Big plays, balanced offense highlight UW spring game
LARAMIE -- Saturday’s Brown and Gold Game featured a great game, with a great fanbase in attendance on a beautiful day at War Memorial Stadium. In the end, the Brown Team won the game 30-17 over the Gold Team in front of an enthusiastic group of fans who enjoyed a sunny day in the upper 50s to low 60s.
Cowboys Conduct Moment of Silence
The Wyoming Cowboys recognized 2021 football signee Tony Evans Jr. with a moment of silence prior to Saturday’s game. Evans had signed a national letter of intent to play football at Wyoming on Feb. 3, 2021. The Lancaster, Texas native was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas on Sunday, April 11.
Quotes From Head Coach Craig Bohl on Saturday’s Brown and Gold Game
“I thought today was great for the Wyoming Cowboy fans,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “It was a chance to celebrate college football and a day to come out to the stadium, enjoy and embrace the sunshine and there was a lot of enthusiasm. Quite frankly, there were some times I would have liked to have gone up there with the students. It seemed like they were having a great time, as well.
“Certainly, there were some good things within the game. There are some things we have to work on, but overall I thought the energy was really good. We’re excited about how the game went, and we’ll start our summer workouts May 24 and get ready for our opening game against Montana State next September.”
When asked to evaluate the play of quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams, Bohl said, “We’re improving. We’ve talked about improving our passing game and the efficiency on some of the shorter stuff needs to improve but I saw some explosive plays in the passing game, which is encouraging. I think we’ve got two quarterbacks who are good players and can be successful in the Mountain West.”
Bohl was asked how he evaluated the play of running back Titus Swen, who had a big day both running the ball (84 rushing yards) and receiving (71 yards). “Titus possesses some excellent skill. You saw his explosiveness. There are things that he has to do to become a complete back, but he’s an emerging back and we’re certainly excited about his play. I thought he had some great plays today.”
The head coach was also asked to comment on true freshman cornerback Zaire Jackson, who is the one member of Wyoming’s 2021 recruiting class who decided to enroll early this past January and begin his college football career immediately. Jackson created two takeaways in Saturday’s Brown and Gold game and scored one touchdown in the game. “It was really encouraging to see,” said Bohl. “Zaire is from Valor Christian down in Denver. He’s still young. Most guys his age are getting ready to go to their senior prom and he’s out here playing in a college football game, so it was good to see him out there.”
Bohl was asked to comment on what he saw Saturday in regard to what he has described as a re-engineered Cowboy offense. “We’re still a work in progress, but we need to be a more explosive offense,” said Bohl. “The term I’ve used many times is re-engineer, but we have to be true to who we are. We’re going to play Cowboy Tough football, but we’ve got to expand (our offense) and be more penetrating. I thought there were some good things with what we did today.”
Finally Bohl was asked how he would grade his team’s performance throughout spring practice and on Saturday, and he replied, “Overall, I was really well pleased with this Spring Game. I thought we made progress during the course of winter conditioning and it showed up this spring. I thought our guys have been competitive and disciplined. Now it’s time to take the next step forward. Overall, I would give this spring a pretty dog gone good grade compared to my 18 years as a head coach. I was pleased.”
First Half of Saturday’s Game
Entering the spring game, much of the attention was focused on what the Wyoming offense would look like after head coach Craig Bohl had spoken throughout spring practice about re-engineering the offense.
Cowboy fans got a good look at the offensive changes from the first snap of the game when the Brown offense came out with an empty backfield and five receivers in the formation. The Brown team took its opening possession and drove 78 yards in 10 plays capped off by a 40-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Sean Chambers to junior running back Xazavian Valladay for the first touchdown of the game. On the drive, Chambers completed 4 of 5 passes for 61 yards. His first pass was a seven-yard completion to redshirt freshman tight end Parker Christensen. Chambers would complete two passes to senior wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt on the drive for 14 yards. Valladay also had three rushing attempts for 13 yards on the opening drive.
On its first possession of the game, the Gold team also put up points, driving 64 yards in 12 plays with redshirt freshman place-kicker Luke Glassock connecting on a 37-yard field goal to make the score 7-3. Redshirt freshman quarterback Levi Williams matched Chambers by also completing 4 of 5 passes on his first drive for 52 yards. The leading receivers for Gold on the opening drive were sophomore wide receivers Ryan Marquez, who caught two passes for 39 yards, and Chance Hofer, who had two receptions for 13 yards. Redshirt freshman running back Jeremy Hollingsworth carried four times for 11 yards on the drive.
The production on offense would continue throughout the game. Chambers concluded the day completing 8 of 13 passes for 61.5 percent, 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Williams completed 10 of 17 passes for 58.8 percent, 132 yards, one TD and one interception.
Brown displayed its rushing attack in its second possession of the first quarter, taking the ball from its own 22-yard line down to the Gold 38 before the drive stalled. Graduate running back Trey Smith carried the ball twice for 16 yards and sophomore running back Titus Swen had two carries for seven yards. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Isaiah Neyor also had one carry for 11 yards on a jet sweep.
The Gold offense showed great efficiency on its second possession, passing for 63 yards and rushing for 19 to generate 82 yards of total offense. Freshman running back Joey Braasch rushed for 19 yards on the drive and quarterback Williams connected with freshman wide receiver Will Pelissier on three passes of 24, five and 34 yards, with the 34-yarder going for a touchdown to give the Gold team a 10-7 lead with 3:03 remaining in the half.
On its final drive of the half, Chambers and his Brown team began its drive at the 21-yard line, but a delay of game penalty placed the ball back at the 16.
On the first play of the drive, Chambers found Swen on a screen pass out of the backfield and Swen took the ball 71 yards down the sideline to the Gold 18-yard line. After runs of four and seven yards by Trey Smith, Chambers connected with freshman wide receiver Joshua Cobbs at the goal line for a seven-yard touchdown pass to put the Brown back in the lead at 14-10, with only 19 seconds remaining in the half.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Williams completed a five-yard pass on first down and ran for four yards on second down as time expired. The halftime score was 14-10 in favor of Brown.
The offensive numbers for the first half were fairly even, with the Brown team running 23 plays and gaining 189 yards and the Gold team running 22 plays for 155 yards.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Chuck Hicks of the Gold Team led all tacklers in the first half with five tackles. Sophomore nose tackle Cole Godbout, redshirt freshman defensive end DeVonne Harris and junior safety Miles Williams each recorded three tackles for the Gold defense. Godbout also was credited with a sack. The Brown defense was led by redshirt freshman cornerback Mathew Posas and freshman linebacker Brady Bohlinger, who each had four tackles in the first half. Freshman safety Buck Coors and freshman defensive end Sabastian Harsh each were credited with three tackles, and Harsh also had a tackle for loss.
The second half began with the Gold Team driving 89 yards in 10 plays led by sophomore quarterback Jayden Clemons, who transferred to Wyoming this spring from the University of Utah.
Clemons was a perfect 3 for 3 in passing for 26 yards on the drive, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Wyatt Wieland to give Gold the lead at 17-14. Clemons also had two rushes for 12 and 34 yards on the drive for a total of 46 rushing yards.
Freshman quarterback Hank Gibbs started the second half for the Brown Team. Gibbs would complete 2 of 4 passes for 20 yards on his first drive -- one on an 11-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Tyrese Grant and a second one for nine yards to running back Smith. Swen would carry the ball three times for 22 yards. Smith added a two-yard carry and the Brown team picked up 15 yards on a late hit by the Gold defense on Swen. Freshman place-kicker John Hoyland would then come in and make a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17.
Turning Point of the Game
With the game tied at 17 and only 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Gold team suffered a high snap on a punt attempt. The ball went through the punter’s hands back near the Gold team’s goal line.
The punter recovered the ball and began to run when true freshman cornerback Zaire Jackson stripped the ball loose from the punter and Jackson spun into the end zone for a touchdown to put Brown ahead 23-17.
The point after touchdown attempt failed.
Williams and his Gold team responded by driving the ball 41 yards down to the Brown 25-yard line on its next possession, but the Brown defense stopped Gold on a fourth and three to get the ball back with a little over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Chambers came back in at quarterback for the Brown team and guided the offense down the field 31 yards to the Gold 44 before he threw his one interception of the day as freshman cornerback Cameron Stone picked off the pass at the Gold 25. That provided Gold another opportunity to try and tie the game or take the lead.
But Jackson would come up with another big play, intercepting Williams at the Brown 45-yard line three plays later. On the very next play, running back Swen burst through the Gold defense and ran for 55 yards, breaking tackles along the way to give Brown a 30-17 lead with only 2:52 remaining and that is how the scoring would end.
The Brown offense ended the day gaining 315 yards on 40 offensive plays, while the Gold offense generated 255 yards of total offense on 56 plays. Brown’s 315 yards broke down to 192 passing yards and 123 rushing yards. Gold threw for 158 yards and ran for 97.
Individually, in addition to Chambers 172 yards on 8 of 13 (.615) passing and two touchdowns for the Brown team, Swen rushed for 84 yards on six carries and scored one TD.
Smith ran for 31 yards on seven attempts, and two-time First Team All-Mountain West running back Valladay carried only three times for 13 yards.
Swen, of course, added a 71-yard reception, and Valladay had one catch for 40 yards. Cobbs had the second TD catch for the Brown team. Chambers connected with eight different receivers on the day.
Williams threw for 132 yards on 10 of 17 (.588) passing and had one TD pass for Gold. Transfer quarterback Clemons led the Gold team in rushing, with 56 yards on four carries. Running backs Braasch and Hollingsworth added 44 and 32 yards rushing for the Gold team. Pelissier ended the day leading both teams in receptions with four and he gained 70 yards on those four catches, with one touchdown. Wieland had three catches for 25 yards and caught the other TD pass for the Gold team.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Hicks and redshirt freshman linebacker Easton Gibbs both ended the day with six tackles to lead the Gold squad. Junior safety Miles Williams made five tackles, including a half tackle for loss. Nose tackle Godbout ended the day with four tackles, 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss for the Gold defense. Cornerback Stone recorded the one takeaway for the Gold team with his interception
The Brown defense was led in tackles by four freshmen -- cornerback Posas and linebacker Bohlinger each were credited with six tackles in the game, while safety Coors and defensive end Harsh each had five tackles.
Cornerback Jackson generated the two takeaways for the Brown defense on his strip fumble for a touchdown and his interception. Posas was also was credited with three pass breakups, and Jackson had one PBU.
Saturday’s Brown and Gold game concluded 2021 spring practice for the Wyoming Cowboys. The Pokes will have a few weeks off before returning on May 24 for summer conditioning.
The 2021 college football season will kick off for Wyoming on Saturday, Sept. 4 when the Cowboys will host Montana State.
* University of Wyoming press release