Sunday, September 13, 2009

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.”

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