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August 17, 2012

Cowboys Ready For Second Scrum

This Saturday, the Wyoming Cowboys will conduct their second scrimmage of fall camp in a practice that will begin at 10 a.m. in War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys are expected to scrimmage for 140-160 plays with the goal of getting every player on the No. 1 and No. 2 offensive and defensive units approximately 50 plays each.

In the first fall scrimmage last Saturday, the defense came away with the advantage winning by a score of 70-35, keyed by five forced turnovers. But the offense came on as the scrimmage progressed.

Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith completed 17 of 29 passes (58.6 percent) for 214 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith finished the day completing 12 of his final 17 passes (70.6 percent) for 188 yards and four touchdowns in those final 17 attempts.

The Cowboy coaching staff plans to utilize a very similar scrimmage format for this Saturday's second scrimmage.

"Our second scrimmage will be almost identical to the first one in terms of putting our team in specific situations," said head coach Dave Christensen. "Our goal is to get all of our ones and twos about 50 plays each, so it will be a fairly lengthy scrimmage.

"We're still trying to identify guys who can play for us this year. There is still a lot of competition on the depth chart. We've made moves of players on the depth chart daily this fall. The kids know that there won't be any final depth chart set until after the final scrimmage (on Wednesday, Aug. 22). Saturday will be a very competitive environment, with guys trying to win jobs and guys trying to hold on to jobs."

When asked to evaluate the running back position during fall, Christensen has liked the play of junior Brandon Miller and freshmen backs D.J. May and Shaun Wick.

"Brandon Miller came into fall camp as the starter and he's continued to hold that position and be very consistent," commented Christensen. "I've been very pleased with the two freshmen running backs (Shaun) Wick and (D.J.) May. They'll both play this year. They've proven that they're ready to play for us, and it's going to take two or three running backs to make this offense run effectively. We're going to play those individuals in our program who can help us win no matter what their class."

Christensen announced on Thursday that sophomore running back Kody Sutton has decided to leave the program for personal reasons.

While Sutton is leaving the program the Cowboy special teams received a lift on Thursday with the return of sophomore place-kicker Daniel Sullivan.

Earlier in fall camp, it was thought that Sullivan, who has been dealing with a medical issue, would likely redshirt this season. But his health has improved, and he was cleared by doctors to begin practicing again.

Sullivan was on the practice field for the first time on Thursday participating in kicking drills. If his health continues to improve, he may be available for the Cowboys this season.

Christensen was pleased with a number of areas of his team's development in the first scrimmage, but he is looking forward to seeing sharper and improved play this week after a good week of practice.

"I thought there were positive things that happened on both sides of the ball in last Saturday's scrimmage," said Christensen. "Obviously, there were numerous corrections that needed to be made this week after watching the tape of the scrimmage, and I think we've done that this week. We've practiced at a much higher level this week. I was disappointed last week in our penalties. I thought we had way too many penalties. I have been pleased with the physicalness of where we've been as a football team all fall."

After being held out of contact drills during last spring practice, sophomore QB Smith has been impressive throughout fall camp.

"Brett (Smith) of course missed all the contact part of spring practice, but he's had time to get plenty of reps this fall," added Christensen. "He's taken all the reps with the No. 1 offense. He's throwing the ball very well, and he's back to 100 percent."

One of the leading performers for the defense in the first scrimmage was redshirt freshman linebacker Zack Berg, who had two interceptions last Saturday.

Other defenders who've impressed Christensen during fall camp are senior defensive linemen Kurt Taufa'asau and Mike Purcell, senior linebacker Korey Jones and senior defensive backs Luke Ruff and Luke Anderson.

"Zack (Berg) showed throughout spring ball and again this fall that he has a talent for coming up with turnovers," commented Christensen. "He's been picking things up well, and we look for him to continue to get better with each additional practice.

"From a defensive standpoint, we're looking to be a little more stout against some two-back schemes of our opponents. I think our defensive line has been playing well. Our linebackers are coming along, and I feel good about our secondary. The key for us is we have to stay healthy.

"Kurt Taufa'asau has had a phenomenal camp. He and Mike Purcell I think will be as good as any two interior defensive linemen in the conference this year.

"Korey (Jones) played really well the other day. He's having a nice camp, and is doing a really good job at linebacker.

"In the secondary, Luke Ruff continues to do a good job back there, and Luke Anderson is having a nice camp. He (Anderson) has really improved from the spring. He gives us great speed in the secondary, so if he does the right things and does it within the scheme of things he can be an impact player for us."

The Cowboys kickoff the season in a little over two weeks when they travel to Austin to play Texas.





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