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.