Richard Anderson photos
At top, junior quarterback Robert Benjamin looks downfield. At left, freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels also looks to make a play.
By Richard Anderson
Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen had it planned all of the way -- start Robert Benjamin at quarterback, play true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels in the second quarter, and then go from there.
Carta-Samuels knew about the plan, but Benjamin didn’t. Christensen also didn’t tip his hat to the media this past week in preparation for the season opener Saturday against Weber State.
But that is exactly what happened, as the two newcomers split time at quarterback in the 29-22 win over the Wildcats.
“Austyn had a little more success,” Christensen said. “ We’ll go back with the same plan again. I feel real good about the kids. They’re going to get better every week. We’ll evaluate the film and make a decision for next week’s game.”
For the record, Carta-Samuels completed 8 of 17 passes for 101 yards and Benjamin, the transfer from Phoenix College, was 8-of-14 for 87 yards. Neither threw a touchdown pass, although Carta-Samuels almost did with a 28-yard connection to Travis Burkhalter to the Weber State 3-yard line.
“Coach tells me to be ready every day,” Carta-Samuels said. “I got a lot of reps with the ones in practice this week and that made me feel that there was a possibility that I would play on Saturday. I just try to stay ready and it felt good to get out there.”
Benjamin had a hint of disappointment in his voice when asked about the platoon, although he too said he would do what is best for the team.
“I guess that was just the coaches decision at the time. I will live with it and it worked out pretty well,” Benjamin said.
The Cowboys got out to a good start under Benjamin, scoring on a 44-yard run by freshman Alvester Alexander. He was 6 of 8 passing for 66 yards and ran the ball three times for 19 yards in the first quarter.
“I did all right. I could have done much better. I still could have made some more plays,” Benjamin said. “I felt I could have got in the end zone on one of my runs, but I just didn’t go hard enough.”
While it was a surprise to many at War Memorial Stadium that the two platooned at quarterback, it wasn’t a surprise to the rest of the Cowboys. After all, they said that is how they have been practicing, with both running the No. 1 offense.
“It has been like that in practice, so you get a feel for both quarterbacks. Both are doing a great job. It wasn’t a surprise coming into the game,” Leonard said.
Leonard, who led the Cowboys with seven catches for 87 yards, said it is not a distraction to have both QB’s seeing action.
“I think both quarterbacks did a really good job today,” Leonard said. “Both were throwing the ball great, both were scrambling great. Both were making good decisions. It was positive to see when you can have two quarterbacks come in and be successful like that. Both of them bring their own game and it was very helpful today.”
Running back Darius Terry also said he had no problem with the situation.
“It was pretty easy. Both of these guys are pretty good and we can throw either of them in there and we know they can get the job done,” Terry said. “We run it so much in practice, that it is second nature. Whoever is in there, they’ll get it done.”
Christensen said that there is no controversy brewing, as he has confidence in both quarterbacks.
“I didn’t see any real issues. I thought they both did a nice job of leading the football team and directing the offense,” he said. “One thing that we have to do is play a lot faster, no matter who the quarterback is. We need to play faster. I don’t know how many total plays that we had … it looks like 80. It should be 85-90 to play at the pace that we want to play.”
Carta-Samuels had the best passing play of the game when he avoided a rush from a Weber State tackler and found Burkhalter down the sideline for a big reception. The Cowboys scored two plays later on a 1-yard run.
“It was 4th and 10, first of all, and I looked at coach said, why are we going for it at this point?” Carta-Samuels said with a smile. “ I just rolled out to the right, and there were a lot of guys dropping back because it was 4th and 10. I had to try and make something happen. I took off to the right and originally was going to run the ball, but it was 4th and 10 and if I ran for four yards, I knew the coaches weren’t going to be very excited for me when I watched film on tomorrow. I looked down the field and that guy came off the back side and I was able to get away from him and Travis made a great catch, an unbelievable play.”
As the Cowboys get ready for their big matchup next week with Texas, nothing will change in their preparation. Both QB's will get ready the same way they did for Weber State.
“Aside from our quarterback situation, I think that anybody would tell you that their rotating time is the best for the team," Carta-Samuels said. “These coaches are going to make decisions that will make us successful. If they want to rotate town quarterbacks, we’re behind them.”
Benjamin said he will live with the decision if Christensen elects to go with two quarterbacks against the Longhorns, and he will still prepare to be the starter unless told otherwise.
“That’s all I can do. I can’t worry about what he (Carta-Samuels) does, because I know he will do a hell of a job,” Benjamin said. “I just have to do my job for the team. If I do my job, then hopefully we’ll have success.”