Cowboys Are on the Move

Fresh from an upset win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl last season, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen has his Cowboys on the rise. BroncoCountry will preview all 12 Boise State opponents during the 45-Day Countdown. On this, Day 6 of the Countdown, a look at Boise State's second opponent--the Wyoming Cowboys

Coach Dave Christensen took over last season and turned Wyoming into a bowl winner, as the Cowboys finished with a 7-6 record that culminated with a shocking 35-28 win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.  

One of the qualities of a good football team is that they find ways to win.  Last year, Wyoming prevailed in five games with fourth-quarter rallies.   

The drastic improvement in turnover margin is largely responsible for Wyoming's turnaround. The Cowboys were next-to-last in the nation in that department in 2008. Last season, they were 17th nationally. Sixteen starters are back this fall to continue the upward trend. .   

Austyn Carta-Samuels (6-2, 215) was the answer at quarterback that helped to turn the Pokes' fortunes around.  Christensen took a chance with him starting a freshman but now it makes the coach look like a genius.  Carta-Samuels keeps defenses honest as a dual threat.  He passed for 1,953 yards last season and ran for 366, all with a vanilla playbook by design.  Austyn was named as the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year.  

That playbook can now be expanded and the entire team will benefit.  Carta-Samuels was named a co-captain in the spring, indicating that he has earned the trust of those around him.   

Wide receiverDavid Leonard (6-4, 203, Sr.) possesses great hands and he exploded for 77 receptions last season.  He is a go-to receiver that rivals any in the Mountain West.  Wyoming brought junior college receivers Mazi Ogbonna and DeJay Lester into the mix to take pressure off of Leonard.  Zach Bolger (5-10, 185, Sr.), David Tooley (6-5, 203, So.), Travis Burkhalter (6-1, 191) and Chris McNeill (6-1, 175, So.) are others vying for playing time.  

Pass protection must be improved if the Cowboys are to be upwardly mobile.  Nick Carlson (6-4, 290, So.) will be the man in the middle this fall.  Seniors Jack Tennant (6-4, 305) and Sam Sterner (6-4, 302) are the veteran guards while Josh Leonard (6-4, 296, So.) and Clayton Kirven (6-6, 305, Jr.) are expected to start at tackle.  

Coaches want to switch to a 4-3 defensive formation this season from the 3-4 scheme of the past.  Gabe Knapton (6-3, 248, Jr.) and Josh Biezuns (6-2, 247, Jr.) will make the move to defensive end due to the graduation of all four defensive linemen who started last season.  Underclassmen Patrick Mertens (6-5, 269, Fr.) and Ben Durbin (6-3, 250, So.) hope to clog the middle of the line for the Cowboys.  

Middle linebacker Brian Hendricks (6-1, 221, Jr.) is back to lead his group.  Hendricks recorded 23 tackles in a 10-0 loss to Air Force.  Ghaali Muhammad (6-0, 225, So.), who excelled on special teams last fall, will be called upon to slide into one of the vacant linebacker positions.  Devyn Harris (6-3, 225) could start at the strongside position.   

Christensen says "Our back seven is going to be as quick and fast as probably any group in the country."  That is saying a lot but the strength of the Wyoming defense will definitely be the secondary.  Brothers Marcell (5-10, 189, Sr.) and Tashaun Gipson (6-0, 203, Jr.) return this fall at cornerback.   

Free safety Chris Prosinski (6-1, 210) was 10th in the nation with 10.8 tackles per game last year and returns for his senior year.  All Shamiel Gary (6-1, 210) did was earn Freshman All-America honors.  

Placekicker Ian Watts (6-3, 187) was another surprise freshman success story.  He not only got the starting job as a walk-on but won three games with winning kicks.   

Punter Austin McCoy (6-3, 202) is also back and can get the Cowboys out of a deep hole with booming kicks (43.3 average in 2009).  Marcell Gipson will be back on kickoffs and Leonard will handle the punt return duties.   

Wyoming has a rugged schedule in their way.  Not only do they play at defending national runners-up Texas and host Top 5 Boise State but Wyoming must also travel to perennial MWC powers TCU and BYU.  Wyoming also has road games at New Mexico and UNLV that are not "gimmes".  UNLV enticed highly successful Montana coach Bobby Hauck to come to Vegas and the Rebels could be a challenge— Wyoming escaped with a 30-27 win at home last year.  

Meanwhile, Air Force, Utah , San Diego State and Colorado State will visit Laramie , in addition to Southern Utah and the afore-mentioned Boise State .  The Pokes must win at least half of those to earn another postseason date.  

Wyoming will not "sneak up" on anyone this year.  With their success last season, especially their impressive win over Fresno State in the bowl game, everyone is well aware of the talent in Laramie .  The players must take that extra step necessary just to have the same kind of season. 

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