On the other sideline: Wyoming ready to go after bye

By Joseph Simmons, Staff Writer

Fresh off a bye week, the Wyoming Cowboys have had an extra week to prepare, rest and get ready for the Utes on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Now they’re eager to get back on the football field.

“(The bye week) gave our boys a chance to get caught up academically, get healed up and get off their feet a bit,” said Wyoming first-year head coach Dave Christensen. “Now we’re looking forward to get out and compete again against a very good Utah team.”

Wyoming (4-3 overall, 2-1 MWC) goes into the game coming off a 10-0 loss Oct. 19 against Air Force. Although the Cowboys fell to the Falcons, the game did see sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks earn Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Hendricks set a Wyoming record in the game, recording 23 tackles.

Hendricks is part of a talented Cowboy defense, which boasts eight players ranked among the nation’s best in various defensive statistical categories. Cowboy linebackers Hendricks and Gabe Knapton and safety Chris Prosinski are ranked third, sixth and 21st in the nation in tackles, respectively.

Even with a strong defensive corps and an extra week of rest, Christensen knows that preparing for Utah’s offense is no easy task.

“(Utah is) fortunate in that they have a lot of playmakers,” Christensen said. “Terrance Cain is a guy that can hurt you in different ways, with his arm or with his speed.”

Many thought that with the loss of running back Matt Asiata the Utah running game would take a step back, but running back Eddie Wide has stepped up to keep it strong, Christensen said.

Offensively, the Cowboys have been stronger since quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels took over as starter. Carta-Samuels enters the game Saturday with a 112.48 quarterback efficiency rating, completing 108 of 189 passes for 1,057 yards on the year, with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Christensen said he has seen the entire Cowboy offense step up since Carta-Samuels took over.

“He’s done a nice job executing the offense and running the offense,” Christensen said. “We needed that one guy on offense that we could all rally around and he’s been that guy.”

Carta-Samuels will look to a talented receiving corps led by wide receiver David Leonard, who leads the Cowboys with 49 receptions for 433 yards.

Carta-Samuels plays a vital role in the Wyoming rushing attack, which also includes balanced roles from running backs Brandon Stewart and Alvester Alexander. Alexander leads the team with 337 yards, but just by 1 yard, with Carta-Samuels recording 336 rushing yards on the year. Stewart has recorded 237 yards on the year, but has the highest per-carry average at 4.9 yards.

The Cowboys’ game plan will be to try and take into account Utah’s numerous defense leaders, but Christensen said planning against the Ute defense is no easy task.

“They got too many good playmakers,” Christensen said. “If you focus on just one or two guys, someone else will step up and make a play. We’ll need to have a great plan put together and execute our offense at a much higher level than two weeks ago.”

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