Saturday, September 26, 2009

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.”

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