Friday, October 30, 2009

UW-Utah notebook

The Wyoming Cowboys travel to Salt Lake City Saturday to face long-time conference rival Utah for a Halloween matchup. Wyoming and Utah will be meeting for the 82nd time in the two schools’ histories.

The Cowboys enter this week with a 4-3 overall record and a 2-1 Mountain West Conference mark. Utah is 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the MWC. The Utes are ranked No. 16 in this week’s BCS standings are ranked 19th in the Associated Press, USA Today and Harris Interactive Polls.

Saturday’s game will kick off at 6 p.m. The game will be televised live on The Mtn., and will be broadcast on radio over the Cowboy Sports Network. The radio broadcast will begin one hour before kickoff at 5 p.m. with the pregame show.

Trick or Treat
The Wyoming Cowboys will be playing their 13th Halloween game in school history. The last time Wyoming played on Halloween was in 1998 when the Cowboys traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, and defeated TCU, 34-27, when both schools were members of the 16-team Western Athletic Conference.

The only other time that Wyoming and Utah have played one another on Halloween was the first meeting between the two long-time rivals. That meeting came in 1904, and Utah won in Laramie by a score of 23-0. Wyoming played its first Halloween game back in 1896, winning on the road over Northern Colorado by a score of 10-6. Wyoming is 7-5-0 in Halloween games. The Pokes are 4-2-0 at home on Halloween. UW is 3-3-0 on the road in Halloween games.

Bye bye bye week
Wyoming is coming off its one bye week of the 2009 season. Through the years, the Cowboys have been very successful in games played immediately following a bye week. In the modern era of Wyoming football, since World War II, the Pokes have had 40 bye weeks during the regular season. Wyoming has won 25 of its 40 games played following a bye.

Overall series
Wyoming trails in the overall series versus the Utes 49-31-1. The last time Wyoming defeated Utah was in 2006 in Laramie, by a score of 31-15. Wyoming last won in Salt Lake City in 1999, defeating Utah 43-29. Utah has won the last four meetings in Salt Lake City.
The Cowboys and Utes have played two common opponents to date – Air Force and UNLV. Wyoming defeated UNLV, 30-27, in Laramie, while Utah won in Las Vegas, 35-15. The Pokes lost on the road at Air Force, 10-0. The Utes defeated Air Force in Salt Lake City by a score of 23-16, but it took Utah an overtime period to get the win.

Coaching reunion
This week’s coaching matchup features two head coaches who have known each other for nearly 20 years. Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham coached on the same coaching staff together at Idaho State back in the early 1990s. Christensen was an assistant with the Bengals for the 1990 and ‘91 seasons, coaching the offensive line, tight ends and running backs during his two seasons in Pocatello. Whittingham served as an assistant at Idaho State for six seasons, from 1988-93. He was the linebackers and special teams coach from 1988-91 and was the defensive coordinator his last two seasons of 1992 and ‘93.

Cowboys in the rankings
Wyoming sophomore inside linebacker Brian Hendricks was credited with 23 total tackles at Air Force on Oct. 17. Not only did his performance earn him Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors, but that tackle total is the best individual performance in the nation this season. In fact, he is one of only two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players to record 20 or more tackles in a single game in 2009.

He is also one of only two players in the nation to have two of the Top 25 single-game tackle performances this season. The other is Carmen Messina of New Mexico. Hendricks other Top 25 performance was 18 tackles at Colorado on Sept. 19, which ties for the sixth best performance in the nation.

Two other Cowboys also rank in the Top 25 in the nation in terms of single-game tackle performances this season. Sophomore inside linebacker Gabe Knapton had 17 vs. UNLV to tie for 12th in the nation. UW junior free safety Chris Prosinski also is tied for 12th with his 17 tackles coming against Texas.

There are three talented senior defensive linemen in the Mountain West Conference that are running neck-and-neck for the MWC Career Sack record. Wyoming’s John Fletcher, TCU’s Jerry Hughes and BYU’s Jan Jorgensen are all within 2.0 career sacks of one another entering this week. Fletcher has 24.0 career sacks. Jorgensen has been credited with 24.5, and Hughes is the current MWC career leader in sacks with 26.0.

This season, Fletcher and Hughes are also among the nation’s leaders in sacks. Hughes has 9.0 sacks on the year to rank No. 4 in the nation, and Fletcher has 7.0 sacks in 2009 to rank No. 8 in the NCAA. Jorgensen has sacked opposing quarterbacks twice this season.

Young bloods
Wyoming is one of the youngest teams in the country, having played 12 true freshmen and started six true freshmen in ‘09. The six freshmen starters tie Wyoming for the second most in the nation with Miami of Ohio. Texas A&M leads the way with eight true freshmen starters.

Up next
Following the Utah game, Wyoming will return home next week to host the BYU Cougars on Nov. 7 in a game set to kick off at Noon.

Utah (6-1, 3-0 MWC) is No. 16 in the BCS standings and No. 19 in the Associated Press, USA Today Coaches and Harris polls. Radio is KALL 700 AM (

Saturday's game is the second-annual "Blackout" game at Utah. Fans are encouraged to wear black and the Utah team will wear black uniforms. A year ago, in the first "Blackout" game in Rice-Eccles Stadium, No. 9 Utah handed No. 11 TCU a 13-10 defeat.

Trick or Treat II
In honor of Halloween, there will be a Trick-or -Treat zone for kids in Rice-Eccles Stadium prior to the game. The Trick-or-Treat zone will open at 4 p.m., two hours before kickoff, and will feature a tent with spooky music, fog, balloons, interactive games, a black costume contest and more. Ute student-athletes will be on hand to pass out candy. A giant spotlight up 500 South will lead fans to two giant inflated Halloween creatures outside the Trick-or-Treat zone. A game ticket is required for entry.

Utes jump in rankings
In the latest rankings, Utah jumped two places in the BCS standings to No. 16, held steady at No. 19 in the A.P. and Harris Polls, and improved one spot to No. 19 in the Coaches' poll. The BCS standings are based on the Harris poll, Coaches' poll and the computer rankings--the latter which has the Utes at 15th this week. Utah's only loss this season was to current No. 10/12 Oregon in Eugene.

More Bowling
With six wins, Utah is bowl eligible for the seventh-straight season. Utah has the nation's longest postseason win streak at eight, which includes bowl wins in 1999 and 2001, and from 2003-08.

Another Sellout Saturday?
The Utes are looking for their 10th-straight sellout of Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday. Utah has drawn over-capacity crowds dating back to the first game of the 2008 season, averaging 45,506 during that time in a stadium that seats 45,017.

Streaking Utes
Utah has won 20 of its last 21 games and 27 of its last 29 games.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hendricks earns POW honors

Sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks

University of Wyoming sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks was named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance versus Air Force this past Saturday.

Hendricks set a new UW single-game tackle record with 23 total tackles against the Falcons, breaking the UW record that had stood since 1972 when Frank Erzinger made 21 tackles against New Mexico.

Hendricks, a sophomore from Burlington, Colo., had 11 solo tackles, 12 assists and also forced one fumble. The Falcons ran a total of 74 offensive plays on the day of which Hendricks made the tackle on nearly one-third of those plays (23 total). His biggest stops came midway through the second quarter as Air Force had a first-and-goal at the Wyoming 10-yard line. Hendricks made tackles on both first and second down, holding the Falcons to only seven yards on those two plays. Air Force ended up going for it on fourth-and-goal, but Hendricks and the UW defense forced an incomplete pass to maintain a 0-0 tie going into the half.

Hendricks got stronger throughout the game. He made three tackles in the first quarter, five in the second, seven in the third and eight in the fourth. He becomes only the third Cowboy in 113 seasons of Wyoming Football to record 20 or more tackles in a single game. In addition to Erzinger's 21 tackles in 1972, former Wyoming All-America linebacker Paul Nunu made 20 tackles against New Mexico in 1976.

Despite the loss, Hendricks and the Cowboy defense held Air Force to its lowest point total of the season -- 10 points -- and held the Falcons 90 yards under their total offense average (269 yards of total offense as compared to 359.0 average for the season) Only Navy held Air Force to fewer total yards this season (240). Wyoming’s defense also held Air Force to only two yards passing – the second fewest in MWC history.

Earlier this season, Hendricks recorded 18 tackles against Colorado, which tied for the fifth-best, single-game tackle total in school history at the time.

It is Hendricks’ first MWC Player of the Week honor of his career. He is the first Cowboy on defense to earn MWC Player of the Week honors this season. He joins teammates Austyn Carta-Samuels (two-time MWC Offensive Player of the Week), Austin McCoy (Special Teams Player of the Week for Sept. 5) and Ian Watts (Special Teams Player of the Week for Sept. 26) as Cowboys to earn the honor this season.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cowboys punchless in loss to Falcons

Wyoming-Air Force statistics

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- For the second time this season, the Wyoming offense put up a goose egg on the scoreboard.

The Wyoming defense was strong, but Air Force was a little stronger in blanking the Cowboys 10-0 Saturday, handing the Cowboys their first Mountain West Conference loss of the season.

Wyoming’s lack of offensive production came off of scoring 97 points in its previous three games, all victories. The Cowboys fell to 2-1 in league play and 4-3 overall. Air Force, which has now won four straight over Wyoming, is now 3-1, 4-3.

"It was just nip and tuck, as it so frequently is whenever Air Force plays Wyoming,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “You can go back a number of years where you can talk about very, very close contests. You just have to find a way to win with resolve. I thought today we were extremely resilient and we did what we had to do to win a football game, which was a really good victory. You had two good teams, and hats off to Wyoming for what they've done and for what they're going to do up there. It was a great win."

After a scoreless first half, the Falcons scored the only points of the game on a 29-yard field goal by Erik Soderberg in the third quarter and a 17-yard touchdown run by Jared Tew in the fourth quarter. Both scores were set up by short punts, putting air Force in good field position.

Air Force got going offensively in the second half when sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz came off the bench to spark the Falcons, replacing Tim Jefferson, who got the start despite missing the previous two games because of injury.

That was more than enough for Air Force's defense, one of the stingiest in the nation. The Falcons shut out of a conference opponent for the first time since a 24-0 win at Colorado State in 1997.

"I don't think there is any difference in their quarterbacks,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “They are both equally as productive running the offense. There was really no difference between the second half and the first half, our defense was just on the field a whole bunch today."

Tew led Air Force's rushing attack, finishing with 105 yards while Savier Stephens added 46.

The Cowboys were rolling along coming into Saturday. They had won three straight and were averaging more than 32 points a game since true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels took over at quarterback.

But Carta-Samuels struggled against the Falcons, completing 14 of 31 passes for 74 yards. He also threw an interception and the Cowboys never moved the ball inside the red zone.

Brandon Stewart finished with 51 yards rushing for the Cowboys, while David Leonard while had seven catches for 36 yards.

A stout Cowboys defense kept Air Force at bay for most of the game, but wore down late. Sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks finished with 23 tackles for Wyoming and senior defensive tackle John Fletcher had a pair of sacks.

In the scoreless first half, the teams combined for 12 penalties and Air Force mustered 79 yards of offense.

The Falcons got inside the 5, but Asher Clark was stopped by Chris Prosinski and Shamiel Gary from the 3 before Jefferson's fourth-down pass was knocked away by Tashaun Gipson in the corner of the end zone.

With time winding down in the opening half, the Cowboys caught the Falcons in a coverage mix up and Stewart broke into the clear along the sideline.

However, Carta-Samuels sailed a pass too far and Stewart caught it out of bounds near the Air Force 10.

Wyoming's 47-yard field goal attempt just before halftime was blocked by Zach Kauth.

The Cowboys had 10 penalties in the game for 71 yards.

"Absolutely awful job on my part of preparing our kids for that,” Christensen said.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cowboys happy, but not satisfied

UW photos
Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels congratulates running back Alvester Alexander after Alexander's 33-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against New Mexico. At left, the UW defense swarms over a New Mexico running back.

By Richard Anderson

Is it too early to talk about a bowl game for the Wyoming Cowboys?

Yes … kind of.

The Cowboys don’t want to get caught up in the bowl talk with a tough schedule ahead, but when pressed, they admit it is their goal and each win puts them closer to that goal.

Opening the season at 4-2 will do that to a team.

“I know there is a locker room that is excited to be 4-2 right now,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said after Saturday’s 37-13 win over New Mexico. “They have probably exceeded a few of your (media) expectations at this time. The kids are playing hard, they have bought in and they continue to come out and play every single game from start to finish. We know the schedule is going to get harder and harder, we have a very difficult game next week against a very good Air Force opponent.”

Have the Cowboys exceeded Christensen’s expectations? Not even close.

“They haven’t met mine, yet,” Christensen said. “We plan on winning every single time we play. I said that the beginning and that is the way it is going to be in this program.”

Wyoming freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels said that 4-2 is a good start, but it is just that – a start.

“We’re going to take it one at a time definitely because we have a tough schedule and that starts with Air Force next week,” Carta-Samuels said. “That’s all we are going to think about. We’re going to take it in stride and hopefully we can keep stacking wins, keep stacking wins. A bowl will be talked about eventually, but we’re not going to talk about that yet or we will lose sight of our goals.”

Cowboy senior linebacker said they aren’t satisfied with being 4-2. They want to be 5-2 after next Saturday’s game with the Falcons. That is their next goal.

“All of the coaches have high expectations for us,” Johnson said, “and I think we are just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do. We have to take it one game at a time and we have a good Air Force team next week.”

Wyoming senior defensive end Mitch Unrein said they are playing with much more confidence and that started with the coaching staff.

“We’re not worrying about if a mistake is going to happen,” Unrein said. “We know good things are going to happen. That is one of the things you can tell in our locker room and in our practices, the meeting room. The team has a whole new look at the program.”

Christensen said that they talk to the team about putting streaks together, winning back-to-back-to-back games. He said that is what you have to do to have success and do the things that you want to do.

“You can’t win a game, lose a couple, win a game, lose a couple. You have to put together back-to-back-to back game to start some streaks. So, it is huge," Christensen said. “The thing is we are changing the landscape and they are learning to do things and what it takes, how to think like a champion. They are doing a great job, but they have along ways to go, believe me. We have no arrived, but we are playing hard, learning how to finish, learning how to compete. Right now, I am happy with where we are at.”

Happy, but not satisfied.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Defense puts it together in the second half

Richard Anderson photo/Senior linebacker Weston Johnson clutches the football after an interception as he is greeted by teammates.

By Richard Anderson

Some of their problems were their own fault in the first half, some of them were not.

The Wyoming defense made sure the second half and final score was no problem at all, pitching a shutout in the final two quarters as the Cowboys rolled to a 37-13 win over New Mexico Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys gave up a 24-yard touchdown pass on a one-play drive that was set up by a fumble on a fake punt attempt. They then gave up two field goals on long drives by the Lobos, the second with less than a minute to play until halftime.

Although Wyoming was up by four points at halftime, it wasn’t the effort the Cowboy defense was looking for.

“We challenged them at halftime and I thought they came out in the second half and made some big stops,’ Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said.

Per man, the solution was almost identical; they had to do the little things well to play big.

“We just went out there and didn’t have any mental errors,” Wyoming senior defensive tackle John Fletcher said. “They had a wheel play that as a defensive end, we were suppose to come down the spill and we weren’t getting that in the first half. Coaches got on us a little bit. We started hitting it in the second half and they weren’t getting anything on us. Once we were able to shut down the run and get them in passing situations, that’s when we did the best up front, getting pressure.”

Added senior defensive end Mitch Unrein: “We didn’t execute as well in the first half as we should have. We got a little talking to there. Then everyone came out and just did their job. That’s what we try to stress on the defensive side of the ball.”

The Wyoming linebackers said they were guilty as charged, not filling the gaps the way they needed to stop the New Mexico ground attack.

“It’s just the little plays. There might be a broken pass coverage or not filling the right gap. It’s little things like that that need to be fixed. That’s all it was,” said sophomore linebacker Gabe Knapton, who led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, his fifth straight game of double-digit tackles. “When we came into halftime, we all knew what we needed to do. We all came together and came out and played great defense.”

Senior linebacker Weston Johnson said much of the same thing as Knapton.

“We just had guys not doing their exact assignment, not filling the gap,” said Johnson, who had 10 tackles (two for a loss) and one pass interception. “The coaches got on us and it kind of woke us up. We knew we could play better, so we just came out and focused on that.”

The Wyoming coaches got on the Cowboys and they listened. After giving up 178 yards and 13 points in the first half, the Lobos had just 112 yards and a goose egg on the scoreboard in the final 30 minutes.

“First half, definitely not. In the second half, we got a shutout and played the way that we know we can play," Johnson said about how he thought they played. “I think it gives our team offensively and defensively going into next week’s game against Air Force.”

Johnson said that on defense, preached all week about players being responsible, being accountable to their teammates.

“There were a few plays, including myself, where guys were coming out of coverage or not doing what they were supposed to on that play," Johnson said. "That enabled New Mexico to move the ball on us that they would like.”

In fact, the Lobos had 25 yards rushing on their first three carries, all by James Wright. New Mexico finished with just 47 yards on the ground in the game.

“We came out in the second half and played mistake free and cleaned up on those errors. If we keep doing that, we’ll get better every single week,” Unrein said.

Maybe one of the first half highlights for the Wyoming defense was when Unrein caught Wright in the end zone on a little swing pass for a safety -- the team’s first points of the game.

Unrein, who had put good pressure on this season but had little to show for it, finished with one quarterback sack and three tackles. He was actually surprised he was credited with the sack.

“Sweet, I didn’t know that,” Unrein said when he was told that he had a sack. “It’s nice to get on the sheet. It has been kind of a long five games. I’d get back there but he (quarterback) would get the ball off. We have such great playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. If somebody is blocking me, that frees up somebody else. It’s just a team effort. I don’t care what my stats are, I just play as hard as I can. I’m more worried about us winning the ballgame.”

Wyoming’s sackmaster -- Fletcher -- caught New Mexico quarterback Donovan Porterie one time as well, as the Cowboys finished with five sacks in the game.

“Every week Coach C is getting us ready to play. If you do your technique, the big hits will come. I think from the beginning of fall camp to now we have become more physical unit than we ever have been,” Fletcher said.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Leonard stepping up for Cowboys

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior wide receiver David Leonard, 33, catches a pass this season against Texas.

By Richard Anderson

David Leonard will give you somewhat of an “ah-shucks” response. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels says the offensive scheme doesn’t really allow it.

But when Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen was asked earlier in the week if Leonard could be called the Cowboys’ go-to receiver, he finally relented and agreed.

“You can call David Leonard our go-to receiver,” Christensen said with a smile.

Leonard had a career-high 13 catches last Saturday for 97 yards in the Cowboys 30-28 win over Florida Atlantic University. For the season, Leonard now has 38 catches for 368 yards and one touchdown. He had 29 career catches in his first two seasons.

“I still don’t think I would call myself that (go-to receiver),” said Leonard, as the Cowboys prepared for Saturday’s homecoming contest with New Mexico (noon). “I think we have too much talent on this team that on any given day, anybody could have that big of a night. First-string, second-string, everyone who came in made a contribution. It was a team effort and that is what it took to win the game.”

Carta-Samuels kind of agrees without downplaying Leonard’s effort last week and during the season.

“I think in our scheme, unfortunately, we don’t have go-to players so much, it’s more like taking what they give you,” Carta-Samuels said. “David has done a great job of that. He has been an easy target for me. With his work ethic and the way he practices, I knew that was going to happen. It wasn’t a big surprise to me.”

There’s no denying, though, that when Carta-Samuels is on the scramble, one of his first looks is for Leonard.

“He’s 6-3 or 6-4, so he is bigger target than anybody else, but he gets open. He knows where to be on the field. He makes my job easier. I definitely look for No. 33,” Carta-Samuels said.

Leonard’s previous career high in receptions came in the season-opener against Weber State with seven. Although he went into the season with much higher expectations, he wasn’t expecting a 13-reception game.

“It’s very exciting getting that many passes thrown your way. Your feel proud knowing that you are helping out your team and that is the most important thing,” Leonard said.

Leonard credits the presence of Carta-Samuels, as well as the Wyoming coaching staff for getting himself and the rest of the team ready for the season, mentally and physically. He also said it is nice to have Carta-Samuels firmly entrenched at quarterback, with his ability to find the open receiver.

“If you see him running in the backfield, and if you get open, he’ll find you," Leonard said. "It is encouraging for a receiver to never quit on a play because it could be a game changer. We work on it every day in practice. He has great vision.”

Physically, Leonard also said that he is more prepared for the season, especially for the grinds of the fourth quarter. He said the new coaching staff brought in a program to develop players to increase speed and strength.

“It has worked tremendously,“ he said. “This off-season I felt like I really wanted to step up and be a big contributor for this team. Just doing a little extra work when you really don’t want to. Before you go to asleep, a few extra push-ups and sit-ups, anything that can give you an edge on an opponent.”

The Cowboys now feel that the fourth quarter is a time for them to excel. He said that they have become aware that they can’t be satisfied with ordinary; they can’t be satisfied with just doing the basics and the bare minimum.

“ We had to push ourselves to beyond limits that we didn’t know that we had. In these last two games that have been close, we ended up finishing in the fourth quarter, which is huge,” he said. “We’re a disciplined team,. We work on that everyday in practice. Coaches are always preaching. It is huge being disciplined, especially condition-wise. We’re doing all the things needed to finish up the games.”

While the Wyoming wide receivers have struggled at times this season, especially early, Leonard said that they are in a much more consistent groove, and they are beginning to understand what is going on. He added that it goes back to the hard work that they are putting in.

“We continue to do the same regiment after practice, continue to stay after and catch extra passes,” he said. “We’re focusing on the small things that makes us successful. It‘s kind of molding together and it is a good feeling.”

Now that the Cowboys have had two solid games back-to-back, it’s no time to stop improving.

“We’re going into conference play now and we have to let everything hang out,“ Leonard said. “It’s great to see the improvement that we have made, the steps that we have taken. Now that we are feeling pretty good, we have to continue to improve and not be satisfied with what we have done.”

Leonard borrows the old sports cliché of taking it one-game-at a-time and focus on the task in hand. Besides, he said that the Lobos will be hungry on Saturday and they have to match that hunger.
“We have a great opportunity to get a streak going," Leonard said, "especially because this is a conference game; this is another big step for us and a huge challenge. We’ll step up to the challenge.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stewart embracing the move

Sophomore Brandon Stewart

By Richard Anderson

A solid ending to his freshman campaign had Brandon Stewart coming back with potential and anticipation as one of the top receivers for the Wyoming Cowboys.

But Stewart struggled at times in Dave Christensen's new offense, and before he knew it, he was down on the depth chart, with his playing time minimal.

But Stewart wasn’t down for long. In fact, he’s moved up on the depth chart at a different position -- running back.

After a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2008 for the first five games, Stewart had 13 catches for 251 yards in the final seven contests. After the first two games in 2009, Stewart had just two catches for 17 yards. It was not exactly the explosive start he and many thought he was ready to give.
In the last three games, Stewart has steadily improved as a running back, rushing for 17 yards against Colorado, 31 yards against UNLV and a team-high 79 yards in last week’s 30-28 win over Florida Atlantic University.

Whatever it takes to get on the field.

“I wasn’t on the field as much as I wanted to be. The changes they gave me, I wanted to give 100 percent every time, because I knew if I did that, I would get on the field more,” Stewart said. “I prepared myself to get out there and show them that I can play and I deserved to be on the field more.”

While he struggled at times this fall as a receiver, once the Cowboys became at full strength at the position, Stewart saw less and less time out on the field.

But Stewart had shown in the past that he could be a difference maker once he got his hands on the football and secured it.

Consequently, just give him the ball.

“I think they were trying to find a way to get me on the field,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t get on as much as a receiver, so they moved me to running back. I was ready to go. I’m enjoying it, it is fun.”

Stewart wasn’t upset with the position change, and in fact, embraced the move.

“I was definitely anxious to try it. I also enjoy having the ball in my hands, to be able to try to do something," he said. “As a receiver, you’re going to catch the ball and somebody is hanging on you or you are going to catch it out of bounds. It’s good to have the ball in your hand and see where you are going to go. I enjoy that.”

It certainly hasn’t been an easy transition, but learning the Wyoming blocking schemes is now beginning to pay off. Last week against FAU was proof of that.

It’s taken not only work on the field, but off the field. Stewart said he has had to “study up” on blocking schemes, which has been beneficial. Until then, he added, he would get the ball and just run to where he thought a hole would be open. Know he knows where he is supposed to go and where the whole is supposed to be open.

“Right when they moved me, it was kind of tough to figure out line fronts and what out linemen are going to do, how they line up,” he said. “Now, I am getting more comfortable figuring out how we’re blocking. Knowing our blocking schemes makes it a lot easier knowing where I have to go with the ball.”

It’s not like Stewart had never run the ball before, wither at Wyoming or in high school. He just hadn’t rushed it as a running back.

Now, when Stewart gets hit, its often from linemen and linebackers, rather than just defensive backs. And yes, he has noticed the difference.

“You definitely feel it after the game,” Stewart said. “You know you were in the trenches getting hit by the biggest guys out on the field. I think that is the biggest change. You definitely get hit more and you feel it more after the game. That’s why I try to stay low as much as possible.”

There has been a definite change in the Wyoming running attack, with quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and fellow true freshman Alvester Alexander , No. 1 on the depth chart at running back, gaining much of the yardage as well.

Alexander and Stewart give the Cowboys a different attack, with Alexander more of a power and speed back, with Stewart a "downhill" speed back.

“I’m just downhill and hit the hole kind of runner. When we get inside the 20, he’s going to score. He puts points on the board for us.”

“I think he carries the ball really well. He’s a change of pace form Alvester," Carta-Samuels said. “I think they are different types of backs. Brandon is a special player. You see guys who work hard get rewarded. He is out there working his tail off. He’s embracing the role of running back and taking it to the next level.”

Last week, Alexander had just 50 yards rushing, but scored three times.

That’s fine with Stewart. He’d be more than content to gain yards in the middle of the field and let Alexander power his way into the end zone.

As long as someone scores.

“As long as we put points on the board, I’m happy,” he said.

The Cowboys are showing signs of improvement on offense, hence their two-game winning streak in which they have scored 30 points in both games.

Stewart said as a team that they are finally understanding what they have to do to get to where we need to be as a program.

Whether he is at receiver or running back, all Stewart wants to do is contribute to that success, instead of standing on the sidelines.

“Now that we have back-to-back wins, our team is feeling more confident and trusting each other. We’re ready to go again,” he said.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Carta-Samuels wins POW honors again

Freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels

Wyoming true freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels was named the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week on Monday.

Carta-Samuels won the award outright this week, after sharing the honor with TCU quarterback Andy Dalton a week ago. He becomes the first Wyoming Cowboy on offense, defense or special teams to earn MWC Player of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks since the league began in 1999.

Carta-Samuels led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind road win at Florida Atlantic, highlighted by a 12-play, 91-yard, winning touchdown drive with 4:29 remaining in the game. On the final drive, the true freshman from San Jose, Calif., rushed for 28 yards and passed for 18 yards, accounting for half (46 yards) of Wyoming's 91 yards on the scoring drive.

On the day, Carta-Samuels accounted for 292 yards of total offense -- 223 passing and 69 rushing. He completed 76.3 percent of his pass attempts on the day (29 of 38), and had a quarterback rating of 120.35. He gained a total of 99 yards rushing, but due to three sacks ended up netting 69 rushing yards.

Carta-Samuels led Wyoming on scoring drives of 47 yards, 59 yards, 80 yards on two different drives and 91 yards. UW tied a season best by scoring 30 points versus FAU. Carta-Samuels connected with seven different Cowboy receivers on the day, and guided Wyoming's offense to 421 yards of total offense.