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April 4, 2012Laramie, Wyo. (April 4, 2012) -- The University of Wyoming football team conducted its first extended scrimmage of spring camp on Wednesday, April 4 in War Memorial Stadium.
The Pokes scrimmaged for 102 plays, lasting one hour and 30 minutes. The defense defeated the offense 72-41, utilizing a special scoring system that awarded both the offense and defense points for specific plays. The No. 1 offense faced the No. 1 defense throughout the scrimmage with the No. 2 offense and defense competing against each other on a beautiful, calm day with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees.
Leading the way for the winning defense was senior linebacker Korey Jones, from Fort Collins, Colo., who recovered one fumble and intercepted one pass on the day to go with three tackles.
Senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa'asau, from Pago Pago, American Samoa, also had an outstanding scrimmage, leading Wyoming with nine tackles, including 2.0 sacks for 13 yards and 3.0 tackles for loss of 16 yards while forcing one fumble.
He was joined up front by senior defensive lineman Ben Durbin, of Gilbert, Iowa, who led the defense with 4.0 tackles for loss. Durbin also had 1.0 sack, five tackles, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.
The leading performers for the offense were receivers Robert Herron, a junior from Los Angeles, and Spencer Bruce, a junior from Gillette, Wyo. Herron had seven receptions for 97 yards and Bruce caught four passes for 90 yards. Bruce also scored on the longest play of the day, a 64-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard of Phoenix, Ariz.
Kirkegaard finished the scrimmage strong after a difficult start. He completed only 9 of his first 22 pass attempts (.409) for 110 yards, with three interceptions and one touchdown pass -- the 64-yarder to Bruce. But after that point, he completed 15 of his next 28 passes (.536) for 189 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half of the scrimmage. For the day, Kirkegaard completed 24 of 50 passes (.480) for 299 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
While the Cowboys had two short scrimmages during portions of the first two weeks of spring drills, Wednesday's was the first lengthy scrimmage. When meeting with media following the scrimmage, head coach Dave Christensen tipped his hat to the defense for their ability to force five turnovers on the day -- three interceptions and two fumbles.
"I'm a head coach, so I have to look at things from both sides," said Christensen. "From a defensive standpoint we emphasize it (forcing turnovers). We talked about it a lot this week -- that it wasn't happening enough. We came out today and reemphasized the importance of takeaways from our defense, so it was exciting to see them get the ball out, get pressure on the quarterback and force bad throws. They (the defense) dominated, and it was very evident if you were out here watching."
Christensen mentioned the early offensive struggles, though noting they picked up play recently.
"The offense had their struggles, but they played well in our last scrimmage. I'm excited with the direction we're going defensively. We're multiple, and the kids are starting to pick up the schemes," said Christensen. "Obviously, offensively we have some things that we've got to get worked out. We're missing some key ingredients on offense that will be back and ready to go full go come fall camp, but we'll continue to make progress there."
Two of those key offensive perfomers who are limited to non-contact drills this spring are: 2011 Mountain West Freshman of the Year Brett Smith (Salem, Ore.), who started all 13 games for the Cowboys at quarterback as a true freshman, and senior wide receiver Chris McNeill (Simi Valley, Calif.), who was a Second Team All-Mountain West selection as a junior.
Christensen was asked about how well the defense seemed to rally to the ball in Wednesday's scrimmage.
"I think the emphasis by our defensive staff and the intensity and great hustle by our defensive players showed," said Christensen. "When I see defensive linemen out on the perimeter making tackles we know our kids are running hard to the ball."
The Cowboys looked to have performed their most physical scrimmage of the Christensen era at Wyoming
"Overall, I thought it was probably the most physical scrimmage that we've had since I've been here," said Christensen. "I think our kids are starting to figure out that you have to be physical, hit people in this game and have courage"
In terms of special teams, Wyoming's first-year punter Tim Gleeson, a freshman from Melbourne, Australia, had an impressive outing. He averaged 51.3 yards on four punts, including two punts over 50 yards -- a 56-yarder and a 58-yard punt for his longest of the day.
Sophomore place-kickers Daniel Sullivan, from Snohomish, Wash., and Stuart Williams, from Nederland, Colo., also performed well. Sullivan has impressed all spring, showing a lot of pop in his kicks.
"Kicking-wise, I thought Daniel (Sullivan) kicked the ball well," said Christensen. "He kicked one (field goal) in a game-winning situation in the end with the rush team coming at him full speed, so I think we're making good progress there. We punted the ball well. We have some things with Tim Gleeson that we have to get lined out from a technique standpoint, but he is certainly making good progress."
The Cowboys will hold one more practice this week on Thursday afternoon, before getting a few days off for the Easter weekend.
"We'll go light tomorrow and spend more time in meetings and watching the film of this scrimmage," added Christensen. "We'll get out in shells tomorrow and get some good work in, then the kids will be on Easter break Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
Senior safety Kenny Browder, from Round Rock, Texas, has picked it up entering his senior season and intercepted a pass for a five yard return.
Christensen was asked about the growth of Browder during the past year.
"Kenny's worked hard in the offseason," said Christensen. "He's playing back at safety now. Luke (Anderson) has been bumped up some and has missed some time and obviously (Luke) Ruff is out this spring. Kenny is definitely going to have the opportunity to contribute next year and help this football team."