O-Line Makes Statement in Pokes' First Win

Amidst the gridiron clouds of preseason doubting and questions about inexperience, despite all the talk about Chris Long and Virginia's inexorable defensive dominance, the Cowboys' front five emerged victorious Saturday. In the process, they laid to rest a plethora of off-season concerns.

Relax Cowboys fans. Breathe a sigh of relief Coach Glenn.

The glaring brown and gold question mark that's been permanently affixed to the end of any sentence containing the words "Wyoming" and "offensive line" this off-season was deleted Saturday.

The Pokes' new starters proved they can win the battle in the trenches against just about any defense in the country.

UW quarterback Karsten Sween has never questioned the young unit's ability.

"Everyone was like, ‘How's your offensive line going to do?" but I've had faith in them from day one," Sween said. "I knew they were going to be great."

Wyoming won't likely see a front seven as dominant or intimidating as Virginia's any time soon. After finishing 17th in the nation in total defense last season, the Cavaliers returned every one of their 2006 starting linebackers and linemen. Led by preseason All-American Chris Long—who graces the cover of UVA's media guide with a menacing stare—Virginia boasts all-around talent throughout the unit. Defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald is nearly as dominating as Long and capitalizes on the attention the All-American commands. At linebacker, the Cavs are led by 6-foot, 232-pound junior Jon Copper, who had more tackles than any Wyoming player in 2006. Virginia fans were confident that Long and his teammates would be in the Pokes' backfield all afternoon.

And Wyoming was well aware of Virginia's defensive prowess.

"This is a team we didn't run very good against a year ago," Cowboys head coach Joe Glenn said, "and they have a good defensive line. They're all back."

But all that Virginia talent didn't stop an inexperienced Wyoming offensive line from pushing back the seasoned Cavs during UW's dominating 23-3 victory Saturday. The Cowboys put up 218 total yards on the ground, opening up gaping holes all afternoon on their way to averaging 4.0 yards per carry. By the fourth quarter, it was obvious the Pokes had worn down the Virginia defensive front.

"Virginia's a tough team, and I have to give them credit," said junior running back Devin Moore, who finished with 125 yards rushing and one touchdown. "They fought to the whistle, and that's a good thing. They gave our offensive line hell at the end, and they (the Cowboys) kept going and just pretty much out-fought them."

The defining moment of the afternoon may have been Moore's 49-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach with 6:17 left in the fourth quarter. The fleet-footed junior took his time as the play developed, then shot through a hole up front, shifted gears and sprinted down the sidelines untouched.

"The hole was so huge," Moore said. "The offensive line, I just have to give all the credit to them. The hole was like the sea, I guess. I don't know what to say about it. I just hit it and went."

As for Long, Wyoming sophomore tackle Ryan Otterson kept the big senior in check throughout most of the contest—with some occasional help from the rest of the unit. Long finished with six tackles and one sack and never looked like the dominant player he was billed to be.

"We blocked hard against an All-American," Glenn said. "I didn't see him get to us much, so you really got to hand it to those three new starters up front and the whole offensive line. I'm real proud of them."

"It wasn't just me," Otterson said of his effort against Long. "There was a lot scheming in what we did. He's a great player. I can't take anything away from him because he made me play my best. It was a personal battle that I took to heart, and he gave me everything he had."

Otterson earned the starting spot at left tackle this spring, replacing 2006 senior and current NFL rookie Chase Johnson. The other new editions to the '07 starting unit are Sam Sterner at left guard and Russ Arnold at right guard. The newcomers are aided by veterans Kyle Howard at right tackle and Tim Bond at center.

Despite giving up three sacks in the game, which was only slightly less than the team's sub-par average from a year ago, the front five generally gave Sween enough time to find open receivers in the passing game--enough for the sophomore gunslinger to post a career high in passing yards, anyway. He finished 25-of-34 for 253 yards and a touchdown.

"I had so much time on some plays," he said. "They tried to blitz, but they weren't getting to me. We were getting the ball off, and they just did awesome."

For Glenn and Cowboys fans everywhere, seeing the unit play at such a high level put any concerns about inexperience at the position to bed—hopefully for good.

"Being the question mark of the team doesn't feel good," Howard said. "We come out here against an ACC opponent with a very good defensive line, and I think we played real well.

"That speaks for itself."

It certainly does.

Cowboy Blitz Top Stories