The Wyoming Cowboy wrap their 2014 spring with their 15th and final practice on a pleasant day in Laramie with its Annual Brown and Gold game on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. The Brown Team, which was lead by the #1 defense, captured a 21-14 victory over the Gold Team, featuring the #1 offense.
Head coach Craig Bohl first spring game with Wyoming went with the set-up of having the #1 offense and defense face each other and then the #2's follow.
This was the first chance for the Cowboy faithful to see the new look Cowboys. The offense is moving away from a spread attack to a West Coast offense and the defense scheme is moving away from the 3-4 back to the 4-3. The fans were treated to a offense that showed a lot more power-running and a defense that showed they were Cowboy Tough for the first time in a few years.
Offensively each quarterback had their moments, even with the quarterbacks completing there first 9 passes of the scrimmage but it was the running game that showed the most promise. Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen had plenty of weapons to work with this spring and that showed on Saturday.
Junior running back Shaun Wick led the way for the Gold Team with 48 yards rushing on 10 carries and sophomore Oscar Nevermann led the Brown Team with 54 yards rushing on 12 carries. Redshirt freshman Josh Tapscott also pitched in 36 yards rushing on 6 carries for the Brown and sophomore Omar Stover had 40 yards rushing on 16 carries for the Gold. Sophomore D.J. May missed the spring game with a injury.
Wyoming is blessed to have a deep, young and talented running back group but on the flip side the quarterbacks are still a work in progress. The quarterback battle is a fluid situation and will move into the fall. With that said, there were some very bright moments for the signal callers. The group as a whole look to take a even bigger jump come fall with a better grasp of the offense and more reps.
Sophomore Tom Thornton led the Brown Team with 117 yards on 7-9 passing and 2 touchdowns through the air. Freshman Aaron Young threw for 66 yards on 3-8 passing and no touchdowns also for the Brown. The Gold Team was led by senior Colby Kirkegaard who threw for 85 yards on 6-9 passing and no touchdowns. Senior Sam Stratton also had a solid day with 58 yards on 5-10 passing and no touchdowns but he also contributed 57 yards rushing on 16 carries and 1 touchdown on the ground. Stratton brings a running element to the mix that more closely resembles Brett Smith than Kirkegaard.
Three receivers showed well Saturday with the Brown Team seeing both sophomore Trent Sewell who had 85 yards receiving on 3 receptions and 1 touchdown and senior Trey Norman who had 53 yards receiving on 2 receptions. The Gold Team was led in the receiving category by senior Jalen Claiborne who had 75 yards receiving on 5 receptions. The new coaching staff has also shown they like to get their play makers the ball as many ways as possible with them bringing the end around reverse into the mix with the trio of Claiborne, Norman and sophomore Tanner Gentry. One of Wyoming's other big receiving targets in senior wide receiver Dominic Rufran missed the spring game with a injury.
As a whole offensively the Cowboys will enter the season with a lot of options to move the football but in the end it is up to the quarterbacks to get the ball to the outside weapons and to protect the football at all costs. The offensive line is also a work in progress with some new faces in the mix but also adjusting to a new blocking scheme. Coach Bohl made mention about the offensive lines progress.
"We like where we're at, but we've got a little ways to come there," said Bohl. "Our defensive front is good, but they're certainly not ready for the NFL. I think we need to take a measured look at that. There are too many sacks for us, and we've got to improve on that. Our offense is not built for a lot of third down and long situations. We're not a third down and long team. We need to be on the field creating second down and sixes and situations like that."
Defensively the Cowboys brought the heat and the wood on Jonah Field in their new look 4-3 defense directed by defensive coordinator Steve Stanard.
The defensive front showed very well led by junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough who led the Brown Team with 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. Senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi also pitched in 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. The defensive tackles saw the trio of sophomore Uso Olive with 4 tackles, sophomore Chase Appleby with 3 tackles and 1.0 sacks and lastly senior Patrick Mertens 1 tackle that was good for a tackle for loss and a sack.
The linebackers for the Brown Team most definitely showed their worth in the game with senior Devyn Harris leading the way with 12 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior Jordan Stanton had 9 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, junior Malkaam Muhammad pitched in 8 tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks and lastly sophomore Lucas Wacha pitched in 8 tackles on the day.
The Gold Team saw the likes of sophomore Luke Kellum with 7 tackles, sophomore Xavier Lewis 7 tackles and 0.5 tackles for a loss, senior Alex Borgs with 7 tackles and 0.5 tackles for a loss and lastly senior Nehemie Kankolongo with 6 tackles. Both freshman Seth Edeen and junior Siaosi Hala'api'api recorded a tackle for a loss and a sack.
Senior Stuart Williams was the only kicker to attempt a field goal and he missed a 46 yarder in the 3rd quarter for the Brown Team.
Coach Bohl made mention that offense sells tickets but it is the defense that wins championships. "Our style of football has always been such that we're going to leverage our defense. We were pleased with our performance today, but that's not to say we're complacent or completely happy. I think our defensive front is going to fit well with our 4-3 defensive scheme, and we're happy with those guys."
The one knock on the defense at this current moment is the lack of overall depth. The starters are showing well but the depth at some positions are sorely lacking. "There were certainly some positive things I took notice of today," said Bohl. "Defensively, particularly our first team defense, we were pleased. Our defensive front and the pressure they were able to put on our quarterbacks was a real positive. I also saw some good plays by our secondary. That was encouraging. I'm a little bit concerned about our depth on defense, and that was apparent in the course of spring and was apparent today."
Now the coaching staff and team turn their attention to the spring/summer and prepare for the fall. Coach Bohl said, "We've been really pleased with the effort by our players. They're doing everything we've asked of them, and are making great gains in the weight room. We're looking forward to getting started in the fall."
"We're entering into a critical portion of our game," said Bohl. "We made great strides in the weight room this first portion of our preparation. Now we've got to bring it home. They'll spend time with Coach (Zach) Duval and the rest of the strength staff working on nutrition, speed and conditioning. All of those things are really important for our football team, so that is going to be our next step.
"As coaches, I have some national committees that I am serving on, but our assistant coaches will be out Spring recruiting. Recruiting is an ongoing process, and we need to get into as many high schools as we can to continue to upgrade our talent. Our assistant coaches will be gone a good portion of this month and the month of May."
The day ended with the players meeting with fans, family members and the media on the field afterward. Now that the 15 spring practices are completed, the attention is turned to further development and the hope that this falls version of Wyoming Cowboy football is filled with a lot of "Cowboy Tough" play and wins.