Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cowboys rally again for big win

New Mexico Bowl game stats

By The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Wyoming trailed by 11 points in the fourth quarter. Its offense was led by a freshman quarterback, its defense was facing the nation's leading rusher.

Time to worry? Not these comeback Cowboys.

Freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels threw three touchdown passes, the last a 13-yarder to David Leonard in the second overtime Saturday, and Wyoming rallied past Fresno State 35-28 in the New Mexico Bowl.

"Same old deal for all of us," Carta-Samuels said. "We knew we could do it."

The first of 34 bowls was a high-scoring matchup that was decided at the end by defense.
Wyoming (7-6) stopped the nation's leading rusher, Fresno State's Ryan Mathews on three rushing attempts from the 1 in the first overtime. The Bulldogs (8-5) tried a quarterback sneak on third down, and Mathews came up short again on fourth down.

"If you can't put it in from the 1-yard line, you have to give a lot of credit to the defensive stand by Wyoming," Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said. "We had our chances."

The Cowboys, who won four times this season after rallying in the fourth quarter, scored on the first possession in double overtime, then held Fresno State on downs.

"Another typical game by the Wyoming Cowboys first-year coach Dave Christensen said. "We kept everybody in their seats."

Wyoming fans spilled out of the stands to celebrate as the school band played "Cowboy Joe." This was Wyoming's first bowl appearance since 2005, and it capped a winning season for Christensen after the Cowboys were picked to finish last in the Mountain West.

Mathews, who led the nation in rushing average at 151.3 yards per game, finished with 144 yards on 31 attempts with two touchdowns. But he had a big fumble midway through the fourth quarter, setting up Carta-Samuels to lead a 19-play drive that tied it.

Wyoming lineman Mitch Unrein, picked the defensive MVP, stripped the ball.

"I got my hand on it. It kind of rolled away from him," Unrein said. "It was right on my chest. I said to myself, 'I can't believe that just happened.' I got up and I was showing the refs. They didn't believe me. They were like, 'No way.'"

Officials initially ruled Mathews was down but reversed the call after a replay.

Wyoming's Ian Watts kicked a 37-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation. After the Cowboys stopped Mathews in the first overtime, Watts was wide left a 40-yard field try that would have won it.

Christensen said there was no disappointment on the sideline.

"These kids don't change much," he said. "I don't know if it's belief or they don't know any better. They walked down to the end of the field. We scored a touchdown, then we stopped them."

Carta-Samuels, the Mountain West's freshman of the year, was chosen the game's offensive MVP after he completed 17 of 31 attempts for 201 yards passing with one interception.
He led the Cowboys back after Mathews' 5-yard TD run put the Bulldogs up 28-17 with 13:59 remaining. Carta-Samuels found Leonard on an 11-yard TD pass, then connected with Greg Bolling for a 2-point conversion that got Wyoming to 28-25 with 10:15 to go.

"I guarantee after that their defense didn't want to come out on the field again to try and stop us," Carta-Samuels said.

Fresno State, trying to build on the lead, was driving when Mathews fumbled at Wyoming's 26. The Cowboys took over with 8:08 left and converted three times on fourth downs -- including a daring fake punt -- on the march that ended with Watts' 37-yard field goal.

"We told our guys, 'You've got to believe,'" Christensen said. "Being behind is nothing new for this football team."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cowboys sign three JC transfers

Cowboys head football coach Dave Christensen announced on Wednesday that three junior college players have signed National Letters of Intent to attend Wyoming. The three players will join the football program beginning in the spring of 2010.

The players signed include DeJay Lester, a 6-foot-2, 200 pounds junior wide receiver from Columbus, Ohio (Snow College); Mazi Ogbonna, 6-1, 195-pound junior wide receiver from , Westbury, N.Y. (Snow College) and Nick Puetz, a 6-4. 305-pound junior offensive lineman from Salina, Kan. (Coffeyville CC)

Lester caught 27 passes for 456 yards this past season. In 11 games, he averaged 2.5 receptions per game and scored two touchdowns. He also returned kickoffs and had eight returns for 195 yards, which was an average of 24.4 yards per return.

Snow College finished 10-2 overall and 7-1 in the Western States Football League this past season. They earned a 41-37 victory over Grand Rapids to take the Zions Bank Top of the Mountains Bowl Trophy. Both Snow College and Grand Rapids finished in the top six in the final National Junior College Athletic Association poll. Lester was coached by Steve Coburn while at Snow College.

Lester spent two seasons at Snow College and will be a junior at UW this coming fall.

Ogbonna, who also attended Snow College, was named First Team All-Western States Football League as a wide receiver this past fall. He was also selected Second Team All-WSFL as a kick returner. In 11 games, he caught 36 passes for 721 yards (20.0 yards per catch average). As a kick returner, he averaged 30.3 yards a return with 21 returns for 637 yards. Ogbonna scored ten touchdowns, while averaging 3.3 receptions per game.

He helped lead Snow College to a 10-2 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the WSFL. They earned a 41-37 victory over Grand Rapids to take the Zions Bank Top of the Mountains Bowl Trophy. They ended the season ranked fifth in the final NJCAA poll.

Ogbonna spent two seasons at Snow College and will be a junior at UW this coming fall.

Puetz was a Second Team All-Conference selection while attending Coffeyville Community College this past fall. He helped lead Coffeyville CC to a 7-4 overall record this season, while ending the season ranked 12th in the final NJCAA football poll. The team also won the North Star Bowl against Rochester (Minn.) by a final of 54-12. He earned the Wayne Hittle Memorial Award and the Pete Peltzer Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award.

As a junior, he was selected Honorable Mention All-Jayhawk Conference, along with earning Academic All-Conference honors. He was coached at Coffeyville by Darian Dulin.

Puetz spent two seasons at Coffeyville CC and will be a junior at UW this coming fall.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Senior leadership pays out for Cowboys

By Richard Anderson

One more game … great for the development of the underclassmen, but a reward for the seniors, who led the Wyoming Cowboys to their 12th bowl game in the school’s football history.

For those Cowboy seniors, this has been what they have been waiting for all of their careers.

“My senior year of high school, they went to the Vegas Bowl,” Cowboy senior linebacker Weston Johnson said. “Our senior class, especially, when we came here, that’s what we really wanted to do is go to a bowl game. We hadn’t had that opportunity until this year. It’s a pretty sweet way to go out. We’re looking to get that seventh win.”

For many of those Wyoming seniors, getting a chance to go to a bowl game seemed to be slipping away. They had one more opportunity as fall drills began in August.

One more chance.

“With the changes coming in, it definitely crosses your mind that maybe we’re not going to get to a bowl game,” Wyoming senior defensive tackle John Fletcher said. “But once Coach (Dave) Christensen came in and talked to us and we went through winter conditioning with them, I think everybody could see that this guy knows what he is doing and he has won games before. His plan was to get us seniors to a bowl game and let us go out on a good note.”

The previous three seasons for the Cowboys, something always seemed to go wrong, whether it was early in the year or late.

“I think it is always in the back of your mind, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Johnson said about another season of failure. “We just found a way to win some really tough games. That game against CSU was probably the most exciting game I had ever played in. To go out like that and get that sixth win and be bowl eligible, it’s a really neat feeling.”

Yet, Johnson said that going into each season, he thought they were going to turn it around from how they had worked. It wasn’t until Christensen was named head coach a year ago that he felt that feeling was going to finally develop.

“When Coach Christensen came in with this new style of offense and this new staff, and we kept Coach (Marty) English, it seemed like some things were in order,” Johnson said. “It was time for us to start winning some games and get an opportunity to get back to a bowl game.”

If Christensen had to pinpoint one reason that his team was able to get to a bowl game, he at least starts with his senior leadership. That’s a big reason why the Cowboys are going to the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 19, he said, in accepting the invitation Monday at the Rochelle Athletics Center.

“We’ve had tremendous leadership from this senior class, I’ve mentioned that numerous times.” Christensen said. “I’ve been involved with a lot of football team and a lot of them had good personnel but they didn’t have the success that we had this year because they didn’t have leadership from the top.

“Because of this leadership provided by this senior class and how hungry every player in this program was, to have an opportunity to get to the postseason, and we were able to get there in one short year. I take a great deal of pride in the effort these kids have put out on the field each and every Saturday.”

When did the Cowboys really think that had a shot at a bowl game? After the big come-from-behind victory over San Diego State on Nov. 14.

“That put us at five wins and two games coming up – one being against an extremely good team in TCU and against another good team in CSU,” Fletcher said. “We definitely thought we could win the CSU game. Once we got to that game, everybody got in their head that we were going to have to work a little harder, but it was a definite possibility that we could get six wins and become bowl eligible.”

The Cowboys edged the rival Rams 17-16 to earn that sixth win of the season.

They celebrated, to say the least.

“We got into the locker room and I think that was the wildest I have ever seen us after a game,” Fletcher said. “It was just a great feeling. We definitely knew we were going to get an invite to a bowl – we didn’t know which one – but we were happy to go wherever.”

Their opponent turned out to be Fresno State, a former Western Athletic Conference mate in the 1990s, well before most of this group was thinking about being Cowboys.

“We want to leave our mark at Wyoming, so being one of 12 bowl teams so far is doing that,” Fletcher said. “I think for us seniors, it is something we wanted to do throughout the year. That’s what we work so hard for this summer and fall camp and we have one more game to play.”

For the Cowboy seniors, that is what it is all about.

One more game.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cowboys vs. Fresno State in New Mexico Bowl

The Wyoming Cowboys are bowl bound as the New Mexico Bowl on Sunday extended an invitation to the Cowboys to face Fresno State. The Fourth Annual New Mexico Bowl will be the first bowl game of the 2009 bowl season, and will be played on Dec. 19 in Albuquerque. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m., Mountain Time.

New Mexico Bowl Executive Director Jeff Siembieda made the announcement of this year’s New Mexico Bowl selections.

“We are excited with this terrific match-up and look forward to the game,” Siembieda said. “Having two great programs with incredibly passionate fans makes Fresno State against Wyoming the perfect way to kick off college football’s bowl season. We look forward to hosting the Cowboys and Bulldogs for a fun-filled bowl week.”

Wyoming’s appearance in this year’s New Mexico Bowl comes in the first season under head coach Dave Christensen. Christensen led Wyoming to a 6-6 overall record and a 4-4 Mountain West Conference mark, playing the eighth toughest schedule in the country. The Cowboys placed fifth in the MWC this season after being picked to finish last by conference media in the MWC preseason poll.

“We are extremely excited to have an opportunity to play in postseason, and we are particularly excited to be going to Albuquerque to play in the New Mexico Bowl,” said University of Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. “We’ve heard great things about the bowl and about the people who work so hard all year long to make the New Mexico Bowl a great experience for the teams involved and for the fans who attend the game and all the festivities surrounding it.

“Our kids were thrilled when they heard we were going to the New Mexico Bowl. This group of young men has worked so hard this season to earn this opportunity. My staff and I are happy for them, and we are happy for our fans.

“The fans of Wyoming have shown us great support all season, and I know that they will be there in Albuquerque to support us once again.”

Tickets to the 2009 New Mexico Bowl are $30 per ticket with a $25 shipping and handling fee per order, and can be purchased by going online at or by calling the University of Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-922-9461 or locally in Laramie at 766-4850.

The University of Wyoming will hold a press conference on Monday at 1 p.m. in the Rochelle Athletics Center. New Mexico Bowl Executive Director Siembieda will be in attendance to formally extend the bowl invitation to Christensen. University of Wyoming President Tom Buchanan and UW Athletics Director Tom Burman will also speak and be available for interviews. The press conference will be carried live by the Cowboy Sports Network and the press conference will be video streamed live on

This year’s appearance in the New Mexico Bowl will mark Wyoming’s 12th bowl appearance in its history. UW’s most recent bowl appearance came in the 2004 Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl, where the Pokes defeated UCLA, 24-21.

Wyoming’s opponent in this year’s bowl, the Fresno State Bulldogs, are old foes of the Cowboys from the days that both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Fresno State finished the regular season 8-4 overall, 6-2 in conference play and placed third in the WAC behind Boise State and Nevada. The Cowboys and Bulldogs will be playing each other for the seventh time in the two schools’ histories. The series is tied, with each team having won three times. The last meeting came in 1997. The two teams have never met at a neutral site.

This year’s New Mexico Bowl will be televised nationally on ESPN and ESPN-HD.