Monday, August 31, 2009

As expected, Benjamin named QB starter

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior quarterback Robert Benjamin looks for an open receiver while running back James Caraway looks to break out in the flat during the Cowboys fourth scrimmage of the fall last week.

By Richard Anderson

It was talk of the preseason, it was talk of spring drills, it was talk of fall drills. Now, there is little talking left on who will be the starting quarterback for the Wyoming Cowboys when they open the season Saturday against Weber State.

As expected, junior transfer Robert Benjamin will take the first snap from center.

Senior Karsten Sween emerged from spring drills No. 1 on the depth chart, but that all changed with the arrival of Benjamin and true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels.

Sween and Benjamin battled it out for the first spot a couple of weeks of spring drills, but a strong first scrimmage propelled Benjamin to the top position and Carta-Samuels moved past the more experienced Sween in the last couple of weeks.

The athletic Benjamin gives the Cowboys something a little extra with his feet, first year head coach Dave Christensen said.

“He’s a threat because he can obviously run the football and he is throwing the ball well in practice,” Christensen said during his now weekly Monday press conference from the Rochelle Athletic Center. “From our evaluation at this point and time, he gives us our best chance to have success offensively.”

Benjamin and Carta -Samuels split time with the first team offense in last week’s final scrimmage and Carta-Samuels impressed Christensen with his ability to move the offense in the two-minute drill.

“Austyn has had a great camp. He’s gone in situations like the two-minute offense and moved the team down the field with great success,“ Christensen said. “He’s very, very poised and understands the reads and the offense.”

Sween, who has started 21 games in his career, will begin the campaign at the No. 3 spot.

“Karsten has to be disappointed not being the starter right now," Christensen said. “He’ll still provide great leadership for our football team. He’s a very, very positive teammate to have out there. He’ll do anything we ask him to do to be successful. He’s still there, but right now he is third on the depth.”

Whether or not Benjamin can hold onto the starter’s position remains to be seen, but Christensen made it clear on Monday that he has no plans on a rotation at quarterback, nor does he believe Carta-Samuels will redshirt.

Christensen especially doesn’t want to see what happened last year under Joe Glenn, when four quarterbacks started during the season and they all at times even played in one game.

“We don’t want to have a rotating door at quarterback, so we’ll try to get something established there, consistent at that position,” Christensen said.

A pair of true freshmen were also among the starters named on Monday, with 15 true or redshirt freshmen listed in the top three of the various positions, including nine true freshmen at first or second on the depth charts.

That all goes back to Christensen’s belief that the best players will be out on the field for the Cowboys, regardless of their experience.

"We have a number of those kids who will contribute this year and we have a number of them who will redshirt, who we think will be exceptional players for us,” Christensen said
All-in-all, the depth chart is subject to change as the season progresses. A complete evaluation of each position ad player is ongoing by the entire Wyoming staff, but it all goes through the head man.

“After every single practice, we’ll watch the video of every single repetition of practice,” Christensen said. “We have 14-15 coaches sit in a room and we’ll go around talking about every single player in detail. Anybody can interject, but obviously I have the final say on any position change.”
Wyoming Depth Chart
(As of Monday, Aug. 31, 2009)
Boundary Cornerbacks

2 Marcell Gipson (5-10, 183, Jr., Dallas, Texas)
18 David James (5-11, 179, RFr., Edmond, Okla.)
12 Tramaine Brown, (5-9, 177, Sr., Anaheim, Calif.)
Free Safeties
24 Chris Prosinski (6-1, 208, Jr., Buffalo, Wyo.)
17 Keith Lewis (5-11, 200, Jr., Evergreen Park, Ill.)
Strong Safeties
7 Shamiel Gary (6-1, 210, Fr., Tulsa, Okla.)
19 Jamichael Hall (6-2, 195, RJr., Anniston, Ala.)
39 Eric Mitchell (6-0, 195, So., Highlands Ranch, Colo.)
Field Cornerbacks
4 Tashaun Gipson (6-0, 195, So., Dallas, Texas)
16D Kenny Browder (5-11, 175, Fr., Round Rock, Texas)
SAM Linebackers (Outside Linebackers)
36 Weston Johnson (6-3, 233, Sr., Wray, Colo.)
23 Ghaali Muhammad (6-0, 210, Fr., St. Joseph, Mo.)
34 Matt Birkeness (6-4, 226, RFr., Littleton, Colo.)
MIKE Linebackers (Inside Linebackers)
52 Gabe Knapton (6-3, 238, So., Mead, Colo.)
6 Alex Toney (6-1, 220, Jr., Las Vegas, Nev.)
13 Adam Barry (6-1, 223, RFr., Simi Valley, Calif.)
WILL Linebackers (Inside Linebackers)
8 Brian Hendricks (6-1, 223, So., Burlington, Colo.)
45 Bryson Studnicka (6-3, 229, So., Clay Center, Neb.)
BUCK Linebackers (Outside Linebackers)
44 Josh Biezuns (6-2, 236, So., Prior Lake, Minn.)
37 Matt Barella (6-2, 228, Sr., Centennial, Colo.)
15 Ben Durbin (6-3, 233, RFr., Gilbert, Iowa)
Defensive Tackles
91 John Fletcher (6-6, 265, Sr., Erie, Colo.)
47 Mike Neuhaus (6-3, 256, Sr., Alsip, Ill.)
85D Mark Willis (6-4, 230, Fr., Oak Park, Ill.)
97 Alex Stover (6-3, 282, So., Gretna, Neb.)
90 Fred Givens (6-0, 287, Sr., Chickasha, Okla.)
Defensive Ends
98 Mitch Unrein (6-4, 270, Sr., Eaton, Colo.)
55 Corey Orth (6-5, 255, RFr., Buena Vista, Colo.)
Kickers/Holders/Long Snappers
Place-kickers (For PATs and Field Goals)
28 Austin McCoy (6-3, 195, So., WInter Haven, Fla.)
21 Jake Scott (5-8, 160, Sr., Rocklin, Calif.)
Place-kickers (For Kickoffs)
21 Jake Scott (5-8, 160, Sr., Rocklin, Calif.)
28 Austin McCoy (6-3, 195, So., WInter Haven, Fla.)
28 Austin McCoy (6-3, 195, So., WInter Haven, Fla.)
21 Jake Scott (5-8, 160, Sr., Rocklin, Calif.)

16 Karsten Sween (6-2, 215, Sr., Inyokern, Calif.)
11 Robert Benjamin (6-2, 205, Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
5 Austyn Carta-Samuels (6-2, 210, Fr., San Jose, Calif.)
Snappers for Field Goals/PATs
58 Jordan Van Royen (6-0, 225, Jr., Scottsdale, Ariz.)
55 Corey Orth (6-5, 255, RFr., Buena Vista, Colo.)
Snappers for Punts
58 Jordan Van Royen (6-0, 225, Jr., Scottsdale, Ariz.)
55 Corey Orth (6-5, 255, RFr., Buena Vista, Colo.)

11 Robert Benjamin (6-2, 205, Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
5 Austyn Carta-Samuels (6-2, 210, Fr., San Jose, Calif.)
16 Karsten Sween (6-2, 229, Sr., Inyokern, Calif.)
Running Backs
26 Darius Terry (5-11, 204, Jr., Colorado Springs, Colo.)
32 Alvester Alexander (5-11, 200, Fr., Houston, Texas)
1 James Caraway (5-11, 182, RFr., Topeka, Kan.)
25 James Davis (5-9, 190, So., Monrovia, Calif.)
Wide Receivers
33 David Leonard (6-4, 197, Jr., Overland Park, Kan.)
22 Brandon Stewart (5-11, 193, So., Evansville, Ind.)
85 Jesson Salyards (6-5, 230, Sr., Haxtun, Colo.)
Wide Receivers
3 Travis Burkhalter (6-1, 191, Jr., Eufala, Okla.)
9 T.J. Atwater (5-9, 185, Sr., Wichita, Kan.)
Wide Receivers
89 Zach Bolger (5-10, 185, RJr., Casper, Wyo.)
80 Chris McNeill (6-1, 170, Fr., Simi Valley, Calif.)
Tight Ends
88 Orlando Arnold (6-4, 222, Sr., Richmond, Calif.)
14D David Tooley (6-5, 210, Fr., Moberly, Mo.)
42 Greg Genho (6-3, 240, Sr., Brush, Colo.)
86 Joe Evers (6-5, 240, Jr., Sheridan, Wyo.)
Left Tackles
71 Ryan Otterson (6-5, 298, Sr., Brighton, Colo.)
76 Josh Leonard (6-4, 296, Fr., Helena, Mont.)
Left Guards
75 Sam Sterner (6-4, 302, Jr., Waconia, Minn.)
67 Zack Kennedy (6-6, 312, Sr., Colorado Springs, Colo.)
70 Russ Arnold (6-4, 297, Sr., Westminster, Colo.)
57 Jack Tennant (6-4, 305, Jr., Mahomet, Ill.)
Right Guards
60 Nick Carlson (6-4, 290, Fr., Arlington Heights, Ill.)
64 Travis Hillen (6-5, 295, So., Thornton, Colo.)
Right Tackles
69 John Hutchins (6-5, 302, So., Inver Grove Heights, Minn.)
72 Clayton Kirven (6-6, 310, So., Buffalo, Wyo.)
Return Specialists
Kickoff Returners

2 Marcell Gipson (5-10, 183, Jr., Dallas, Texas)
16D Kenny Browder (5-11, 175, Fr., Round Rock, Texas)
Punt Returners
33 David Leonard (6-4, 197, Jr., Overland Park, Kan.)
22 Brandon Stewart (5-11, 193, So., Evansville, Ind.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cowboys find consistency in final scrimmage

Richard Anderson photos
Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels (blue jersey) looks for some running room in Wednesday's scrimmage. At left, receiver Zach Bolger celebrates what he thought was a 28-yard touchdown pass from Carta-Samuels. The play, however, was nullified because of a penalty.

Scrimmage statistics

Christensen pleased with strides made

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen has been preaching focus and consistency to his team this fall – especially this week. If Wednesday was any indication, his message is beginning to sink in.

The Cowboys put together their best scrimmage of the four at War Memorial Stadium, coming off a couple of sub-par performances offensively.

With the season opener about 10 days away, that’s exactly what Christensen has wanted to see.

“This is where you want your team to be at this point of camp,” Christensen said. “We came out and executed, we cut our drops down by 75 percent. Our No. 1 defense was three and out every series. Our one offense scored every series. That’s where you would like to be.”

Freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels said that Christensen has “hammered home that the lack of focus is not OK in this program.” He said that some of the players were using the lack of focus as an excuse, but he didn’t see that on Wednesday.

“I think we have now taken what he said seriously because he has emphasized it so much,” Carta-Samuels said. “We didn’t do anything wrong the first time, but we just weren’t serious about it as much. It’s good to see us do that and come out ready to play.”

Christensen said it was nice to see some consistency on offense … finally.

“I thought from a mental standpoint, we looked much better today,” he said. “That’s what you would expect to see at this point of camp. I’m very pleased with how we performed today.’’

Consistency might be bumping Carta-Samuels up the depth chart as he and junior Robert Benjamin split time with the first team offense on Wednesday.

Carta-Samuels finished the scrimmage 10 of 12 passing for 125 yards. He did have a 28-yard touchdown pass to Zach Bolger called back because of a penalty.

Benjamin was solid as well and got things off on the right foot with a spectacular 75-yard touchdown pass to Travis Burkhalter on the first play from scrimmage. Benjamin was 7 of 14 passing for 139 yards. He also had a 12-yard TD pass to tight end Orlando Arnold.

“We started out with four drives for touchdowns, although one got called back because of a penalty, but we’re moving forward,” Carta-Samuels said. “As long as we stay level headed, I think we can keep doing this every week and that will be fun.”

Carta-Samuel basically began fall drills as the No. 4 quarterback and might have supplanted senior Karsten Sween as the No. 2 signal caller.

Is he now challenging Benjamin for the starting position?

Carta-Samuels said he’s not concerned about that at this time, but he is just looking to improve.

“They (coaches) don’t talk to me that much about it (depth chart), they just talk to me about how I am doing,” Carta-Samuels said. ‘The way I assess it is that I am working as hard as I can to move myself up. I’ve been pretty consistent. I think they wanted to see how I did with the ones today. They’ll look at film and they’ll make their decision. Whatever it is, I’ll support it.”

Christensen said they will name a starting quarterback, as well as the other starters for Weber State, on Tuesday.

With that said, Christensen admitted he was pleased with the play of his two new quarterbacks.

“I liked what I saw from both of them, very much so,” Christensen said.

Carta-Samuels, meanwhile, said the offense has made nice progress as a whole.

“The talent is there. The talent is better on offense than it was on day one. Now it is day 30,” Carta-Samuels said. “For us it is all about getting OK with this offense and comfortable with the offense, running it and being smooth with two new quarterbacks who weren’t here this spring. We’re trying to get used to the whole offense. I don’t think it could have come at a better time at this scrimmage, we start putting it in the end zone. It’s good.”

KOWB sports director David Settle also contributed to this report.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cowboy defense not quite satisfied with progress

Richard Anderson photo/Wyoming defensive coordinator Marty English and his staff watch Saturday's scrimmage.

By Richard Anderson

It has all been about the ball for the Cowboys this season … the offense needs to hang onto the pigskin and the defense needs to take it away.

For the Cowboys on defense, that has certainly been a bright spot so far in the fall drills. For the offense … not so much.

In Saturday’s third scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium, the Cowboys had three takeaways – two interceptions and one fumble recovery. In the three scrimmages, Wyoming has six interceptions and six fumble recoveries.

Yet, walking off the field after Saturday’s scrimmage, two of the Cowboys responsible for takeaways – senior defensive tackle Mike Neuhaus and junior free safety Chris Prosinski – acted like it was the offense that had the upper edge.

“I think that we are finding out with this up-tempo offense, mentally, we are a little behind with our conditioning and everything,” Prosinski said. “We were dragging out there a little bit.”

Neuhaus earned his second interception of the fall – both off of junior quarterback Robert Benjamin. Neuhaus said that he hasn’t done anything special, but has just been in the right place at the right time.

“I guess I need to take Benjamin out to lunch or something, he’s thrown two passes right to my chest,” Neuhaus said. “I can’t take much credit for that.”

Senior defensive tackle John Fletcher also has an interception of Benjamin, leaping high to snag a pass at the line of scrimmage. So far the Wyoming defensive linemen are showing good hands.

“The thing is, if we can’t get to the quarterback, our coach tells us to get your hands up, jump and try to knock the pass down,” Neuhaus said. “Fortunately for me and Fletcher, we not only knock the ball down, but we picked it off.”

Prosinski, meanwhile, made a high-light film interception late in the two-minute portion of the scrimmage, picking off freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels.

“It the two-minute drill and we just wanted to get three and out and get off the field, especially when we are up,” Prosinski said. “It was good to get the interception and hopefully we have more to come.”

While Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen was displeased with his offense for the second straight scrimmage after it took it to the defense the first time out, Saturday’s scrum was a little more balanced than in the previous two.

“The offense did some good things, we did some good things, but we both have some things to improve on,” Prosinski said. “We’re not close to getting there yet. We have two weeks to get ready, and we have a ways to go.”

That improvement all starts in the film room before they get out to the practice field again on Tuesday afternoon. The Cowboys took Sunday and Monday off from practice as classes got underway, and will now prepare for the third and final scrimmage Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Wyoming opens the regular season on Sept. 5 when it hosts Weber State.

“We have a lot of work to do. We did some good things, but we’ll go into the film room and check it out and see what we can improve on,” Prosinski said.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More cons than pros on Saturday

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming quarterback Robert Benjamin looks to escape from the defense of Alex Toney Saturday in the team's third scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson

Generally happy with the way his team has practiced so far in fall drills, Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen has been less pleased with the way his team has scrimmaged, particularly the last two scrums.

That was the case on Tuesday when the defense battled back after the offenses dominance in the first scrimmage. At times, it was more of the same in the Cowboys’ third scrimmage Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

Christensen was not happy with the 12 dropped passes (see story below). He was also a little perturbed with the teams mental toughness, the play of his offensive line and even the team’s running attack. The mental toughness, or lack of it, was a team-wide problem, Christensen said.

“We look fragile out there,” Christensen said. “We play one quarter of football and we look like we played 10 quarters. We have to get tougher as a football team. We’ll get this evaluated again when we get back to work on Tuesday.”

The Wyoming offensive line struggled Saturday on special teams when defensive end Corey Orth blocked a field-goal attempt. Then on three straight point after touchdown kicks, senior defensive tackle John Fletcher nearly blocked the kicks. The offensive line also was flagged four times for 65 yards during the scrimmage.

“I’m not very pleased with the offensive line, because four of the five penalties were on them,” Christensen said. “We have a lot of work to do there. We have a guy that’s been around on the field goal team that gets blown up every single time and gets kicks blocked. To say that I am pleased with them, absolutely not. We have to get tougher, we’re not very disciplined right now. We’re not very tough, but we’ll get them there.”

Of course, in a scrimmage situation, when one side of the football does not play well, the other side takes advantage. Christensen credited the 6-foot-6 Fletcher for putting pressure on his blockers. “It was a heck of an effort by John Fletcher,” Christensen said. “He gets a hand on almost every one. I’m excited about him. It’s all based on effort. Coach (Jerry) Montgomery has done a great of coaching that block team.”

The Wyoming running game also had just137 yards on 30 rushes. And that was with a 65-yard touchdown run by James Caraway.

“They are still running sideways,” Christensen said of his running backs.

“I’m going to have to go in and teach the team that the end zones are at the end off the fields and not on the sides, because they like to run that way. They haven’t figured that one out yet.” Caraway was the lone bright spot, with 65 yards on three rushes.

“He didn’t get as many touches as I would like, but he did run better. He made a big run on that one series. He’s getting better,” Christensen said.

All was not lost, though, as Christensen was happy with he defense once again and possibly for the first time this spring, he was pleased with the special teams, particularly the kicking game.

“Our defense is doing a nice job, not giving up the big play. They continue to play well,” he said. “We have come a long way with our special teams, our kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return; I think we’re making progress in those areas."

Injury report
Christensen said there were no serious injuries on Saturday and updated the status of freshman receiver Chris McNeill and freshman linebacker Devyn Harris, both of whom were injured in the first scrimmage.

McNeill, who suffered a mild concussion, is back practicing, but still out of contact.

“He’ll begin some limited contact next Friday and then the following week he’ll be ready to go,” he said.

Harris, out with a knee injury, will be out of action for some time, if not the entire season.

“He’s probably six weeks out. We’ll see where we’re at that time,” Christensen said.

Drops slow down Cowboys again

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming receivers Zach Bolger, left, and David Leonard chest bump after Leonard's 36-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Robert Benjamin. It was otherwise a tough day for the Wyoming passing game with 12 dropped passes.

By Richard Anderson

The Wyoming Cowboys dropped the ball -- literally -- at Saturday's third major scrimmage of the fall.

The first scrimmage saw the Wyoming offense dominate. The second scrimmage, it was the defense’s turn. On Saturday, there was a more even distribution of play except for one thing -- dropped passes.

And that had head coach Dave Christensen fuming after the 90-play scrum at War Memorial Stadium.

Christensen ran out of fingers counting the drops.

“You come out here and drop 12 balls, you can’t evaluate the quarterbacks. That’s pathetic,” Christensen said. “That’s gotta’ change and guys have to be dying to get better at it or we have to recruit some guys who want to catch the ball. You’d think a wide receiver in this offense would be excited to have an opportunity to come out and compete in a game situation. But to have 12 drops, to say I am embarrassed is an understatement.”

Christensen was asked after the scrimmage what could be done to improve in catching the football. He said they will do something … or else.

“They have a job to do to get it done, so we’ll do some stuff with them," he said. "We’ll get out the jugs machine and do some extra work in catching the football. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to coach their rears off and find ways to make them better. The bottom line is that they have to be dying to be better. That’s how I challenged our receiver corps.”

The four Wyoming quarterbacks combined to complete 27 of 49 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Benjamin, who has been running the No. 1 offense since his outstanding opening scrimmage, was 10-of-21 for 117 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He connected with wide receiver David Leonard for a 36-yard score.

Benjamin said he let the team down on Saturday.

“I finished pretty good, but you have to start strong, finish strong,” Benjamin said. “It was a lack of focus. I tried to come in and get it done, but I guess it didn’t happen today. I don’t have any excuses for it, it just didn’t happen.”

Senior Karsten Sween was 8-of-12 for 54 yards, Austyn Carta-Samels was 8-of-14 for 69 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while junior Dax Crum was 1-of-2 for eight yards.

Based on what he saw live, Christensen said it is hard to evaluate which quarterback had the better day or is still on top of the depth chart. That evaluation will be in the film room.

“I’m not going to base anything off of what I watched,“ Christensen said. “You have to look at all of those things when you evaluate the quarterbacks. Robert did a nice job of running the two-minute offense and got us a field goal. Austyn was moving us down in his drill.”

Benjamin said that while drops are part of the game, they have to get over it as a team.

“As a leader, as the quarterback, you have to make sure that you get it done, and today, we didn’t have too much leadership,” he said. “I’ll take that part on myself. As quarterbacks, we need to make sure our receivers catch the ball.”

Senior Greg Bolling led the way with six catches for 57 yards, followed by Leonard with four receptions and 63 yards. Freshman tight end David Tooley had three catches for 35 yards and one TD reception, while sophomore wide receiver Brandon Stewart had three catches for 23 yards. Newly converted receiver T.J. Atwater caught three passes for 17 yards.

Atwater, who had played much of his career at Wyoming at free safety, volunteered to move over to receiver to help out.

“He’s at practice every day. If he can catch the football, he has a pretty good chance of playing there. He catches the ball pretty well,” Christensen said. “He’s come over to the offensive side at receiver. He’ll probably be in the mix in about two days.”

It wasn’t just the wide receivers who had a case of butterfingers -- the running backs and tight ends also contributed to the problem.

Senior running back Darius Terry said they are very aware of those shortcomings and will solve the problem.

“Coach touched on that after practice and said, ‘You can’t play in this offense if you can’t catch the ball, at every position, that’s running back, tight end and receiver,” Terry said. “We really have to focus on that. When we get tired, we have to focus to catch the ball before we make our moves.”
Scrimmage Statistics
Player Comp.-Att Yards TD Interceptions Long

# 11 Robert Benjamin, qb 10-21 (.476) 117 1 1 36
# 5 Austyn Carta-Samuels, qb 8-14 (.571) 69 1 1 19
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 8-12 (.667) 54 0 0 13
# 9 Dax Crum, qb 1-2 (.500) 8 0 0 8
Totals 27-49 (.551) 248 2 2 36
Player Receptions Yards TD Long

# 84 Greg Bolling, wr 6 57 0 19
# 33 David Leonard, wr 4 63 1 36
# 14 David Tooley, te 3 35 1 16
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 3 23 0 18
# 9 T.J. Atwater, wr 3 17 0 8
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 2 16 0 10
# 6 Turmour Battle, wr 1 9 0 9
# 88 Orlando Arnold, te 1 9 0 9
# 89 Zach Bolger, wr 1 6 0 6
# 83 T.J. Smith, te 1 6 0 6
# 1 James Caraway, rb 1 5 0 5
# 32 Alvester Alexander, rb 1 2 0 2
Totals 27 248 2 36
Yards Yards Net
Player Attempts Gained Lost Yards TD Long Fumbles

# 1 James Caraway, rb 3 70 5 65 1 65 0
# 5 Austin Carta-Samuels, qb 2 22 0 22 0 11 0
# 32 Alvester Alexander, rb 6 21 3 18 0 8 0
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 1 15 0 15 0 15 0
# 37 Lorne Bridgford, wr 3 15 3 12 0 15 0
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 3 9 0 9 0 6 0
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 1 6 0 6 0 6 0
# 89 Zach Bolger 1 3 0 3 0 3 0
# 25 James Davis, rb 6 6 4 2 1 2 0
# 11 Robert Benjamin, qb 2 6 5 1 0 6 1
# 30 Duell Petsch, rb 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
# 13 Matt Cobb, qb 1 0 16 -16 0 -16 0
Totals 30 173 36 137 2 65 1
Player Gained TD
# 47 Mike Neuhaus, dt 6 0 (interception return)
# 24 Chris Prosinski, fs 4 0 (interception return)
# 44 Josh Biezuns, ilb 0 0 (fumble return)
# 55 Corey Orth, de blocked a 31-yard field goal

Defensive Highlights
QB Passes
Player UT AT TT Sacks TFL Broken Up FF FR Int
# 2 Marcell Gipson, cb 0 2 2
# 3 Patrick Hartford, ss 0 1 1
# 4 Tashaun Gipson, cb 2 1 3 .5-.5 1
# 6 Alex Toney, lb 1 2 3
# 7 Shamiel Gary, fs 0 3 3 .5-.5
# 8 Brian Hendricks, ilb 2 4 6 1-4 1-4
#12 Tramaine Brown 2 1 3
#13 Adam Barry, ilb 1 1 2
#16 Kenny Browder, cb 0 1 1
#18 David James, cb 1 0 1
#19 Jamichael Hall, ss 0 2 2
#20 Trendt Marsom, ilb 1 0 1
#21 Larry Mitchell, fs 1 2 3
#23 Ghaali Muhammad, ss 0 1 1
#24 Chris Prosinski, fs 4 2 6 1-4
#27 Todd Knight, ilb 0 2 2 .5-1.5
#31 Jeff Roueche, olb 1 0 1 1-16
#34 Matt Birkeness, ilb 0 2 2
#36 Weston Johnson, lb 2 2 4 .5-.5
#37 Matt Barella, olb 1 1 2 .5-2.5
#38 Adam Hirtz, lb 0 1 1
#41 Andrew Meredith, db 1 2 3
#44 Josh Biezuns, olb 2 0 2 1-7 1-7 1 1-0
#45 Bryson Studnicka 1 1 2
QB Passes
Player UT AT TT Sacks TFL Broken Up FF FR Int
#47 Mike Neuhaus, de 1-6
#52 Gabe Knapton, ilb 0 5 5
#55 Corey Orth, de 0 2 2 1
#59 Reece Hall, lb 0 2 2 .5-1.5
#85 Mark Willis, dt 0 1 1
#90 Fred Givens, ng 0 1 1
#91 John Fletcher, dt 0 2 2 .5-2.5
#93 Marcus Felker, ng 0 2 2
#97 Alex Stover, ng 0 1 1
#98 Mitch Unrein, de 0 2 2 .5-.5
Totals 23 52 75 2-11 7-37 2 1 1-0 2-10


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cowboy defense turns the table

UW photo
Freshman free safety Shamiel Gary makes a tackle during Tuesday's scrimmage.

Scrimmage statistics

by UW Media Relations

This time it was the defense's turn.

The Wyoming Cowboys scrimmaged for the second time in fall camp on Tuesday and the Cowboy defense captured its first scrimmage victory of the fall with a 29-28 win in War Memorial Stadium.

Wyoming’s defense forced three turnovers, two interceptions and one fumble, while recording 9.0 tackles for losses of 39 yards, including 6.0 sacks for a minus 34 yards. Cowboy defenders also broke up six passes on the day, and didn’t give up a passing touchdown. Tuesday’s scrimmage consisted of 93 plays.

The defense’s win Tuesday came after an impressive 78-30 win by the offense last Friday. All of Wyoming’s fall scrimmages will use a scoring system that rewards the offense and defense for big plays, as well as scoring plays.

The defense was led by senior defensive tackle Mike Neuhaus, who recorded 2.0 sacks for 16 yards and intercepted a pass from junior quarterback Robert Benjamin. UW’s other interception was made by redshirt freshman linebacker Adam Barry, who intercepted junior quarterback Dax Crum. Among the day’s other top performers for the defense were senior free safety T.J. Atwater, redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Durbin and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Corey Orth, who each recorded four tackles to lead the No. 2 defense against the No. 1 offense. Durbin also had one pass breakup, Orth had 1.0 sack for four yards and 2.0 tackles for losses of six yards.

The third turnover forced by the defense came on a fumble. Freshman linebacker Jeff Roueche forced the fumble, which was recovered by fellow freshman linebacker Todd Knight. Freshman running back Tedder Easton lost the fumble for the offense.

“I thought defensively we played much better in this scrimmage,” said Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. “I thought that side of the ball has made improvement over the last couple of days in practice. They did a nice job of keeping things contained and not giving up big plays. That was a big plus. When you don’t give up any big plays, you force a team to try and slowly work themselves down the field. The more plays an offense has to run the more chance the offense will make mistakes.”

UW’s offense scored four rushing touchdowns on the day, but only one of those scores came from the No. 1 or No. 2 offensive units, and all four scores came during the redzone portion of the scrimmage with the offense beginning its drive on the defense’s 20-yard line. Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Stewart scored on a 4-yard run for the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense. Sophomore running back James Davis scored on a 20-yard TD scamper with the No. 3 offensive unit facing the No. 3 defensive unit. Redshirt freshman running back James Caraway scored from seven yards out in another series with the No. 3 units facing each other. The fourth offensive touchdown was scored by sophomore Lorne Bridgford, who ran it into the endzone from 20 yards out for the No. 4 offense against the No. 4 defense.

“Offensively, I was very disappointed in our mechanics of running the spread offense,” said Christensen. “That includes not doing a good job of communicating, not lining up properly, mental errors. I thought the offense took a huge step backwards today, and it’s something we’ve got to get corrected. It’s about execution. It’s about getting your mind right before you come out here on the field, and then executing and playing at a high level each and every day. Like I told our kids, if you go out one day and have a great practice and then come out the next day and not practice at the same level that is the way your season is going to be -- some weeks you’re going to play well and some weeks you’re not. We’re looking for consistency.”

For the offense, none of the Cowboy quarterbacks had outstanding days in Tuesday’s scrimmage. Benjamin, who moved up to the No. 1 offense in the second scrimmage after throwing for 178 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 62 yards and another TD on Friday, didn’t have the same success in scrimmage No. 2. Benjamin completed only 5 of 10 passes (50.0 percent) for 89 yards and threw one interception on Tuesday, while gaining only one yard rushing. Senior Karsten Sween, who guided the No. 2 offense in second scrimmage, after being with the No. 1 offense in the initial scrimmage of the fall, completed 9 of 13 passes on the day (69.2 percent) for 107 yards with no TD passes and no interceptions. Sween threw for 122 yards in the first scrimmage last Friday, guiding the No. 1 offense. He had one touchdown pass in that first scrimmage with no interceptions.

“Neither one of our top two quarterbacks played very well today,” said Christensen. “When that guy doesn’t play very well, it’s going to be hard for the entire offense to play well. Today was the first time we practiced in two-minute mode, and I wasn’t pleased with the way that went as far as handling the offense. But we have a lot of practices left, and we will continue to work on that.

“It’s not all on the quarterbacks though. The line, the receivers, the running backs -- you can name any position and they didn’t play very well on offense today.”

Stewart led all receivers in Tuesday’s second scrum. He caught seven passes for 92 yards. Junior wide receiver David Leonard had three receptions for 34 yards. Junior tight end Joe Evers caught two passes for 15 yards, and 10 other Cowboys had one reception each. The two longest plays of the day came on a 48-yard pass from Benjamin to junior wide receiver Zach Bolger, and a 41-yard completion from freshman QB Austyn Carta-Samuels to freshman tight end T.J. Smith.

In addition to Sween’s 9 of 13 (69.2 percent) completions for 107 yards and Benjamin’s 5 of 10 (50.0 percent) for 89 yards, Carta-Samuels completed 6 of 12 passes (50.0 percent) for 86 yards. Junior Crum completed 1 of 5 pass attempts (20.0 percent) for four yards.

Davis led the team in rushing with 36 yards and one TD on four carries. Bridgford had three carries for 26 yards and a touchdown. Junior Darius Terry carried the ball five times for 21 yards. Freshman Alvester Alexander rushed for 16 yards on four carries, and redshirt freshman Caraway gained 12 yards on eight rushing attempts and scored one TD.

In the competition for the starting place-kicking position, senior Jake Scott made six of eight field-goal attempts, while sophomore Austin McCoy made five of eight. Both Scott and McCoy were four of five in point-after-touchdown attempts.

Senior defensive tackle John Fletcher did play on Tuesday despite suffering a slight knee sprain in UW’s first scrimmage of the fall. Fletcher recorded two tackles on Tuesday. Freshman wide receiver Chris McNeill, who suffered a slight concussion late in the fall’s first scrimmage last Friday, did not play in Tuesday’s scrimmage. Freshman linebacker Devyn Harris, who sprained a knee in the first scrimmage, also didn’t participate on Tuesday. There were no new injuries to report after Tuesday’s scrimmage.

Wyoming’s offense was penalized six times for 55 yards. The defense had only two penalties called against it for 11 yards.

There are two remaining scrimmages planned for the Cowboys this fall. Those two scrimmages will be Saturday at 10 a.m. and Aug. 26 at 3:30 p.m. Both are scheduled for War Memorial Stadium. Wyoming will return to practice on Wednesday with an 8:45 a.m. practice scheduled.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Offense: Lot of yards, but far from perfect

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming senior tight end Orlando Arnold races down the field on a 24-yard touchdown reception Friday in the first scrimmage of the fall at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson

Dropped passes and turnovers.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen inherited those dirty words when he took over from Joe Glenn after last season.

Even after an impressive first scrimmage offensively on Friday, Christensen said they are a ways from washing their hands of those miscues.

“I’m not going to be pleased until we stop turning the football over,” Christensen said. “The bottom line is, if you turn the football over, you are not going to have a very good chance of winning. We need to work on that.”

Despite 420 yards passing and 395 yards rushing, the Cowboys turned the ball over four times with two interceptions and two fumbles.

“Obviously, we had a couple of fumbles by a young guy. There were a couple of interceptions that you can’t have, so we need to eliminate turnovers,” Christensen said. “I was pleased, though, with the ones and twos and the tempo. I was pleased with how the quarterbacks ran the offense and orchestrated us down the field and scored points. Pleased at this point of time, but certainly have a lot of work to get done.”

Although the Cowboy receivers caught the ball much better on Friday, one or two dropped passes are one or two too many as far as Christensen is concerned.

“We caught the ball better, but we’re still not good enough. We had drops today,” he said. “When you have too many drops, you are consistently going to be stalling the offense. You can’t have drops in this offense. But we’re making progress. We’re better today and hopefully we’re better tomorrow. That’s a challenge for these kids. We’re going to come out (Saturday) morning in full pads and get up a very competitive practice and see if we can do it back-to-back-to-back-to-back."

Speaking of turnovers
The Cowboy defense has a little motto that “it is all about the ball.” With the four turnovers early in the scrimmage, the UW defense showed improvement from last season.

The two fumbles came when the defense stripped freshman running back Alvester Alexander before the whistle was blown.

Wyoming senior defensive tackle Mitch Unrein said they have been working on doing just that in special drills in practice.

“On defense, that’s what we try to stress -- take the ball away, rip it, strip it and then get it back so the offense can score some points,” Unrein said. “All of the drill work is paying off. Each day when we start practice, we do a turnover circuit. It just becomes second nature getting on that ball and scoop it out.”

The Big O
One Cowboy who is looking to make an impact offensively this season is senior tight end Orlando Arnold. The 6-foot-4 and 230-pound athletic Arnold looked the part on Friday, hauling in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Robert Benjamin, outrunning the Wyoming defensive backs the final 20 yards. He caught two passes for 34 yards.

Christensen said that Arnold, who didn't catch a pass last season, has had a strong camp.

“He’s made a number of big catches, taken big hits without coughing up the football,” Christensen said. “He has performed extremely well. I’d say that if there was one guy who was the most improved right now on this football team, it is Orlando Arnold. He’s done a good job so far in camp.”

Scary hit
Late in the scrimmage, freshmen wide receiver Chris McNeill caught a pass over the middle and was spun around and hit hard. Although he hung onto the football, McNeill didn’t get up. He was lifted into an ambulance on a board and taken to Ivinson Memorial Hospital.

Later on Friday, it was determined that McNeill suffered a slight concussion. He had a concussion earlier in fall camp and sat out a couple of days.

“He’s got feeling from head to, so he has no full loss of feeling. It’s precautionary to put him on the board, get him to the hospital and get him some x-rays,” Christensen said after practice, before learning of the concussion. It’s always scary when a kid goes down and doesn’t get back up. He took a big hit and got twisted around a bit and bent his neck, but I think he will be fine. It was a heck of an effort, he caught the football. He’ll be good to go.”

Kicking update
Senior Jake Scott and sophomore Austin McCoy have the “leg up” on the UW kicking duties, with Scott the front runner at placekicker and McCoy in line for the punting duties. Junior Nick Landess has been injured and is not in the running as of now.

“He probably won’t be competing until school starts,” Christensen said of Landess. “He has injuries off and on since spring and he is still not healthy. He won’t be in the competition at this point and time.

McCoy punted four times during the scrimmage for a 42.3-yard average, including a long of 51 yards.

In addition to the one 28-yard field-goal attempt that McCoy made and Scott missed during the scrimmage, each kicker successfully made field goals from 26 and 31 yards prior to the start of the scrimmage. McCoy was also successful from 40 yards prior to the start of the scrimmage, while Scott missed his 40-yard attempt. McCoy’s totals for the day were a perfect 4 of 4 in field goals and 7 of 7 in extra points. Scott was 2 of 4 in field goals and 7 of 7 in extra points.

Depth chart
Christensen said there will definitely be movement in the Wyoming depth chart after Friday’s scrimmage.

“We’ve got 10 practices under our belt and evaluation based on today’s scrimmage and all nine other practices add to it,” he said. “We visit every single day about every single player as a staff personnel wise. There will probably be some shake-up going into tomorrow. We have three more scrimmages, so we’ll continue to bounce things around until we get guys in the right spots.”

Quarterback battle brewing in positive way

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior quarterback Robert Benjamin looks to avoid the rush of defensive tackle Mike Neuhaus in Friday's scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium.

By Richard Anderson

There was a slight admission by first-year Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen Friday that the quarterback albatross of last season was changing face.

And just maybe, the battle at quarterback would be decided by strong play rather than of elimination from poor performances.

That battle appears to be headlined by senior Karsten Sween and junior transfer Robert Benjamin, especially after Benjamin’s spectacular scrimmage in which he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.

“Without looking at film, he (Benjamin) does possess a lot of play-making ability,” Christensen said. “He can do some things, throwing the football and also with his feet. We’ll have to evaluate the film; there is a lot that goes into it.”

Benjamin finished the scrimmage completing 12 of 17 passes for 178 yards, the three TD passes, one long touchdown run and one interception. Sween was outstanding as well, completing 12 of 16 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown.

Both played with the first and second string offenses intermediately. Christensen and his coaching staff will have a better idea of how they both performed after watching film, which they did later on Friday.

“We’ll see who they are playing behind, we’ll see who they are playing against. We’ll evaluate every situation, decision making and all of those things and we’ll see where we are at when we get done with that later today,” Christensen said.

Benjamin showed a strong arm with touch in completing touchdown passes of 55 yards to wide receiver Travis Burkhalter, 24 yards to tight end Orlando Arnold and 25 yards to wide receiver David Leonard. He also sprinted in from 38 yards for a running touchdown.

“I did pretty good, you know,” Benjamin said. “I always expect to do good, so I just tried to come out and do my best. I helped my team, the offense, win the game, and we came out on top.”

Benjamin wasn’t perfect. Senior defensive tackle John Fletcher made sure of that when he leaped high to pick off an early pass from the junior on the line of scrimmage.

“That was just big Fletch making a play. I couldn’t do nothing about that,” he said. Benjamin, however, knows that turning the ball over, whether by fumble or interception, has been a problem for the Cowboys and that has to stop.

“The less turnovers a game, the more that you win,” he said. “We had four today, we have to cut that out.”

Sween wasn’t as spectacular, but he was steady and showed some form that got him into the starting lineup initially as a freshman.

With that said, Christensen said he wasn't ready to name a starter or even list Sween and Benjamin as the top two candidates for the job.

“Really, all four quarterbacks are competing well,” Christensen said. “They (Benjamin and Sween) have a slight edge right now, but Dax is doing some good things out here and Austyn Carta-Samuels is doing a fantastic job also. He throws the ball very well, makes great decisions and knows where to place the ball. He competition is still on.”

That competition has senior defensive tackle Mitch Unrein impressed. After all, he goes up against them all in practice.

“I think every single quarterback is going out there and showing us what they have. Each one of them is doing really well,” Unrein said. “But I think those two (Benjamin and Sween) are in competition for that lead spot. It’s a pretty tight race and we’ll just have to see how fall ball ends.”

Wyoming quarterbacks finished the day completing 25 of 51 passes for 420 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Again, Unrein was impressed and encouraged.

“They put it on the defense. We really don’t like that when they take it to us like that out on the field, but it gives us confidence too, knowing that we are going to be able to put points on the board for us and our defense,” he said. “As long as we go out and do our job, we’ll be fine.”

Did Benjamin, who arrived late this summer after completing his studies at Phoenix College, think he made enough impression Friday and in practice to be considered No. 1.

“I’m not really sure, yet,” Benjamin said. “Coach still has to evaluate the film, and I have many more practices to get better. Hopefully by then, we’ll find out."

The low-key Benjamin added that he just goes out and let’s his ability take care of itself.

“I don’t try to talk to much about it; I just go play,” he said.

First Scrimmage Statistics

University of Wyoming Football
Scrimmage Statistics
Aug. 14, 2009

Player Comp.-Att Yards TD Interceptions Long
# 11 Robert Benjamin, qb 12-17 178 3 1 55
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 12-16 122 1 0 25
# 5 Austyn Carta-Samuels, qb 5-12 66 0 1 26
# 9 Dax Crum, qb 5-5 43 0 0 15
X# 13 Matt Cobb, qb 1-1 11 0 0 11
Totals 35-51 420 4 2 55

Player Receptions Yards TD Long
# 33 David Leonard, wr 6 75 1 25
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 5 41 1 20
# 84 Greg Bolling, wr 4 44 0 19
# 3 Travis Burkhalter, wr 3 63 1 55
# 81 Donate Morgan, wr 2 40 0 26
# 88 Orlando Arnold, te 2 34 1 24
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 2 24 0 18
# 85 Jesson Salyards, te 2 22 0 16
# 2 Chris McNeill, wr 2 11 0 8
# 32 Alvester Alexander, rb 2 8 0 5
# 89 Zach Bolger, wr 1 24 0 24
# 38 Tedder Easton, rb 1 11 0 11
# 1 James Caraway, rb 1 10 0 10
# 25 James Davis, rb 1 7 0 7
# 83 T.J. Smith, te 1 6 0 6
Totals 35 420 4 55

Yards Yards Net
Player Attempts Gained Lost Yards TD Long Fumbles
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 14 119 0 119 1 36 0
# 32 Alvester Alexander, rb 11 91 0 91 0 32 2
# 25 James Davis, rb 9 64 0 64 1 18 0
# 11 Robert Benjamin, qb 9 71 9 62 1 38 1
# 1 James Caraway, rb 11 28 3 25 0 6 0
# 13 Matt Cobb, qb 3 17 0 17 0 6 0
# 9 Dax Crum, qb 3 13 0 13 0 6 0
# 37 Lorne Bridgford, wr 5 16 5 11 0 6 0
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 1 6 0 6 0 6 0
# 30 Duell Petsch, rb 2 4 1 3 0 4 0
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 4 2 8 -6 0 2 0
# 5 Austin Carta-Samuels, qb 1 0 6 -6 0 -6 0
# 38 Tedder Easton, rb 4 7 11 -4 0 3 0
Totals 77 438 43 395 3 38 3

Player Gained TD
# 43 Devyn Harris, lb 54 0 (interception return)
#91 John Fletcher, dt 1 0 (interception return)
Defensive Highlights
QB Passes
Player UT AT TT Sacks TFL Broken Up FF FR Int

# 2 Marcell Gipson, cb 1 1 2 1
# 4 Tashaun Gipson, cb 1 1 2
# 6 Alex Toney, lb 2 4 6 1
# 7 Shamiel Gary, fs 2 0 2
# 8 Brian Hendricks, ilb 1 5 6 1-1
# 9 T.J. Atwater, cb 4 2 6
#12 Tramaine Brown, cb 0 1 1 1
#13 Adam Barry, ilb 2 3 5 1-1 2
#15 Ben Durbin, lb 7 3 10
#16 Kenny Browder, cb 2 0 2 1
#17 Keith Lewis, ss 0 1 1
#18 David James, cb 3 1 4
#19 Jamichael Hall, ss 1 3 4
#20 Trendt Marsom, ilb 0 2 2
#21 Larry Mitchell, fs 2 0 2 1-3
#23 Ghaali Muhammad, ss 5 3 8
#24 Chris Prosinski, fs 2 4 6 1-2.5
#27 Todd Knight, ilb 1 4 5 2-2.5
#29 Luke Ruff, cb 1 1 2
#31 Jeff Roueche, olb 1 3 4 1-1
#34 Matt Birkness, olb 3 4 7 1-4 1-4
#36 Weston Johnson, lb 1 8 9 2-3.5
#37 Matt Barella, olb 0 1 1 1-1
#38 Adam Hirtz, lb 1 0 1
#41 Andrew Merideth, db 0 1 1
#43 Devyn Harris, olb 1 1 2 1-54
#44 Josh Biezuns, olb 2 1 3
#45 Bryson Studnicka, lb 3 1 4

QB Passes
Player UT AT TT Sacks TFL Broken Up FF FR Int

#46 Trevor Shaw, dt 0 1 1
#47 Mike Neuhaus, de 1 1 2
#50 Mike Purcell, dt 2 1 3
#52 Gabe Knapton, ilb 0 3 3
#53 Nick Owen, dl 0 2 2
#55 Corey Orth, de 0 2 2 1-.5
#59 Reece Hall, lb 2 1 3
#85 Mark Willis, dt 1 1 2
#90 Fred Givens, ng 0 1 1 1-.5
#91 John Fletcher, dt 1 0 1 1-1 1-1
#93 Marcus Felker, ng 2 0 2
#94 Max Gustafson, dl 1 4 5 1-6 2-6.5
#95 Patrick Mertens, dl 0 1 1
#97 Alex Stover, ng 0 1 1 1-0
#98 Mitch Unrein, de 3 2 5 2-12 2-12 1 1-0
Totals 62 80 142 4-22 18-40 5 2 2-0 2-55

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cowboys to scrimmage for first time

Richard Anderson photo
The Wyoming Cowboys will scrimmage for the first time on Friday, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

by UW Media Relations

Friday will see the Wyoming Cowboys scrimmage for the first time this fall, with the initial scrimmage consisting of about 150 total plays. Friday morning’s practice will begin at 8:45 a.m. in War Memorial Stadium, with the scrimmage portion of the practice beginning at 9:30 a.m.

“We’ve had really good, intense practices leading up to the first scrimmage,” said Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. “We have gotten a lot of good work done, and the attitude of the team has been very positive. Their enthusiasm level has been high throughout this first week, and I think they’re excited to scrimmage and play some live football.

“We have a ton of guys who we need to get evaluated. Friday we’ll get a chance to see them react under game-like conditions.”

The structure of the scrimmage will pit the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense, No. 2 offense versus the No. 1 defense, No. 3 units on both offense and defense against each other and the No. 4 offense and defense facing off. The No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense may face each other for a few reps in the fifth period of the scrimmage.

Friday’s scrimmage will begin with some special teams work on punts, point-after-touchdowns and field goals and kick coverage in the first period. The second period will see the offense begin on its own two-yard line for six plays -- three plays for the No. 1 offense and three plays for the No. 2 offense. Period three will have each offensive unit begin at its own 25-yard line. Each offensive unit will get 10 plays to try and drive the ball down the field. Period four will begin at the offense’s own 35-yard line. Again each unit will be given 10 plays to drive the ball. In period five, the offensive series will begin at the offense’s 40-yard line. Each offensive unit will again be given 10 plays. Finally in period six, the series will begin on the defense’s side of the field at the 40-yard line, with each offensive unit getting eight plays to move the ball.

Christensen and his staff decided to cancel Thursday afternoon’s practice leading up to Friday’s scrimmage, due to the strong effort they’ve seen from the Cowboys thus far in fall drills.

“We’ve had nine practices thus far, and have not had one bad practice yet,” said Christensen. “Now that’s not to say we’ve been perfect, we still have a lot of hard work ahead, but as a reward to the players we gave them Thursday afternoon off from practice. We’ll still have some meetings, but no afternoon practice.”

The only player who will definitely miss Friday’s scrimmage will be true freshman Spencer Bruce, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery from which he is still recovering.

A unique scoring system will again be utilized in this fall’s scrimmagtes that awards the offense and defense points based on certain plays. The offense will be awarded a normal six points for a touchdown, one point for a point-after-touchdown, two points for a two-point PAT and three points for a field goal. In addition, the offense will be awarded one point for each play of 20+ yards and one point for each first down.

The defense will earn five points each for an interception or a recovered fumble. If they return an interception or fumble recovery for a TD, the defense will receive 12 points. The defense will earn three points for a blocked field goal or by stopping the offense on a fourth-down play on the offense’s side of the 50. Two points will be awarded to the defense for a safety, a quarterback sack, stopping the offense on a fourth-down play on the defense’s side of the 50 or stopping a two-point conversion attempt. Finally one point will be earned by the defense for forcing a punt, forcing a missed field goal, tackling a ball carrier for a loss of yardage, blocking a point-after-touchdown attempt and when holding the offense to a field goal after the offense begins its series in the red-zone (inside the defense’s 20-yard line).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Barry fitting in at linebacker

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming redshirt freshman linebacker Adam Barry gets ready for a snap Monday in practice.

By Richard Anderson

Let’s see … get hit or doing the hitting? It’s looking like an obvious choice these days for redshirt freshman Adam Barry, the former quarterback turned linebacker.

During Monday’s practice that saw the Cowboys put on all of the pads, Barry got a couple of licks in and kind of liked it.

“I’m just glad I am not getting hit anymore and I’m actually going out hitting,” Barry said with a smile.

Third on the depth chart at quarterback coming out of spring drills at quarterback and not even counting two highly touted newcomers coming in with Austyn Carta-Samuels and Robert Benjamin, Barry saw the writing on the wall.

With head coach Dave Christensen describing him as a true football player because of his aggressiveness and physicality, Barry went to the coaching staff suggesting a move to the defensive side of the football.

“I’ve always liked contact. That has always been something that, as a person, even at quarterback, I’ve enjoyed the contact part of it. To actually be able to go out and do it now is pretty cool.”

Now 20 pounds heavier at 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, Barry is fitting in at linebacker.

"It’s fun; I’m having a great time. I just have to keep working,” Barry said. “I have to keep getting that defensive mentality rather than just being a quarterback. I’ve turned into a linebacker, so it has been fun.”

Barry has always like to hit, playing linebacker through his sophomore year of high school. Maybe the biggest adjust is remembering that he is at linebacker and not quarterback.

“You just have to mentally prepare and realize that this is where I am at now and that this is what I want to do,” Barry said. “Everybody else on the first string defense or the second string, is doing a great job, so I am excited to see how our defense is doing this year."

Like many of the Cowboys on Monday, that first good hit or two got his juices flowing.

“I need a couple more to flip that switch. Like I said, I just have to get that quarterback mentality out of me and turn into a linebacker,” Barry said.

Walking off the field late Monday morning, Barry said it was a good day.

“Now we just have to keep getting after everybody each and every day,” he said.

Christensen thought it was a good day as well. After practicing Thursday and Friday without pads, the Cowboys put on the shoulder pads for Saturday and Sunday and did some limited popping.

There was plenty of intensity again on Monday.

The emphasis at the start of full-padded practices was being physical, and several of the drills in Monday’s practice reflected that. A combination of one-on-one blocking and tackling drills were present throughout the practice.

“We want to work on increasing the physicalness of our football team,” Christensen said.
“We’re doing more competitive drills now, and are trying to challenge the players to be more physical and competitive on both sides of the ball. Every one of our live drills, both offense and defense, will be scored to create competition. Obviously, when you’re in full pads you’re hoping to get a very, very physical practice.”

In one of the more competitive of those one-on-one drills, the Cowboy running backs and wide receivers faced off against the linebackers and defensive backs. In that drill, one offensive and one defensive player each laid on their backs with about five yards separating their two helmets. As the whistle blew, each player scrambled to their feet with the offensive player trying to gain five yards and the defensive player trying to stop his opponent from gaining five yards. It came down to the final one-on-one challenge that was won by the offense to give them the victory in that drill.

In the end, it was the defense who won the day. During the final period of practice the No. 1 offensive unit faced the No. 1 defensive unit, No. 2s faced No. 2s and No. 3s faced No. 3s in 11-on-11 competition. With the competition close, Christensen announced to the team that the competition for the day would be decided by whichever unit won the final period. The ball was placed inside the defense’s own 10-yard line for a first and goal situation. After several series, the defense held the offense out of the endzone on the final play of the final series to give the defense the narrow victory in the day’s competition.

“It was up for grabs right down to the end," he said. "It could have gone either way, but from my vantage point on my sideline the defense held them out of the endzone. Some on the other sideline were signaling touchdown, but we don’t have instant replay out here at practice, so the defense got today’s victory.”

In addition to physical play and competitiveness, the installation of the Cowboys’ playbook is
pretty well set, Christensen said.

“We’ll install at a pace at which our players can handle," he said. "Offensively, we felt that we were trying to put a little bit too much in this first weekend, so we backed off a little bit for a day, but we’re back on track now.

“We’ve got a certain amount of our offensive, defensive and special teams’ systems that we need to get installed before each of our scrimmages, so we have set that schedule and will stick to it closely.”

Christensen said that many of the positions are still up in the air and movement on the depth chart won’t really begin until after Friday’s first scrimmage.

“All the kids are working extremely hard,” he said. “We’re evaluating them on a daily basis in drills, but we won’t make any decisions until we start scrimmaging -- and we have four scrimmages scheduled. The only thing I will say at this point is we will probably start moving some of the younger kids into some special teams’ roles.”

Injury Ward
Senior offensive tackle Ryan Otterson suffered a mild concussion in Monday’s practice, which caused him to miss the remainder of drills. Sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks strained a hamstring and was held out of contact drills and sophomore running back James Davis had swelling in a knee, which caused him to miss practice.

Up Next
Tuesday will mark the first day of two-a-day practices for the Cowboys, who are also scheduled for two-a-days on Thursday and Saturday. Each of those three days, practices are scheduled for 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fletcher on the road to recovery

UW senior John Fletcher

By Richard Anderson

It won’t be long for John Fletcher to be back to his old self. Something tells him that the up-tempo practices will take care of that sooner than later.

One word describes the way the senior defnsive tackle feels now after battling back from mononucleosis.

“Sore,” Fletcher said Saturday during the annual Wyoming Fall Media Day.

Fletcher went out early with the illness as Dave Christensen and coaching staff were just beginning to make their mark on the Cowboys during spring drills.

Despite his muscular 6-foot-6, 272-pound frame, Fletcher could only watch and wait to for get his strength back and get back out on the field.

It wasn't until mid June before he felt good enough to get in some consistent workouts.

"I talked to the coaches, and they told me to just be patient,” Fletcher said. “That’s probably one of the biggest problems that I had was coming back and not being able to do what I was used to do."

Of course, even after a month or so of preparation for the season, he is far from being in football shape.

“I only had three practices in the spring, so I am just getting back to the football side of the training,” he said. “It’s a whole lot different than coming out here and working out all summer. It’s been a rough couple of days for me, but I will get the hang of it."

Standing on the sidelines was discouraging for Fletcher this spring, but as the Cowboys approach the season opener against Weber State (Sept. 5), each day will get him closer to game shape.

“The way that we practice is going to make the games easy to play in,” he said. “Our conditioning is going to be tremendous to what it has been. Just being able to go out there and go 100 miles an hour, to the ball, that will be a big plus."

Being on the sideline wasn’t just a physical disability.

“You want to be out there with your guys, especially with the three seniors that we have up front on the d-line; you want to be out there battling with those guys,” he said. “It’s terrible standing on the sidelines.”

At the same time, with the retention of Marty English as defensive coordinator, it’s not like Fletcher has to learn a new defensive system, which he said is difficult to do.

“We can just go out there and play and not have to think about what we have to do," he said. "We can just react. That’s one of the biggest things when you play at this level, knowing when to react to what the other team is giving you.”

Still behind the 8-ball in learning new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery's techniques, Fletcher said that will come along with his conditioning.

“Our d-line coach is teaching us that there is a lot more technique and it is going to help us all out up front,” he said.

After a breakout sophomore season in which he had 10.5 quarterback sacks, Fletcher became a focus of constant double-teaming and had just 4.5 sacks.

Fletcher expects more attention this season, but he is not discouraged.

“They have another thing coming if they think that I am the only one on the defense that needs to be keyed on,” he said. “Mitch Unrein is just as good of an athlete that I am; he’s probably better than I am now just because he practiced in the spring, learning all of the new techniques. He’s going to have some double teams, too, I think.”

After what he went through this spring, Fletcher will be ready.

Fall Media Day Slideshow

Here's a little slideshow for the University of Wyoming Fall Media Day Saturday at the Rochelle Athletics Center and at War Memorial Stadium.

Photos by Richard Anderson

Click Here:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Benjamin looking to catch up with hard work

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior quarterback Robert Benjamin, 11, just gets the pass off under a rush from sophomore linebacker Bryson Studnicka on Friday.

By Richard Anderson

Robert Benjamin learned the hard way.

The first recruit in Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen’s initial class, instead of enrolling at Wyoming last January and then practicing with the Cowboys, Benjamin was left behind in Phoenix trying to catch up with his academics.

Instead of enrolling in summer school at UW and working out with his new teammates, Benjamin was still in Arizona, trying to finish his associate degree.

Instead of attempting to get a leg up on his competition at quarterback, Benjamin was lagging behind.

Benjamin has been in Laramie for a week now and is attempting to make for lost time.

Will his natural ability be enough to convince Christensen and the UW coaching staff that he has what it takes to lead the Cowboy? Despite those obstacles, that remains to be seen.

All Benjamin is focused on now is getting back into the swing of things and being a Cowboy.

“This is where I want to be,” Benjamin said on Friday. “It’s building a family and a winning environment here. I want to be part of it.”

The junior transfer from Phoenix Community College said he can’t worry about behind a little behind. It’s what lies ahead of him that matters the most.

“I just have to come in, work hard in practice and go from there,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin admits now that school is his No. 1 priority. That hadn’t always been the case.

“Don’t slack off in school. Get it taken care of the first time and I won’t have to have the situation that occurred,” Benjamin said, almost soundly like a spokesman for youngsters to get their own education. “If you don’t learn, you won’t see the light. I have to learn, no matter what.”

Christensen said that Benjamin worked “extremely hard,” and had a lot of work to get done academically this summer.

“And he did it,” Christensen said. “He put a lot into it and he is excited to be here.”

Even though he has been at UW for a short time, Benjamin said that he is enjoying himself, especially the weather. The Cowboys practiced at about 65 degrees Friday morning, likely about 30 degrees cooler than the temperate in Phoenix.

“It’s a fun place to be right now,” Benjamin said with a smile. I’m enjoying the weather.”

Benjamin was the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region I Offensive Player of the Year this past season. In addition to being the Region I Offensive Player of the Year, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Benjamin was an Honorable Mention NJCAA All-American. He was one of only eight junior college quarterbacks nationally to earn All-America honors from the NJCAA last season.

Last season, he completed 192 of 355 pass attempts (54.1 percent) for 2,391 yards, 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He also ran for 468 yards, for a total of 2,859 yards of total offense in leading Phoenix College to a No. 12 ranking in the final 2008 NJCAA National Poll.

To take the next step with the Cowboys, Benjamin said that he is just trying to take it day-by-day at practice and let the coaches make the evaluation of his progress in running the UW spread offense.

“The offense is very fun and I have to take it for what it is,” he said.

The Wyoming coaching staff has maintained that he won’t name a starter until just before the season opener against Weber State. Despite his obstacles in getting to Laramie, Benjamin said that all four quarterbacks have an equal shot.

“It’s just a matter of who steps up to the plate and who wants to lead this football team,” he said. “I just have to get back to work.”

Now that he is here, there will be plenty of opportunities for Benjamin to do just that.

The dog days of preseason practices

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming players do a little extra running at the end of Friday's practice.

By Richard Anderson

It was apparent from the first practice six months ago that the Wyoming Cowboys’ workouts under Dave Christensen were no nonsense and at a high pace.

And that was just spring drills.

Two practices into the fall season, there’s no letting up.

The Wyoming coaches put the Cowboys, sans pads, into a quick-paced, two -hour workout Friday morning outside on the practice field south of the War Memorial Fieldhouse.

As if the Cowboys ran enough during that time, they closed things off with a lap drill (by position) of the field that saw the players take at least four laps, with each lap capped off with some sit-ups and a slight rest

It went fairly smooth for those in top shape and not so smooth for others, particularly the offensive linemen who did some extra running after the troops were dismissed.

It was an eye-opener for many.

“If you train hard enough all summer, it should be a breeze,” Christensen said. “Apparently, some guys didn’t do quite what it took to get themselves ready to go. But we have a lot of time and we’ll get them there.”

Christensen almost sounded surprised when asked by the media about the extra running. He said it was just a part of conditioning and their "Winning Edge Program."

Two newcomers, Robert Benjamin and Austyn Carta-Samuels, looked like rabbits leading the quarterback and running backs pack on the first two laps, with veterans Karsten Sween and Dax Crum pacing themselves. In the last couple of laps, the young pups fell back a bit.

“It was a new experience, it was pretty tough on me,” Benjamin said, still trying to catch his breath walking off the field. “It’s just expectations. I have to step up and work hard. I just have to get it taken care of.”

The key now, Christensen said, is to make sure the players understand the speed and tempo of the practices.

“That is first and foremost. We have 47 new players our there. We have a lot of teaching to do in that area,” he said.

The first-year Cowboy coach, though, did said that he was happy for the most part with his returning players.

“They picked up here they left off in the spring in developing those habits,” Christensen said. “I think our defense is doing a good job, particularly our older guys pursuing to the ball. Offensively, we’re still trying to figure out a few things there. But there are signs that we will be OK. Like I said, it is early. Two gosh-darn cloth practices, you won’t find a whole lot out. (Saturday) we’ll put on the shoulder pads and we’ll start to see some things. And a few days after that, we will put (all of) the pads on.”
Although the Cowboys were not donned in pads, Friday was still a pretty physical practice.

“That’s football,” Christensen said. “We have to practice at a certain speed and tempo and we’re going to do that. Our practices should be faster now than when we are in full pads because we are lighter.”

And of course, it is just beginning.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Weather moves Cowboys inside for first practice

Richard Anderson photo
First-year Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen watches over a drill Thursday in the inaugural fall practice in the Indoor Practice Facility.
The Wyoming Cowboys first practice of 2009 fall drills began with a bang -- literally -- a bang of thunder.
Thursday’s practice session, which was originally scheduled for the grass field south of War Memorial Fieldhouse, was forced inside when a rain and lightning storm moved through Laramie just prior to the start of the 3:45 p.m. scheduled practice.

Despite the change of venue, Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said the Cowboys had a good first day.

“The kids had a great tempo today, and it was nice to finally have a full team of players, with everybody healthy,” Christensen said.

Christensen got off to a slow start as UW head coach, as a number of key players miss a good portion of spring drills due to injury, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Thursday’s practice saw the Cowboys practice in helmets but no pads to conform with NCAA rules requiring an acclimation period prior to teams progressing into full-padded practices. The first practice consisted of a combination of fundamental work, broken down by position, as well as some 7-on-7 passing drills, pitting the offense against the defense, and an 11-on-11 session of pre-scripted plays with the offense and defense facing off in the final period of practice.

During that 11-on-11 session, the Cowboy defense came up with two big plays off of turnovers. Senior defensive tackle Mike Neuhaus picked up a fumble and returned it to the endzone, and sophomore cornerback Tashaun Gipson made a spectacular interception.

“It’s exciting to see the defense come up with two turnovers in the first practice,” said Christensen. “We’ve emphasized to our defense that we need them to create more turnovers, and today I thought they did a great job of attacking the football. But on the offensive side, it’s disappointing because that was a problem for this team last year.”

The first week of 2009 fall drills will feature one practice per day. Friday’s and Saturday’s practices will be at 8:45 a.m. Practices are open to the public. Media Day will be held on Saturday from noon to 3:30 p.m.

A “Fan Appreciation Day” will be held Saturday following Media Day from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium. The “Fan Appreciation Day” will give Cowboy fans a chance to come out and meet the players and coaches and get autographs during that hour.

One notable position change that took place in this first week of fall camp was the official move of redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Barry to an inside linebacker spot. Barry was actually a fullback and linebacker up to his sophomore year of high school.

“Adam (Barry) wanted to move to linebacker, and we granted that request,” said Christensen. “He wanted to get an opportunity to compete for playing time at that position, and we wanted to give him that opportunity.”

A total of 59 returning players from 2008, 24 incoming recruits and 22 walkons reported for the first practice, making up Wyoming’s 105-man roster to begin fall camp, which is the maximum number allowed per NCAA rules. An additional five walkons are expected to join the team after school starts on Aug. 24.

When Christensen was asked about junior-college transfer quarterback Robert Benjamin, who participated in his first practice with the Cowboys on Thursday, he had this to say.

“He (Benjamin) does have some athleticism,” said Christensen. “We’ll see how he handles everything when we get in pads. I think all of the quarterbacks did some good things today, and they all did some bad things. The competition is going to be great. It’s very, very early to make any decisions. I think all four kids at that position are competing well, and we’ll know a little bit more about all of them each day.”

The head coach was asked about what kind of timetable he might set for selecting a starting quarterback, and he committed to naming a starter by the Thursday prior to Wyoming’s first game versus Weber State.

In terms of injured players entering the fall, Christensen said that one scholarship player, freshman Spencer Bruce of Gillette, had shoulder surgery this past offseason and will spend his true freshman season rehabilitating the shoulder and practicing on a limited basis.

Only four players, who were on the roster at the end of 2009 spring drills, did not return for fall camp. Senior linebackers Zeb Whipp, from Lander, and Jimmy DeAndrea, from Arvada, Colo., both are physically unable to continue playing football. Whipp underwent back surgery in the spring, and DeAndrea tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee in the first scrimmage last spring resulting in offseason surgery. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kaither Holiway, who walked onto the Cowboy program a year ago from Colorado School of Mines, chose not to return to the team. Matt Sebade, who joined the Cowboys in the spring of 2009 as a walkon tight end from Lander also chose not to return to the team.