoring drives of 57, 80, 73, 80 and 26 yards. The last 80-yard drive was made midway through the fourth quarter as Carta-Samuels led the Cowboys on a nine-play drive to tie the game at 27 all. He completed 4 of 5 passes on that drive for 33 yards and he rushed for 19 yards on a critical third-down and five situation to keep the drive alive.

With Wyoming facing a second down and nine yards on the UNLV 15, Carta-Samuels was forced to scramble from the pocket, he then hit Travis Burkhalter in the corner of the endzone on his third TD pass of the day to tie the game. Carta-Samuels would later lead the Cowboys on a game-winning drive in which he completed 4 of 5 passes for 32 yards, setting up Wyoming’s 28-yard, game-winning field goal.

“He started slow as we know in both halves,” Christensen said. “He caught on fire after that and made great decisions with the football, he made great throws with the football. He did a great job providing leadership for our offense and managing our offense. If I had to grade him, I’d give him an A for the game.”

Watts was named the Mountain West’s Special Teams Player of the Week, as he successfully made all three of his field-goal attempts from 29, 22 and 28 yards to provide the margin of victory over UNLV.

“It felt really great,” Watts said after Saturday’s game. “It’s a lot different than high school with getting just two field goals all season, then getting three in one game. I was nervous on the first one, then after that it was easy and there was no problem. It’s good to get the first game out of the way and that I did well.”

Never having attempted a field goal as a collegian, the freshman walk-on gave Wyoming a 3-0 lead with a 29-yard field goal in the first quarter. He added a second field goal in the second quarter to pull the Cowboys to within one point at 7-6, but it was his third field goal that saw the freshman perform under pressure. With Wyoming on the UNLV 11-yard line and a little over four minutes remaining in the game, Watts connected on a 28-yarder to put the Pokes ahead to stay at 30-27.

He was also a perfect 3 of 3 in point-after-touchdown attempts to score 12 of Wyoming’s 30 points on the day.

“Not bad for a guy that just showed up on my doorstep, huh?” Christensen said.

On Monday during his weekly news conference, Christensen was asked what it meant for two freshmen to earn player of the week honors.

“Anytime a true freshman can come in and play, you’re kind of hoping that they can perform to the level which gives you a chance to win,” he said. “I think the six freshmen that we started in that football game came out and played at a pretty high level. Most people in the country probably aren’t starting six true freshmen, but they have earned their spots. That’s one thing we have said from the get-go, the best players will play. They have put themselves in starting positions because of their performance in practice and they continue to perform in games.”

Air Force defensive back Reggie Rembert earned MWC Defensive Player of the Week honors, intercepting two passes, forcing one fumble and recovering another fumble, which he returned 47 yards for a touchdown.

Other Cowboy honors
For the second time this season, several Cowboys have been recognized by as among the best performers at their positions in the nation.

Cowboy punter Austin McCoy was named the nation’s Co-Punter Performer of the Week. He shared the honor with BYU’s Riley Stephenson. McCoy averaged 53.2 yards on five punts versus UNLV. He had a long punt of 60 yards, and placed one of his five punts inside the Rebel 20-yard line.

“It was much better,” McCoy said on Saturday. “Finally everything is starting to click for us. We are trying to show what we are made of on the punt team because we have been getting better and better, and by far, this was our best week.”

McCoy s now just concentrating on punting, as he had been the team’s place-kicker for the first two contests, hitting just 1 of 3 field goals.

Christensen said punting is what McCoy has been doing and just punting is now making his job easier.

“He has punted well up to this point in time, but we haven’t always covered as well,” Christensen said. “Now that he was just able to focus on that, he boomed them.”

Sophomore cornerback Tashaun Gipson was one of only six defensive backs nationally to be recognized this week. Air Force’s Rembert was named the Defensive Back Performer of the Week.

Gipson intercepted two passes at critical points of the win over UNLV, and added four tackles on the day. Gipson’s first interception came in the third quarter with UNLV looking to break a 13-13 tie. The Rebels had a second and goal from the Wyoming 10-yard line when UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton threw a pass toward the endzone.

Gipson intercepted the pass at the Wyoming’ 1-yard line and returned it to the 4-yard line to end the drive for the Rebels.

With 7:41 remaining in the game and Wyoming having just tied the game at 27-all, Gipson intercepted his second pass of the day at the UNLV 37-yard line. Gipson’s interception set up Wyoming’s game-winning drive of 26 yards, culminating in a 28-yard field goal.

"I just saw the ball and I wanted it,” Gipson said on Saturday. “Both of those catches, I just clued on the quarterback, which was one of my biggest things coming in."

Earlier this season following Wyoming’s 2009 season-opening win over Weber State, Wyoming freshman strong safety Shamiel Gary was named the Co-Defensive Back Performer of the Week, while senior defensive tackle John Fletcher was one of only five defensive linemen in the nation to earn Honorable Mention honors that week.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cowboys make the stops when it counted

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming linebackers Gabe Knapton, 52, and Josh Biezuns smother a UNLV running back Saturday. At left is sophomore cornerback Tashaun Gipson.

By Richard Anderson
The Wyoming offense bent, but did not break. Tashaun Gipson and Gabe Knapton made sure of that.

Gipson picked off a pair of Omar Clayton passes, one at the Cowboys own 1-yard line, and Knapton had one big pass breakup late and 17 total tackles, as Wyoming made the plays defensively it needed to, holding off the Rebels 30-27 Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

The high-flying Rebels offense, led by Clayton at quarterback, and talented receivers Ryan Wolfe and Phillip Payne, seemed to stay a step ahead of the Wyoming defense in the second half, twice breaking ties with effective touchdown drives.

Both times, the Wyoming offense battled back to get into the end zone itself to knot the game up again. After a 28-yard field goal by Ian Watts gave the Cowboys a three-point lead with 3 minutes, 20 seconds to play, the Cowboy defense needed one more big stop.

It got it when the Rebels failed to convert -- even get off a 50-yard field goal attempt in the final minute of play. UNLV did earn four first downs on that late drive, but stalled inside the Wyoming 30 on a 7-yard pass and two straight incomplete passes that led to the ill-fated field goal attempt.

“I thought we played pretty good,” Knapton said. “There were a couple of series out there where we let a couple of plays slip, but we all came together as a defense and stopped them when we really needed to.”

Although the Rebels finished with 386 yards of total offense, converting 10 of 17 third-down possessions, the Wyoming defense came up big on the final full UNLV possession.

“I think we just realized that we needed to do something," Knapton said. “There has been a lot of talk about going out there and playing four quarters. We didn’t really do it for all four quarters, but we came together and got fired up. It wasn’t what they said, it as just our own ideas of what we had to do.”

One of the biggest defensive stops in the game came early in the third quarter when the Rebels were looking to break a 13-13 tie. They got one yard short of the goal-line when Gipson made a diving interception in front of a Rebel receiver.

“No question that Tashaun Gipson’s interception (at the 1-yard line) was as big a play as any,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said. “UNLV was having success moving the football. We talk about when teams get down in that area we have to make something happen and he did."

Late in the game, Gipson stopped another potential drive when he basically did the same thing, stepping in front of Clayton’s pass on the Vegas 37-yard line. Wyoming would then move down for the eventual winning field goal.

The two picks now give Gipson three on the season. He enjoyed caching the football on Saturday.
"I just saw the ball and I wanted it,” Gipson said with a grin. “Both of those catches, I just clued on the quarterback, which was one of my biggest things coming in. Against Weber State and Colorado, the quarterbacks were kind of sloppy on their clues, so my brother (Marcell) and I got back to the basics. We started zoning in on the quarterbacks, which I thought was a vital part of those two big plays I had out there.”

The Cowboys secondary had a tough chore ahead of them with Clayton and the talented Rebel receivers. It was a test they accepted.

“It was a lot of fun,” Gipson said. “They had some great receivers out there, so it was a challenge for us. I credit coach Grinch, he kept preaching and harping at us to keep us focused because that is a good receiving corps. We came up big time.”

For some reason, the UNLV coaching staff elected to go after Gipson, despite his ability to defend and catch the football. Gipson said he “guessed” he had to show them.

“There was a lot of hype about their receivers," Gipson said. “They have some good players, but our secondary, and I have been saying this, is one of the best in the country. When we go out and make plays, we can make things happen.”

The Cowboys now have eight interceptions on the season, compared to nine of all of last year.

“We are just out there playing Cowboy Tough football,” Gipson said. “We want the ball. We have a different motto -- it’s all about the ball. We want the ball every time the ball is in the air. If they run, we want to strip it out. We’re just trying to put our offense in a better situation.”

Knapton just missed an interception on that late UNLV drive, but got a big pass knockdown.

“When you are flying around, like we do in practice, trying to get the ball, you are going to be more effective,” Knapton said.

Although the Cowboys are giving up an average of 416 yards a game, their play on defense has allowed the offense to work through some struggles and now show some success.

“In the first four games, we fell like we are better than we have played,” Gipson said. “The stats don’t prove that we are better than we played, but we want to prove to everybody that we can stop some of the best offenses, not only in the conference, but in the country.”

The Wyoming linebacking corps that also includes sophomore Brian Hendricks and senior Weston Johnson, is proving to be among the best in the conference. Hendricks leads the way in tackles with 50, followed by Knapton at 45.

“It’s trouble for an offense when we have two linebackers like Brian Hendricks and myself making tackles," Knapton said. " I think it was a team effort by the entire defense."

Carta-Samuels has the right stuff in first start

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels scrambles out of the pocket Saturday against UNLV.

Wyoming-UNLV statistics

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming true freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels admits he has a little arrogance in him. Just call it confidence in your ability.

But nervous for your first collegiate start? Carta-Samuels is human, after all. He had a bundle of nerves pent up inside him early Saturday against UNLV.

It showed, as the Cowboys were handed a gift on the first possession after a bad snap past the Rebels quarterback that gave UW the ball on the 7-yard line. Wyoming had to settle for a field goal.

The Cowboys then punted on possessions two and three and then settled for another short field goal after stalling on the 5-yard line.

Four possession, six points, no touchdowns.

It was not exactly the start Carta-Samuels had envisioned.

So yes, he was a bit nervous early on.

“Did you see the first two drives?” Carta-Samuels said. “I had some miscues early. I’m glad we got the win.”

Carta-Samuels, however, got going late in the first half and once he did that, there was no stopping him. He finished 24-of-37 through the air for 234 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys won their Mountain West Conference opener with a tough 30-27 victory.

“I credit that a lot to my coaches, who did a great job on film with me and Coach (Dave) Christensen pulled me aside and he said it is going to be all right,” Carta-Samuels said. “He took the slow approach, the calming approach rather than yelling at me, which in my mind, makes things worse.”

All proved to be good for the Cowboys’ offense, as they finally got the monkey off of their back and into the end zone, ending a 10-quarter scoreless drought.

Besides, Carta-Samuels said that the first drive of the game is not his favorite drive, anyway.

“I prefer to see what they are coming out in and adjust to it. I was excited,” he said.

Was there a point in the first half where he began to lose a little confidence in himself?

“I may have thought that a little inside, but I wasn’t going to show it,” Carta-Samuels said. “After I completed a couple of balls in a row late in the first quarter, it was back, it was fine.”

And fine he was from that point on. He threw his first college touchdown pass on a 19-yard strike to sophomore running back Brandon Stewart with just 2:48 left in the first half.

“After he caught it, everyone is in the end zone celebrating and I’m looking around, thinking, ‘all right,’” he said. “Then I got there and was late and everyone tackled me. It was a lot of fun, your first college touchdown pass and the first TD pass for our offense of the season.”

After UNLV regained the lead at 20-13 in the third quarter, Carta-Samuels engineered a 5-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by a 35-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver David Leonard down the right sideline.Again, after UNLV went back up 27-20, Carta-Samuels found wide receiver Travis Burkhalter in traffic in the left side of the end zone for a 15-yard TD pass.

In all three touchdown passes, Carta-Samuels was at his best, on the move, out of the pocket, looking for the open receiver.

He then moved the Cowboys down field for what proved to be the game winning 28-yard field goal by walk-on freshman Ian Watts.

Carta-Samuels said it might not be normal to all quarterbacks, but that ability to improvise and find the open man is normal to him.

“Without talking about myself, I think that is what sets me apart from other quarterbacks,” he said. “I like to drop back and pass, but I also like creating. If things break down, I can create. I love that stuff, drawing plays in the dirt. That’s exciting to me and I enjoy it. A lot of coaches in the country get mad at you and get on you, but our coaches are awesome about it. They allow me to try to make plays.”

Christensen said that Carta-Samuels made a lot of plays with his feet, getting out of the pocket.

“He’s special,” Christensen said. “I think we’ve found the guy who can run this offense proficiently. He made great throws under pressure. He ran the ball when things broke down, which is what you want to do. He did a great job of orchestrating the offense.”

Carta-Samuels was sacked just once in the game and he credits his line for doing a good job of protection,. The Wyoming offensive line, as well as the rest of the offense, is learning that just enough protection can now lead to good things with Carta-Samuels behind center.

“A lot of people say I was running for my life, but the play was developing, you have to let it develop,” Carta Samuels said. “I’m just bring to gain as much time as I can. Even though I am out of the pocket, if I throw the same pass that they wanted me to throw, that is what I did and coaches were OK with that, too.”

While Carta-Samuels improvised at times, the Wyoming offensive line is learning how to react. In fact, it‘s the end result that they are looking at the most.

“I’m thrilled with Austyn right now,” Wyoming center Russ Arnold said. “I’m really happy for him. His first start, to come away with a win. I heard coach say it but I was already thinking it. I think he grew up three or four classes in maturity. Not to say he was immature before, but it is awesome. He was in control. When we needed the scores, he got the scores today.”

Christensen said that some quarterback “have the knack.” His former QB at Missouri, Chase Daniel had that knack. He said Carta-Samuels has it as well.

“Things break down and Austyn did a great job of moving around. He has the ideal speed to run this offense,” Christensen said.

Burkhalter said that when Carta-Samuels goes on the move, it is backyard football, something that they practice daily.

“That’s what happens sometimes when the line breaks down,” Burkhalter said. “But I have never seen that in a game personally. You see it on TV, you see Brett Favre do it, but I have never seen a lot of college guys do it. He’s very under control when he is out there.”

Under control and composed; qualities you don’t normally see in a true freshman making his first start.

Leonard said Carta-Samuels had great composure after that slow start.

“In the second half, we had some big dives and we converted on big plays,” Leonard said. “He did a great job scrambling and made some big plays in the back of the end zone. He just stepped up.”

Added Arnold: “Nobody had to baby-sit him today. He stepped up and played awesome.”

When talking to the media after the win, Carta-Samuels showed that confidence one would expect. There was also a look of relief and joy on his face as he answered the biggest questions about his youth and inexperience.

And yes, he’s going to enjoy this day. Then it is back to work in preparation for Florida Atlantic next Saturday.

“I’m going to enjoy this one a lot longer than last week, that’s for sure,” Carta-Samuels said. “I had to forget last week pretty quickly. I’ll enjoy it tonight and wake up and go watch film to see what we did right and see what we did wrong, especially in that first quarter.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Walk-on Watts kicks way up depth chart

Richard Anderson photo/Freshman walk-on Ian Watts kicks during Tuesday's practice.

By Richard Anderson

Ian Watts had planned to be in the stands watching the Wyoming-Texas football game at War Memorial Stadium a couple of weeks ago.

Instead, he kicked off to the second-ranked Longhorns.

On Saturday, Watts will handle the place-kicking duties for the Cowboys, as they return home for their Mountain West Conference opener against UNLV (1 p.m.).

Not bad for an un-recruited walk-on freshman.

To say the least, the last couple of weeks have been a lot more than he expected.

“I was told a few days before the first game against Weber State that I wouldn’t suit up for the first two games because I was a walk-on reporting on the first day of school,” Watts said on Monday. “I thought I would be sitting in the stands and all of the sudden I am kicking off against Texas. It was a shock, but it was a good shock. It came really fast, but I am excited to be here. I’m in a good place right now.”

Watts came to Wyoming from the Philadelphia area after a short, but successful high school kicking career at Radnor High School.

His quick progression on the football field gave him the confidence to go out and find a college to kick for.

“I felt I could start as a freshman, maybe kickoffs, get me playing time at least,” Watts said. “I really like the coaching staff and that helped my decision. You've got the offensive coordinator from Missouri, scoring a lot of points and Wyoming’s great defense with the offense. We should have it all. I really like that.”

Watts was perfect his senior season, although he attempted just two field goals. He was 19-of-19 on points after touchdowns.

“My problem was, although I was 100 percent on my extra points and field goals, our coach liked to go for it on fourth down,” Watts said.

Watts only competed two years at football, as his story is a normal soccer-player-turned-football-kicker tale.

“When the football team needs a kicker, they come over and say, “Who wants to kick?” I said, “I’ll give it shot and I did pretty well,’” he said.

While Watts was getting some interest from other schools, his decision to come to Wyoming was based some on the fact that last year’s kicker, Jake Scott, is a senior and Austin McCoy is more of a punter.

“With other schools, I would have had to go against a sophomore or freshman kicker and have to compete for three or four years,” he said.

With that said, his father, Bob, used the telephone to find his son a school.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen admitted that he was taken a little by surprise.

"His dad called me out of the blue and asked if his son could walk on here. I said, 'Fine, have him get in school and show up,” Christensen said. "He's an un-recruited walk-on that came from Pennsylvania to Laramie, Wyoming, that wanted to kick. Now, he's the starting place-kicker."

After his high school success, Watts competed this summer in the national combines in Denver and got a first look at the Rocky Mountain Region. For obvious thin-air reasons, he started looking in the region.

“My dad said, 'Guess what? They are the highest altitude team in the country,'” Watts said. “I always thought it was Colorado, but it is higher here. I was excited to come here. Last summer I was at the national combines in Denver and my punts were just sailing. I was like, ‘This is going to be great.’”

Then his dad and uncle joined him for the first time on Jonah Field to do some kicking.

“They were going so far. I was excited,” he said.

Christensen said that Watts, at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, has a strong leg, great lift on the ball and is accurate.

“He missed three weeks of camp, so when he first got here his timing was off,” Christensen said. "This isn't high school, we've got a certain time it's got to get off and he's never been put under those pressures. He has now in the last three weeks."

Watts said it is a nervous time for him, and he hopes the Wyoming offense can get going and get into the end zone … at least early on.

“I just hope for my first time I don’t have to go out for a 45-yard field goal,” he said with a smile. “I would like to work my way up with a few PATs to get a feel for things.”

With the Wyoming offense not scoring a touchdown in the lats nine quarters, Cowboy fans would like to see that as well.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

McNeill works his way into more playing time

Richard Anderson photos
At top, Wyoming freshman Chris McNeill makes a move after a catch during Tuesday's practice. At left, McNeill talks things over with freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.

By Richard Anderson

A vicious hit during the first scrimmage of the fall sent freshman wide receiver Chris McNeill to the hospital.

It was a short, precautionary stay. Since then, McNeill has worked his way back onto the football field and in the Wyoming receiving rotation.

It was his first two catches last week in the loss to Colorado, not that early big hit, that has officially initiated him as a college football player.

"It helped me to just catch it and secure it. I was nervous at first, because I hadn’t caught anything in college before," McNeill said. "Getting that first one under my belt, I felt a lot better. I just have to keep working, and it starts on the practice field."

While McNeill was one of the top receiving prospects in head coach Dave Christensen’s first recruiting class, his chances to get on the field as a true freshman were likely buoyed by the fact that the Cowboys were a little thin in that position.

Christensen’s "best players will play" philosophy also gave him a boost.

"Coach told us at the beginning of the season, those who work hard, those who make the catches and make the plays, will have a chance to be on the field," McNeill said. "Obviously, practice is the most important thing, so I have been going as hard as I can in practice, trying to make plays for the offense. I’m just going to keep working my butt off and hopefully keep improving."

Not even thinking about that big early hit, McNeill said one of the things he noticed right away at Wyoming is the game is a lot faster than he was used to in high school.

"They are all a lot bigger, a lot stronger, a lot faster," he said. “Adjusting to that has been probably been the most difficult part for me. I think I am getting used to it, starting to adjust. The more experience I get, the better I will be."

Christensen said McNeill has worked his way into the lineup.

"He’s getting the experience of being in a game an making plays," Christensen said. "He got his first catch last week. For a lot of these young guys, it is just a matter of getting them more reps. The more experience they get, the more they will play."

Fellow freshman and roommate, Austyn Carta-Samuels said that McNeill has the talent to contribute right away. One of his catches against Colorado was proof of that.

"We have a lot of talented receivers and I think Chris has the best hands. His hands are amazing," Carta-Samuels said. "If you saw that ball that he caught against Colorado, I had to throw it early because the defense was prepared for it and I had to set him up. The ball was already in flight and he snapped his hands up there. For him to be able to do that as a freshman is special. He was a late recruit. He got bigger in his senior year and kind of exploded in his senior year. We’re lucky to have him here. It’s going to be awesome to see what he can do for the rest of the season."

It’s no secret that the Wyoming receiving corps has struggled this season, as has the offense as a whole. As a unit, McNeill said they are still learning and improving. Yet, he said that there is no doubt in his mind that the offense will turn it around and get better.

"I’m just going to do my part and contributing as a receiver, and I’m sure the other guys are going to do the same," he said. "We’re family, so we’re going to stand by each other and stick with each other and pick each other up when we are down. All of that stuff will help us in the long run to be a better team."

The Cowboys, 1-2, will open Mountain West Conference play Saturday when they host UNLV (1 p.m.). McNeill is looking forward to getting into league play. He said that playing Big 12 opponents like Texas and Colorado will go a long way in getting them ready for the MWC.

"Although we didn’t come out as we planned in the end, I think we’re a better team because of it," he said. "We’ve learned how to face adversity. Going into conference, I think we are more prepared, more ready for the teams that are coming our way because they are just as hungry as we are. We better be prepared as much as we can."

McNeill is also looking forward to seeing hoe his roommate -- Carta-Samuels -- does in his first start on the collegiate level. It’s been a good match for McNeill and Carta-Samuels on and off the field early on in their Wyoming careers.

Maybe it’s that California connection.

"Being that we’re both from California, we can both relate to a lot of the same things," McNeill said. "As far as being out here and being roommates, we help each other with the playbook and our opponents and all that stuff. We definitely have a strong bond going between the two of us."

Carta-Samuels said that he, McNeil and another true freshman, running back Alvester Alexander, are all close.

“It’s awesome. We spend a lot of time together and we’re hanging out all of the time,” Carta-Samuels said. “It’s been a lot of fun, not only this summer, but to see us all work our way up the depth chart.

"Now that we’re all here, one quote that I have heard in various movies, ‘with a great opportunity, comes responsibility.’ I think the three of us are going to take this responsibly and understand that we have a job to do."

That big early hit wasn’t McNeill’s first and it won’t likely be his last. He might have been a little slow to respond, but hard work has the freshman going full speed ahead.

"Sure, it was a big hit; sure, I’m going to get big hits," he said. "But the measure of a good receiver is how many of those big hits he can take and how fast he can get up. I was just excited to get back out there and get the opportunity to play."

Construction of Wildcatter Suites on schedule

UW photo

by UW Athletics Media Relations

Many University of Wyoming fans have seen the construction in progress on War Memorial Stadium through the first few weeks of the college football season, and many have asked about the progress of the project.

Construction of the new Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites, along with enhancements to the east side of the stadium began in the spring of 2009 with a projected completion date set for the beginning of the 2010 college football season. Several months into the construction, the project is both on schedule and on budget.

"The War Memorial Stadium East Enhancements and Wildcatter Expansion Project is on schedule and on budget," said Jennifer Coast, who is a Capital Projects Manager with the University of Wyoming Facilities Planning Office and is overseeing the construction.

Sampson Construction, which is based out of Cheyenne and Lincoln, Neb., is the general contractor for the project. Sampson has extensive experience in stadium construction, including, among other projects, a renovation to Memorial Stadium at the University of Nebraska.

"With the first two football games behind us, Sampson Construction's experience with construction during games is clear," said Coast. "Their job site has been well defined and clean, leaving a safe and positive gameday experience for our fans."

The east stadium enhancements portion of the construction are being completed both to improve the gameday experience for all Cowboy fans and to make required structural repairs and address ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) needs in the stadium. War Memorial Stadium was originally constructed in 1950.

The Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites portion of the project offers an opportunity for UW Athletics to generate additional revenue for years to come.

"The improvements being made to the east side of the stadium in terms of improved seating, additional seating for fans with disabilities and improved concession and bathroom areas is something that is being done to benefit all of our fans," said Tom Burman, UW Athletics Director. "The revenue that will be generated from the Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suite project will enhance our bottom line, and will allow us to invest more resources into our sports programs. This additional source of revenue is important to our athletics program as we continue to compete in one of the best conferences in the country -- the Mountain West Conference."

Each of the other eight member institutions of the Mountain West Conference currently offer club and or suite seating in their stadiums.

The total estimated cost of the project is $26.4 million. The enhancements to the east side of War Memorial Stadium make up more than $9.2 million of that total. Of that $9.2 million more than $5 million has been designated to shore up the safety in the upper concourse on the east side. In excess of $3 million has been designated to improve access for fans with disabilities, and approximately $1.2 million will be spent to construct an entrance/lobby on the east side of the stadium. The renovation also includes new concession areas and improved and expanded restroom facilities for fans on the lower east side of the stadium, as well as an expansion of the lower concourse that will include improved lighting with easier accessibility for fans to enter and exit on gamedays.

The Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites at War Memorial Stadium is an exciting new facility project, offering University of Wyoming Football fans the advantages of comfortable, indoor seating.

A total of 12 individual suites along with a stadium-club area that will contain 250 indoor club seats are being added to the upper east side of the stadium and will be named after the many successful "Wildcatters" of Wyoming.

"Response has been great for these new seating options," said Josh Rebholz, Associate Athletics Director for Development. "We already have lease commitments for all the suites, and we are taking names of other interested parties and placing them on a waiting list for the future. In terms of club seating, we have commitments for over 30 percent of the 250 club seats available, and we are still almost a year away from the opening."

A large portion of the project is being funded with private donations and matching funds appropriated by the Wyoming State Legislature. In 2004, UW created the Strategic Plan for Intercollegiate Athletics and asked the state of Wyoming for support through matching donations for each gift of $25,000 or more. The Wyoming State Legislature responded by designating $19 million in matching funds for UW Athletics. Through the support of private donors and the legislature nearly $18.5 million has been matched.

Among the other projects that these donations benefitted were: the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex and Memorial 8 Track, utilized by UW's track and field and soccer programs; the artificial turf surface on Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium; and the Indoor Practice Facility.

The Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites club-seating area will contain: an indoor dining area located directly behind the seating area; and numerous big-screen televisions in a climate-controlled setting. The dining area will also include a private concession area that will be accessible only to fans who have purchased suites or club seats. Suite and club-seat members will also have the added amenity of private restroom facilities only accessible on this level. The club seat price of $2,500 per seat, per season includes a season ticket and a buffet meal for each Cowboy home football game.

Each of the suites available for fans to lease will include: a kitchen with mini-refrigerator; 12 fixed, chair-back seats; four additional bar-height stools; two flat-screen televisions; and a climate-controlled environment. The suite package includes 16 season tickets, four premium-parking passes for the season and 16 buffets for each game. The lease rate is $40,000 per suite, per year.

Access to the Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites will be via two private elevators.
Discounts on both club-seating and suites will be offered to fans who want to prepay lease agreements or who choose to commit to multi-year leases.

Tours of the Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites will be conducted in the summer of 2010. Fans may also follow the progress of the project via a live webcam on the official University of Wyoming Athletics website at

For additional information on how you can reserve a suite or club seats, contact Rebholz, Executive Director of the Cowboy Joe Club, at (307) 766-6242.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The time is now for Carta-Samuels

Freshman QB Austyn Carta-Samuels

By Richard Anderson

When Austyn Carta-Samuels made a spring break trip to Laramie earlier this year, he said he had no intention of taking it easy in his true freshman year.

He was coming to Wyoming to battle for the starting quarterback position -- now.

Four games into his first season, Carta-Samuels will start at quarterback for the Wyoming Cowboys.

“I’m excited, this is what I have worked hard for all of my life,” Carta-Samuels said Monday. “Now that I have this opportunity, I’m going to prepare myself appropriately.”

It’s not like Carta-Samuels, a highly recruited prep quarterback out of the San Jose, Calif., area, is going into the game Saturday against UNLV totally green – he has played in all three games for the Cowboys.

This time, however, Carta-Samuels will be behind center on the first possession offensively for the Cowboys.

“At this point, I don’t think it is nervousness for me. I played against the No. 2 team in the country, I played in my first three college games,” Carta-Samuels said. “I don’t think it is going to be nerves. It’s just a little different preparing yourself as a starter. There’s a lot of responsibility and I am excited for it.”

In the first three games, Carta-Samuels is 26 of 53 passing for 294 yards. He has also run the ball 19 times for 50 yards.

Junior college transfer Robert Benjamin (25 of 56 passing, 209 yards), started the first three games for the Cowboys, 1-2, but was just 1 of 4 passing for 2 yards against Colorado. Carta-Samuels came in after five possessions and played the rest of the game.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said it is all about productivity, and he feels that Carta-Samuels gives the Cowboys a better chance of moving the football at this time.

“Right now, Austyn is making things happen when he is in there,” Christensen said. “They’ve had equal opportunities to compete and get it done. At this point and time, we believe that Austyn is the one who can do that now.”

In announcing the move on Monday, Christensen said that Carta-Samuels has done some good things with his feet, getting out of the pocket when pressure was coming.

“He scrambled and made plays. He knows where to go in our scheme,” Christensen said. “He made some good throws and we had some drops that should have been caught. He's made some mistakes as a true freshman that you would expect. He’ll get those corrected this week and get better each and every week. We feel good about his leadership qualities as a true freshman. We think at this point and time he gives us the best chance to move the football.”

Carta-Samuels led the Cowboys in rushing against CU with 36 yards, including a nice 19-yard scramble. Being a two-dimension quarterback is vital for the Wyoming spread offense, he said he can do both jobs.

“Quarterbacks have to make good plays with their feet and take a little pressure off of your receivers and take a little pressure off of your linemen, make a play that isn’t necessarily drawn up,” Carta-Samuels said. “I think it is a big breath of fresh air, basically. I want people to know that I can run the football and I’m going to run the football.”

Carta-Samuels surprised many when he came in to play in the Weber State game, and actually played more snaps than Benjamin. He was also the No. 4 quarterback on the roster early in fall camp and moved up the depth chart in a hurry.

It’s all about work ethic, Carta-Samuels said.

“I took it practice-by-practice and tried to get better every single day, and I think people saw drastic improvement in the first two weeks, and that has just continued,” he said.

Carta-Samuels’ goal to become a starter will be achieved on Saturday. His next goal is to get the Wyoming offense going. The Cowboys have not scored an offensive touchdown since the third quarter of the season opener.

“We’re making little mistakes. I know it is real frustrating for people to watch and see us get blanked for the last (nine) quarters. But we are little steps away,” Carta-Samuels said. “You’re starting to see improvement because, against Texas, we had a lot of third and long s and against Colorado, we had a lot of third and shorts. We had some penalties that were problems, we had some miscues by me; we had miscues by people in general. We’re going to get that stuff fixed.”

While Christensen has used the two-quarterback-rotation in the first three games, he said Monday that barring injury, there is no plan for a rotation this Saturday.

“We’re so new in everything that we are doing. I’m not going to make any proclamations. Right now, going into this game, Austyn is the starting quarterback,” Christensen said. “We have no plan for a rotation. We’ll see what happens after this week.”

Carta-Samuels said it is going to be “awesome” to have one quarterback play on Saturday.

“It will be interesting to see how that goes. I think it is going to be successful,” he said. “I think the offense is excited for it. You can be successful with two quarterbacks; I just think that right now, the best thing for us is to get together as one unit.”

Fellow freshman, wide receiver Chris McNeill, said Carta-Samuels deserves a shot to start, as he has been working hard in practice.

“I know he will do what he can to keep his job and get this offense moving,” McNeill said.

For Carta-Samuels, Saturday is just the beginning of what he had planned for all along.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Buffaloes take it to Cowboys, critics

By Wyoming

Showing that the first two games were not indicative of their team, the Colorado Buffaloes jumped on the Wyoming Cowboys from the start and finished with a dominating 24-0 win Saturday at CU’s Folsom Field in Boulder.

With that said, the Cowboys impressive play in the first half last week against No. 2 Texas was not analytic of their team … at least on Saturday.

The Buffs had struggled on defense in season-opening losses to CSU (23-17) and Toledo (54-38). Despite rampant media speculation about his job this week, CU head coach Dan Hawkins said Saturday’s win was reflective of his team’s character.

“It's easy to stand outside of the arena and say you're not good enough and be negative. But when you're in the arena and you're scraping, it's little things that decide the game,” Hawkins said. “Until you've gone through it a time or two and done some things and succeeded and failed, people don't get that it's the little things.

“We got gashed a couple times on the defense the last couple weeks. It wasn't massive things. It was little things, just like in life. I'm proud of Ron Collins and the defensive staff and our guys of defense for hanging in there. They did an awesome job."

The CU defense held the Cowboys to just 230 yards of total offense, as Wyoming was never able to get into a rhythm. The Cowboys had a couple of opportunities to get into the end zone, but settled for field goal attempts and missed them both.

“We couldn't get anything going offensively in the first half,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said. “Our defense was playing pretty well, we had two big plays in the first half and we figured it was going to be hard on them. We played a well-coached football team. We had a lack of discipline, two personal fouls. I'll take responsibility.

"All losses are tough. I know our football team's hurt right now. They're down. We thought we'd come in here and have a chance to win this football game, and we didn't do it.

"I don't know if they're shocked, just disappointed we didn't play well. But I thought they came back in the second half, and said all the right things at halftime. We get the ball, and can't sustain a drive and put our defense back out there. We've got to do a better job on both sides and all areas including our kicking game. We've got to come up with answers offensively."

Quarterback Cody Hawkins returned from a concussion and directed four scoring drives, and Rodney Stewart returned from a hamstring injury to carry 32 times for 127 yards and a two touchdowns.

Colorado (1-2) simplified its defensive game plan after allowing 77 points and 1,000 yards in opening their season with losses to Colorado State and Toledo. Wyoming (1-2) went three-and-out six times in the first half, when they managed just three first downs and 61 yards of offense.

The Buffaloes spent the week defending their coach and hearing about their poor play from fans and media.

"There was no speculation from my boss,“ Dan Hawkins said. “There was no speculation from the big hitters. All that speculation came from (the media). I love these guys and I've said that many times before. When you have kids you love them up. And you hang in there. When you're a true parent of teacher you hang in there and keep believing in them and keep working on things. And eventually it turns around."

The Buffaloes quickly scored a touchdown on their opening drive Saturday, but it took a heads-up play by wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who scooped up tailback Demetrius Sumler's fumble at the 2 and barreled into the end zone.

The Cowboys then had their chance to get on the board, as CU center Mike Iltis snapped the ball over Hawkins' head on the Buffs' next possession, and Cowboys linebacker Brian Hendricks recovered at the Colorado 18. The cowboy offense however, again failed in the red zone and sophomore placekicker Austin McCoy But was wide right on a 35-yard field goal try.

CU then took advantage of a failed fake punt by the Cowboys, giving the Buffs the ball at midfield. Colorado made it 10-0 on a 20-yard field goal by former Cowboy Aric Goodman, who transferred to Boulder in 2007.

Stewart's 2-yard TD run made it 17-0 after cornerback Jalil Brown recovered Wyoming running back Darius Terry’s fumble at the Cowboys 27 in the second quarter.

The Buffs stalled on their next five possessions before making it 24-0 on Stewart's 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys reached the Buffs' -yard line, but went backward from there and McCoy was wide left on a 37-yard field goal attempt.

The Cowboys will now prepare for their Mountain West Conference opener Saturday when they host UNLV at 1 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

Christensen said they will have a busy week in trying to right the ship.

"We analyze everything we do from the end of the last game until the start of this game. We'll look at that and see if there are things we need to do and get the kids prepared,” he said. “I don't think this is the game that is going to show us how good we are. We didn't play very well today. I know one thing; we are going to be a better football team. We took a lot of steps forward, but we took a step back, unfortunately."

Frustration continues for UW offense

CU-UW statistics

By Wyoming

The Wyoming offense weren’t up to its own standards through two games, but what appeared to be a porous defense in the horizon had it thinking that Saturday would be the day.

The Cowboys took a step or two back on Saturday and made the Colorado defense look like gangbusters, as the Buffs rolled to a 24-0 win at Folsom Field in Boulder.

"Today was a hard day, we weren't successful on offense,” Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels said. “There are good things happening on offense, we're just a step away from being there. There are no excuses, but this is the first year in this system, so we have to learn quickly."

The Colorado defense had given up 77 points and over 1,000 yards of total offense in their first two games, prompting optimism that the Wyoming offense would break out of its early-season slump.

But that didn’t happen as the Wyoming offense has now failed to score a touchdown in nine straight quarters, dating back to the third quarter in the season opener against Weber State.

"It's frustrating as an offense if we don't score, especially if our defense is putting us in good situations,” Wyoming junior wide receiver David Leonard said. “We have to come together as an offense and get it done. We have the athletes, talent, and coaching scheme to put it all together; we just need to get it done."

Wyoming offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said the Cowboys started out of rhythm and just couldn't catch a cadence.

“We might have to deal with juggling quarterbacks, we'll have to go back and look at it, but again it's just experience and getting in and starting fast,” Arroyo said.

The Cowboys finished with 230 yards on offense, most of it in the second half. Wyoming also failed to get the ball into the end zone after a golden opportunity in the first half ended in a missed field goal attempt.

"We need to put points on the board and work on execution,” Cowboy center Russ Arnold said. “All 11 of us need to work on executing."

The Cowboys had been relatively disciplined in the first two games, but struggled with penalties on both sides of the ball. A couple of key penalties and dropped passes ended any type of threat to sustain drives.

Arroyo said that more than anything, they have to do the little things and can’t be their own worst enemy.

“We have to be able to be more productive on first down, so we don't get ourselves in third-and-long situations,“ Arroyo said. “It's about doing the little things and not killing ourselves with penalties. We had our first three personal fouls today. We lost our composure at times and we have to go back to the drawing board and back to work. We have a long way to go."

Carta-Samuels came off the bench after the first four possessions by starting quarterback Robert Benjamin. Carta-Samuels played the rest of the game, completing 11 of 24 passes for 125 yards.

Will there be a change at quarterback for next week’s Mountain West Conference opener against UNLV?

Carta-Samuels said it is not up to him.

"I gave my best effort and hopefully the coaches liked what they saw,” Carta-Samuels said. “I know I'll work as hard as I can and you will never see a lack of effort from me."

Benjamin, who showed progress last week against Texas, was just 1 of 4 passing for 2 yards.

"Whoever is in the game, we are behind 100 percent,” Arnold said. “Austyn played tough today."

Regardless the quarterback, Arroyo said they are all frustrated with the start offensively.

"If you're not frustrated, you're in the wrong business,” Arroyo said. “We're all competitive, that's why we're here. It is our job to get back to the drawing board and get these guys ready.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cowboys prepare and compare for CU

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming cornerback Tashaun Gipson, left, and linebacker Weston Johnson upend a Texas receiver last week.

By Richard Anderson

There have obvious differences in the first three Wyoming opponents this season.

Weber State is a very good FCS team, but not even close to the level of Texas, rated second in the country and easily one of the top collegiate football programs in the country.

Then there is Colorado, the Cowboys opponent Saturday (1:30 p.m. in Boulder). A Big 12 program like the Longhorns, but not one that is up there with the Longhorns in quality these days.

Do the Cowboys prepare for the Buffaloes any different than how they prepared for Texas or even for Weber State?

There's not one difference.

“We prepare the same way. There aren’t any chances in how we prepare each and every week,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said.

Simple as that.

Everything looks towards a pretty evenly matched game with the Buffs for the Cowboys. After the 23-17 loss to CSU in the season opener, the Buffs traveled to Toledo and were crushed by the Rockets 54-38.

“They are a young defense and a young team overall,“ Christensen said of CU. “They’ve had some issues; they have given over 500 yards of offense in both games. I didn’t know if it is one area. They have made some mistakes. Like all of us, we haven’t played as well as we would like to and you want to get better each week and see improvement. I’m sure that is what they are looking for this week, which is what we are looking for.”

Colorado has been led offensively by quarterback Cody Hawkins. The son of head coach Dan Hawkins, he has completed 54 of 104 passes (51.9) for 578 yards, five touchdowns and our interceptions.

CU’s ground game has been led by sophomore tailback Darrell Scott, who has rushed for 86 yards on 13 carries.

The Buffs’ leading receiver is junior Scotty McKnight, who has caught 15 balls for 150 yards. He has also caught a pair of touchdown passes. Sophomore wide receiver Jason Espinoza has also gone over 100 yards receiving by catching 10 passes for 118 yards, with one touchdown.

The CU defense has been led by senior linebacker Jeff Smart, who was a 2008 second team All-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press. This season, Smart has made 22 tackles, along with one sack and one interception.

Christensen said it is early in the season, so it is hard to say how good of a team is or how bad a team is. “They got behind in games, which has forced them out of what they like to do, which is run the football, have a physical running game and try to pound it to wear you down some," Christensen said. “They’ve had to throw the ball more than we want to. It’s hard to give a real assessment of what their strengths and weaknesses are. I know they have good personnel and they have signed good recruiting classes each of the last two or three years. They have some athletic players.”

What about the Cowboys?

Christensen said they were far from flawless, but he saw some positives in last week’s 41-10 loss to Texas, particularly on special teams.

“Anytime you can stop a fake field goal, a fake punt, block a punt, score a touchdown, that gives you some positive things, especially against the No. 2 team the country,” he said.

With the block and one interception against Texas, the Cowboys have six interceptions defensively and have turned the ball over just twice.

“The turnover margin, we’re still in the top 10 in the country and we’ve had half as many penalties than our opponents. Those things are all positive,” he said.

Another positive on hanging onto the football is the two Wyoming quarterbacks -- junior Robert Benjamin and freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels -- have not turned the ball over. The two fumbles are by a freshman running back (Alvester Alexander) and a defensive player (Marcell Gipson) on a reverse on an offensive play.

“The first and foremost thing we ask is to protect the football," Christensen said. "A punt is better than an interception or turnover. At least we have a chance to put our defense, which is a strength, back out on the field. They’ve done a nice job of protecting the football. Neither one of our quarterbacks has had a turnover this year. Obviously, we want better production, but it is hard to base it off of playing Weber and the No. 2 team in the country.”

Christensen added that Wyoming’s attention to hanging onto the football and taking it away began the day he was hired.

“We coach it every single day in practice and that is starting to pay off for us,” he said.

Christensen said there is plenty to work on offensively for his team, although it was hard to evaluate the team’s progress against a team like Texas.

“I would not evaluate our offense or our program just based on how we played against the No. 2 team in the country,” Christensen said. “I don’t think our offense was as bad as it seemed and certainly we have a lot of room for improvement. We’re not that far away on a lot of plays and I think we’ll be much improved this week.”

If Texas was a benchmark game for the program, just how much improvement does first-year coach see from his team?

“I think we are further along than I thought we would be at this time,” Christensen said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the mental toughness of our football team. We’re competitive and I am pleased where we are at. I know from a competitive standpoint, we have made some great strides.”

At the same time, he’s not in favor of moral victories, and while most expected the Cowboys to be 1-1 after two games, Christensen did not.

“Honestly, it didn’t go as I expected. If I would have just expected to play well against Texas and lose the game, I probably wouldn’t have shown up,” he said. “I expect to win every time I go out. I told our team last week that if you don’t expect to win this football game, without penalty, you can have the week off. I have not looked any further down the rods than Colorado game. It is a crucial game for our program; it is a crucial game for our season. Each and every game that we play, our focus is on that game and that is the most important game of the season.”

The Cowboys open Mountain West Conference play on Sept. 26 when they host UNLV.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sellout crowd has The War 'electric'

Richard Anderson photo
The Wyoming faithful enjoy an exciting moment Saturday against second-ranked Texas.

By Richard Anderson

It was the 10th sellout in Wyoming football history. The announced crowd of 31,017 to watch the Wyoming Cowboys and Texas Longhorns left fans, players and coaches alike impressed with the day, regardless of the outcome.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen was not only impressed, but thankful.

“That was an unbelievable crowd.,” Christensen said. “The Cowboy Walk this morning was an unbelievable experience for our football team. I certainly appreciate all of our fans who came out.”

While the Cowboys aren’t expecting to sell out or likely even come close to the 30,000 plus crowd for the next home game – in two weeks against UNLV – Christensen said it is his goal to one day to see this happen on a regular occasion.

“When we get this thing rolling where we expect it to be, we can get that type of attendance and that much excitement every game,” he said. “We knew it would be electrical and it was.”

It was a day that the Cowboys won’t forget.

“It was electric. It was an awesome experience,” Wyoming senior defensive tackle John Fletcher said.

Wake up call
The Longhorns were likely surprised by the Cowboys play in the first half, especially when they fell behind with a little over a minute left in the second quarter.

Did Luke Ruff’s blocked punt that was scooped up by fellow freshman Ghaali Muhammad for a touchdown wake up a sleeping dog?

Christensen did his best to sidestep that question, but he finally did admit that Texas was a different team afterwards.

“I’m sure they woke up at halftime. I’m sure they weren’t too happy being just three points up, according to their coaching staff,” Christensen said.

If it didn’t wake them up, the Cowboys certainly got the Longhorns’ attention.

“We were ready to go, we weren’t going to lay down to them,” Wyoming sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks said. “I think they felt a little shocked when we came out. We caught them with that blocked kick. I think that woke them up a little bit.”

Did the Longhorns take the Cowboys lightly? Hendricks wasn't sure, but he said it could have been anything.

“They might have been overlooking us, maybe looking to next week,” Hendricks said. “We came out hot and that might have woke them up.”

More QB talk
Christensen surprised everyone, including the media, when he actually played redshirt freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels more in the season opener against Weber State.

Junior Robert Benjamin once again started against the Longhorns and played a majority of the snaps, although Carta-Samuels did see some time in the second half.

This time, Christensen said it was all about the Cowboys’ opponent and the youth of his freshman.

“Going against a team of Texas’s caliber, from an experience standpoint, I didn’t want it being a demoralizing experience for a young kid by just throwing him out there,” Christensen said. “Robert managed the team well. It was good to get Austyn out there and get him some work against the most speed that he’ll see this year.”

Field position hurt Cowboys, TOP didn't

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming sophomore cornerback Tashaun Gipson wraps up wide receiver John Chiles Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson

Field position and time of possession.

One mattered to Wyoming coach Dave Christensen after Saturday’s 41-10 loss to Texas, the other didn’t.

As talented as second-ranked Texas is, the Cowboys helped the Longhorns’ cause, Christensen said, with poor work on special teams. In the second half, the Longhorns began three possession in Wyoming territory, two that led to touchdowns.

The opening touchdown of the second half came when Texas went just 40 yards on five plays after a low, line drive punt by Wyoming’s Austin McCoy.

A second Texas was scored on the short field when the Longhorns marched 43 yards on seven plays.

In both cases, Texas got into prime field possession on long punt returns.

“We actually played pretty good on special teams in that first half, but in the second half two kicks weren’t kicked properly,” Christensen said. “We have a plan of attack, and what happens it makes it tough on coverage because that ball is not in the air and there isn’t time for us to get down and the proper coverage lanes weren’t there.”

Ironically, the Wyoming special teams kept the Cowboys in the game in the first half when strong punting by McCoy and the blocked punt by Luke Ruff that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by Ghaali Muhammad.

“It was a field position game,” Christensen said. “In the first half, even though we didn’t play well on offense, our kicking game was able to keep us in the game. We got a blocked punt and made things happen, but in the second half the first half we put them on the plus 40, and if you do that against the No. 2 team in the country, I don’t care who you are, you’re going to struggle.”Much was said before the game of the elevation difference between Laramie (7,220 feet) and Austin, Texas (632).

Would the Longhorns be winded and would it affect their play?

As it turned out, with their superior depth, the answer was likely, “not really.”

The Cowboy defense, meanwhile, was on the field more than it wanted to be in the second quarter – 10 minutes, 5 seconds -- and the Longhorns outscored Wyoming 28-0 in the final 30 minutes.

Did the TOP affect the Cowboys … were they gassed in the second half?

No, said Christensen.

“I’ve never been a strong believer in time of possession,” Christensen said. “The bottom line is if you don’t get first downs, you’re not going to have time possession, period. If you get first downs, you will either score or keep the ball.“I thought our kids were in great shape throughout the game. Obviously we don’t have the depth as Texas. But I don’t think the conditioning was a factor for us.”

The Cowboys said they were fine physically.

“Our practices are 10 times as hard as the games,” Wyoming senior defensive tackle John Fletcher said. “The conditioning wasn’t a factor, it was just going out and doing our game plan without mental errors.”

Cowboy sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks agreed with Fletcher.

“When we practice, they are extremely difficult and we train for those kind of moments,” Hendricks said. “It really didn’t wear us down. Things happen.”

Texas weathers early Wyoming storm

Richard Anderson photo
Texas receiver Malco Williams makes a move on the Cowboys late in the second quarter on Saturday.

by Bobby Abplanalp

The biggest football game in Wyoming history took place at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday and the Cowboys played like it, giving the visiting Texas Longhorns all they could handle for 30 minutes.

But the bigger, stronger and more talented Longhorns proved to be too much in the second half, as they pulled away for a 41-10 win.

Trailing 10-6 in the second quarter after Wyoming blocked a Texas punt resulting in a touchdown for the Cowboys, the Longhorns would score the remaining 35 points of the ballgame, starting with an executed two-minute drive at the end of the first half to regain the lead at 13-10 heading into the locker room.

For the entire first half, Texas took the Cowboys best shot, as quarterback and 2009 Heisman Trophy finalist Colt McCoy was constantly harassed in the pocket. McCoy was sacked once, throw 17 incomplete passes and an interception to Wyoming linebacker Weston Johnson. The Heisman hopeful was asked if the 7,220-foot Laramie elevation played a factor against his team. He said it was the Wyoming defense.

“You got to give Wyoming all kinds of credit,” McCoy said. “Their front four played tremendous and we could not get anything going the first half.”

“I have to congratulate Wyoming with the way they played,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “That’s what we see on film when we see them play up here. Their defense plays so hard and you got to give them credit. They just fought their guts out the first half.”

Besides Wyoming scoring off of a blocked punt, they also stopped Texas on a fake punt and a fake field goal in which the Cowboys would turn into three points of their own.

“The kicking game was either great or awful,” Brown said. “Our punting game, with the blocked punt, they (Wyoming) could have had two blocked punts, and then the fake field goal we messed up. We had a young man thinking he could make a fake on a punt and didn’t make it and that was a poor decision, and their defense played great throughout the night, and the kicking game led to the 10 points that Wyoming got.”

The Wyoming defense did its part to help put points on the board in the first half, but a continued lack of offense saw the tough Cowboy D get worn down by the number-two ranked Longhorns out of the Big-12 conference.

McCoy piled it on in the second half and finished the game throwing 30-of-47 for 337 yards and three touchdown passes, one of which was a 42-yard strike to wide receiver James Kirkendoll that regained the lead for Texas. Kirkendoll caught seven balls for 102 yards.

“That is the character of our team,” McCoy said. “You keep your head up and keep fighting in an environment like this (War Memorial Stadium). I tell you what, the fans here are awesome. This is a great place to play and the weather was great. We just didn’t handle it like we should have in the first half.”

“The ball to James, I was hot and they outnumbered us and I waited for him to clear the backer who was coming and I gave him the ball and he made a big play. He’s getting more comfortable on his inside position. He’s played on the outside his whole career. He’s starting to get a feel for it, he’s starting to play and he’s really come up big for us.”

Kirkendoll’s touchdown catch before the half really seemed to shift the momentum to the Longhorns for good.

“It definitely was big for us going into half-time,” Kirkendoll said. “We came out and matched their starters and played harder. Coach Brown came in at halftime and said, ‘it’s 0-0, we’re going to play it like it’s the beginning of the game,’ and we all knew Wyoming was ready to play and we just played harder the second half.”

That indeed was the case, as the home team could not match the visitor’s intensity in the second half, ultimately resulting in a big non-conference road win for Texas.

“I’m really pleased with the win,” Brown said. “I thought it was really good for our team that things weren’t as was as they were last week (a 59-20 home win over Louisiana Monroe). That’s why you go on the road early in an environment like this. I was proud of them with the way they responded.”