Last weekend's game signaled the second year of head coach Dave Christensen, and expectations were high for a University of Wyoming Cowboys team that had gone 6-6 during a tough schedule, and won the New Mexico Bowl against a tough Fresno State team. Most were expecting a lot of offensive fireworks with the team adding some faster wide receivers to the spread offense, as well as other members of the team better understanding the system. Austyn Carta- Samuels was a highly touted freshman quarterback with an impressive season, and his second year promised to continue and improve his performance at QB. The change from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 was supposed to put a lot more pressure on the quarterback, and to help shore up the run game. The secondary was thought to be deep enough, and talented enough to handle more man on man coverage, which would allow more defenders to put pressure on the offensive line and pack the box.
So how did UW fare against its FCS opponent, Souther Utah? It was a win, but it did not impress most viewers. Austyn actually did a pretty tremendous job, and had a career passing night. He completed 26 of 32 passes for 319 yards, two TD passes, and one interception in the end zone. His performance allowed several sustained drives leading to 28 points on the board. The interception was costly and certainly disappointing in the red zone. The team had two turnovers in total, the other being receiver Mazi Ogbonna fumbling the ball, which lead to a Southern Utah touchdown.
The running game was nearly non-existent. 36 yards on 25 carries is certainly one of the low points of the game. What is interesting about that stat is if all the positive rushing yards were added up, there would be around 86 of them. Unfortunately, rush blocking and protection was fairly poor, and there were a lot of tackles for loss (think 50 yards of losses). This includes three sacks on Carta-Samuels.
The 4-3 saw some success, but also was a bit of a disappointment. Rush defense was not good. SUU gained around 191 yards on the ground, and their quarterback was rarely bothered by the defense. The secondary did their job, and seemed to have a good bead on receivers. Tackling was poor, and this is something that UW needs to work on badly this week.
What was perhaps most troubling was the lack of production in the fourth quarter of the ballgame. The hallmark of last year's team was the never-give-up attitude that netted several wins due to comebacks in the final part of the game. What we saw here was a 10-0 rout of UW by SUU in the fourth quarter. The defense was able to stop SUU enough to preserve the win, but the offense was of little help.
SUU is not a bad FCS team, and is expected to do quite well this year. Brad Sorensen is a transfer student from BYU, and in his first game as a sophomore came out and slung the ball effectively, not to mention handled the offense quite well. The game was a nail biter towards the end, with the ball being batted down at the last second near the end zone at the end of regulation on a Hail Mary. Sorensen was a red-shirt freshman for the BYU football program, but with the current stable of BYU QB's he felt he had a better chance of getting attention elsewhere. It was a very good pickup by SUU, and it wouldn't surprise me if Sorensen were to go to a FBS school this next year.
With programs like Kansas and Ole Miss going down to FCS schools, it is a relief that UW came away with the win. UW did enough to win, but this was certainly a wakeup call for the team. The defensive line and linebackers have a lot of work to do to get ready for Texas this coming weekend.
Texas is focusing on its running game, and considering how poorly UW fared against a FCS school in rushing, it could be a very long day for the defense down in Austin. Add in the rushing issues our offense had, it could very well mean that our defense will be on the field a lot. Hopefully our pass game will be efficient enough to put up some points, and hold onto the ball enough so the defense can recover. I do not think we looked sharp enough in our opener to be given much of a chance of an upset on a still talented (but certainly flat looking this past game) Texas team. We also do not know what the mindset of the team will be this Saturday due to the loss of their friend and teammate Ruben Narcisse.
One of ESPN's "Bold Predictions" for this season was that Wyoming would go down to Austin and stun the Longhorns. It is certainly a bold prediction, especially considering the rather mundane showing UW had this past weekend against a FCS team. If UW is able to quickly shore up the glaring issues they had with this game, acquire a focus and intensity through this week to play for a full four quarters, and if the returning from suspension freshman running back is able to help flesh out the running game, then UW of course has a chance to win. But it needs to be a full four quarters of concentrated effort, with a physical defense stopping the ball, and a methodical and efficient offense moving it. Anything can happen in college football, but the work needs to be put into place for these upsets to occur.