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.

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