NCF Nation: Dave Christensen

There was a general feeling of cautious optimism when Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was cleared for non-contact participation this past spring. Pretty obvious reason for that. Just a few months before, the general feeling was his career was over because of a pre-existing medical condition that was discovered only after he suffered a concussion against Arizona State.

That pre-existing condition diagnosed in November was termed an injury to an intracranial artery. While the Pac-12 blog isn't a doctor, I think we can all agree that just sounds bad. When team physician David Petron felt he needed to tell Utes fans at the time, "We do not believe it is life-threatening," well, it was fairly obvious the issue was different than a torn something or other.

[+] EnlargeTravis Wilson
AP Photo/Rick BowmerTravis Wilson helped lead the Utes to an upset win against Stanford last season.
So it rates as more than just your run of the mill positive team news that Wilson has been fully cleared by doctors to rejoin the Utes. Whether you root for Utah or not, you have to feel good that a young man will get to resume playing a game he loves. Not too far in the background is the revelation that said intracranial artery has remained stable, which has to be reassuring for Wilson and his family, whatever happened with football.

Yet after we raise our glass to what is important in the grand scheme, we then can get reductive again: Football. What does this mean for the Utes?

For one, it means the Utah offense gets a two-year starter back, a guy who at his best looks like a legitimate Pac-12 quarterback. Recall that last season, after a dreadful game against UCLA, Wilson helped lead the Utes to an upset win against Stanford. At that point in mid-October, Utah was 4-2, those two losses coming in overtime to Oregon State and, despite six interceptions, by seven points to the Bruins, the eventual South Division champion. Though six interceptions put a dent in Wilson's overall numbers, it is notable that his efficiency rating at the time was just four points lower than Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, who ended up second-team All-Pac-12.

When healthy, Wilson has looked like a guy who can make the Utes a legitimate threat in the South Division.

Of course, our using the word "healthy" to describe a Utah quarterback has sent Utes fans scrambling to knock on wood, rub their rabbit's feet or burn incense in front of their Jobu shrine. The last time a Utah quarterback made it through a season without injury was in 2008.

So ... what happened in 2008? Anyone recall? Utah fans might want to remind dismissive Pac-12 fans about that.

Our feeling is that if Wilson is healthy for 12 regular-season games, Utah will return to the postseason this fall.

Wilson's return, however, is not without intrigue. Just a few paragraphs down in the news release from the school announcing Wilson's clean bill of health, it said, Wilson "will enter fall camp No. 1 on the depth chart, although he must beat out five other scholarship QBs to regain his starting job."

Hmm.

It is also curious that those five quarterbacks were listed in a news release about Wilson's medical clearance:
Battling Wilson for the starting job when fall camp opens on Aug. 4 will be Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson, redshirt freshman Conner Manning and junior Adam Schulz, along with redshirt freshman Brandon Cox and true freshman Donovan Isom.

Here is a guess that Thompson is the chief reason Utah is conspicuously writing Wilson's name in pencil as the No. 1 quarterback. Though Thompson is mostly an idea -- he did very little for the Sooners -- new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen clearly thinks Thompson has a shot to unseat Wilson. The institutional position -- via news release, no less -- is that this is an earnest competition, and Wilson's present lead is mostly about seniority. With pressure increasing on coach Kyle Whittingham to get Utah back to its winning ways, seniority only means you get the first piece of pizza on Day 1 of preseason camp. Little else.

If Thompson comes in and is decisively better than Wilson, then fine, that is how competitive sports work. You compete and sometimes you lose a competition and get relegated to second string. If Thompson beats out Wilson, then Utes fans should assume before the opener that he is pretty good. In that scenario, they also should feel pretty good about finally having a backup quarterback -- Wilson -- who inspires confidence.

But if the competition is close, things could be testy. There is the whole New Guy vs. Veteran deal, for one. More than a few players probably will feel loyal to Wilson. That could divide the locker room. And what if Thompson wins the job but struggles early in the season? How long before Christensen and Whittingham give him the hook, creating a quarterback controversy?

The same, by the way, could be written about Wilson starting slowly.

I know: We are negatively speculating on a day when the news is supposed to be good. Yes, we are Debbie Downers. But Utah's news release brought this up first, not the pure-as-the-driven-snow Pac-12 blog.

This, of course, is ultimately not a day for Utah hand-wringing. It is a day of good news for the quarterback position, and those have hardly been plentiful since the Utes joined the Pac-12.

The love of competition, after all, is probably why Wilson started playing football. Being medically cleared means he can resume that bit of grittiness that makes sports rewarding.
On Thursday, we looked at the Pac-12 North Division. Today, we turn to the South:

ARIZONA

Spring start: March 3
Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  • QB competition: Coach Rich Rodriguez has used first-year starters in his first two seasons at Arizona and will make it three-for-three in 2014. For the most part, things worked with both Matt Scott and more recently B.J. Denker, which should make Wildcats fans optimistic about what should be a wide-open competition.
  • Replacing Carey: As intriguing as the quarterback competition will be, the battle to replace all-time great Ka'Deem Carey at running back could be more important. None of the returning running backs had a carry last year, which led to this comment from Rodriguez: "Now it’s a mystery. That’s going to be one of the positions, like quarterback, that will be kind of open to see if we can get guys to get better."
  • Keep Austin healthy: After tearing his ACL last spring following a breakout season in which he caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, receiver Austin Hill has been given a clean bill of health. Said Rodriguez: "He is still wearing the knee brace but I think it is a little bit more precautionary. He is 100 percent doing everything. He’s even a bit bigger and stronger so he should have a big spring. I know he’s hungry to get out there, too."
ARIZONA STATE

Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • OL changes: Auburn transfer Christian Westerman, a prototypical guard, could be the Sun Devils' best offensive lineman, which makes things interesting considering both starting guards -- Jamil Douglas and Vi Teofilo -- will be back next year. Douglas, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, has worked at tackle in the past and could shift outside to replace first-team All-Pac-12 left tackle Evan Finkenberg.
  • Getting defensive: Coach Todd Graham's college roommate, Keith Patterson, has arrived as the defensive coordinator, but Graham will remain the play-caller and Chris Ball's title will still read co-defensive coordinator. Got all that? New coaching dynamics get sorted out in the spring, too.
  • Looking for replacements: On defense, ASU needs to replace seven starters, highlighted by DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford and CBs Robert Nelson and Alden Darby. If ASU is to build off its impressive 2013 season, those holes need to be filled quickly. They'll benefit from a schedule that starts with Weber State, New Mexico, Colorado and a bye, but after that the Sun Devils have UCLA, USC and Stanford in a span of four weeks.
COLORADO

Spring start: March 3
Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • QB development: Sefo Liufau's development will be interesting if for nothing else than because the jump from Year 1 starter to Year 2 starter is always intriguing with quarterbacks. It's tempting to assume a big statistical jump is coming, but it's not always that simple (see: Hogan, Kevin; Mannion, Sean; Hundley, Brett). Liufau will need to get on the same page with his receivers as they combine to …
  • … Replace Paul Richardson: Look for Nelson Spruce, D.D Goodson and Tyler McCulloch to lead what will be a much more balanced receiving corps following Richardson's early departure for the NFL. Spruce was the Buffs' second-leading receiver last year, but Goodson, going into his second season at receiver, figures to make the biggest jump.
  • Rising expectations: It took MacIntyre three years to turn San Jose State into a winner, but there was a four-win improvement in the second year. He won't match that with the Buffs, but a two-win improvement gets Colorado bowl eligible. Colorado has a chance to match last year's win total (4) in the first five games next year: vs. Colorado State, at Massachusetts, Arizona State, Hawaii, at Cal. In fact, it's probably the internal expectation.
UCLA

Spring start: April 1
Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Manage expectations: The Bruins are in new territory this offseason with expectations through the roof. They'll likely be a preseason top-10 team, which will drum up chatter about a potential national championship run. Likely message from coach Jim Mora: "Tune out the noise."
  • The #Hundley4Heisman campaign: It's a real thing and Mora threw his weight behind it when he tweeted the hashtag on Jan. 26 with a picture of the Heisman Trophy. Get used to reading "Heisman candidate" next to "Brett Hundley" a lot between now and September. At times, it might feel unavoidable.
  • Leading rusher? They're set at quarterback and bring a lot of talent back at both receiver and on the offensive line, but the running back situation isn't as clear. Hundley was the team's leading rusher in 2013, but someone needs to step up to take pressure off him and LB/RB Myles Jack. It's an important spring for both Jordan James and Paul Perkins, who had varying degrees of success last year.
USC

Spring start: March 11
Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Under center? Cody Kessler is back, but coach Steve Sarkisian immediately made it known there would be an open competition for the quarterback job. Max Wittek is no longer around, but Kessler should get a serious challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne. With a new offense to learn, spring will essentially serve as preparation period for the real competition during fall camp.
  • Catch your breath: The most noticeable change in USC during the first game will be how much faster it's playing offensively. Sarkisian installed a high-tempo offense at Washington last year and, pleased with the results, will continue to press the tempo with the Trojans. Goodbye, huddles.
  • Change it up: As is the case when new coaching staffs arrive, there will likely be a higher percentage of position changes than usual and a more fluid depth chart. It's hard to peg exactly where that'll occur with USC, but it'll be worth monitoring throughout the spring.
UTAH

Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Wilson's road back: Travis Wilson is expected to be the Utes' starting quarterback next season, but he'll be limited to non-contact drills during the spring. That's about the best news Wilson could have received following an early November discovery that he had an undiagnosed injury to an intracranial artery -- a condition that threatened his career. Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson will not join the team until after he graduates in May, but he'll be immediately eligible to play.
  • Revolving OC door: Dave Christensen moves in, Dennis Erickson moves over and Brian Johnson moves out. Kyle Whittingham introduced the Utes' seventh offensive coordinator is seven years in early January. Christensen believes in similar philosophies to what the Utes had under Erickson/Johnson, but the terminology will change and the tempo will increase.
  • Pressure building? Utah was used to winning big before it got to the Pac-12 in 2011. Whittingham lost just 20 games in his six full seasons as the school's head coach while a member of the Mountain West Conference. In the three years since, Utah's dropped 19 and qualified for just one bowl. No one should doubt Whittingham's ability as a coach -- he's a good one -- but the jump in competition has been difficult.

1. Boy, does UCLA senior Johnathan Franklin need to learn how to keep national attention. Franklin leads the Pac-12 in rushing with 125.4 yards per game. But Franklin made the mistake of starting out as if he planned to accept the Heisman before Election Day. First two games: 41 carries, 431 yards, 10.5 per carry. Next five games: 89 carries, 447 yards, 5.0 per carry. That’s why Heisman voters can’t remember who he is. Johnathan, never tease the media by starting like that. Then we expect it every week.

2. The Campbell Trophy finalists announced Wednesday by the National Football Foundation is the most star-studded in recent memory, a sign that some very talented players spurned the NFL to return for their senior seasons. USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Alabama center Barrett Jones, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o -- all members of the ESPN preseason All-America team -- lead the group of 15 seniors (10 FBS, five lower divisions), each of whom receives an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.

3. Wyoming suspended head coach Dave Christensen this week for his postgame tirade against Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun on Oct. 13. The 38-second video that captured it (thanks, YouTube) reveals the stress under which college head coaches operate. What Christensen did lacked class and embarrassed the university. But if you see more than that, if you see the guy who lost by a point, the guy who coached his fifth consecutive game decided by a touchdown and lost four of them, you know what I mean.

Big 12 predictions: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
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It's finally here. There will be college football on your television tonight, even though the Big 12 won't get started until Saturday.

I'll be sticking around Dallas to watch games at home Saturday, but on Sunday night I'll be at Floyd Casey Stadium for Baylor's season-opening showdown against SMU.

How'd I do last year? I'm glad you asked. I'll be keeping track of my weekly record as the season goes along.

Without further ado, here's who I've got in Saturday's Big 12 games. Spoiler alert: I have every Big 12 team winning.

Last season: 67-19 (.779)

West Virginia 47, Marshall 14: I sense some nerves on the part of a few West Virginians. No worries, though. The offense will be as good as advertised. The first quarter will be a little rough, but the Mountaineers will take care of business and won't make the fans sweat.

Iowa State 28, Tulsa 24: The Cyclones are a good team, and you always hear they'd do much better in a league that wasn't quite as difficult. How's C-USA sound? Iowa State's the underdog, but it's the better team in this one, even if Tulsa's going to contend for a league title. Steele Jantz will make some more magic happen in the fourth quarter.

Kansas 38, South Dakota State 14: Charlie Weis' debut will go well, and Dayne Crist will look very good as well. Look out for Kale Pick to make a big impact: eight catches and 100 or more receiving yards for the former quarterback in this one.

Kansas State 34, Missouri State 10: Don't expect Kansas State to look very impressive. Bill Snyder is about winning, not blowouts. Still, Missouri State won't be able to stop the running game, and Kansas State will eliminate the mistakes that plagued it in last year's near disaster. Overpowering.

Oklahoma State 172, Savannah State 4: I'm sticking with my offseason prediction on this one. Savannah State just might be the worst four-year college football team in America. The Tigers have two wins in the FCS in the past two years. Both wins have been tight decisions over some school called North Carolina Central. Who gets to play those guys? Rutgers beat them 48-0 in 2011, if you're into that kind of thing.

Texas Tech 55, Northwestern State 20: There will be lots of offense here. Texas Tech's defense still has question marks, but Seth Doege and his receivers do not. On to the next one.

Texas 27, Wyoming 17: The Longhorns have to be careful in this one. A turnover will give Dave Christensen's squad a gift touchdown, but the Longhorns will wear down the Cowboys over 60 minutes with their running game.

Oklahoma 41, UTEP 17: Don't get too wrapped up in the gorgeous views from the Sun Bowl. Mike Price's Miners are in for a long night after the sun goes down. The Sooners won't mess around in the opener, and they'll build a two-touchdown lead by halftime, cruising to an opening win as the Big 12's only team on the road in Week 1.

Baylor 41, SMU 31: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video on this game.

Moore leads MWC awards

December, 6, 2011
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Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, the league announced Tuesday.

The other award recipients:
  • Defensive Player of the Year: TCU linebacker Tank Carder
  • Special Teams Player of the Year: TCU kick retrner Greg McCoy
  • Freshman of the Year: Wyoming QB Brett Smith
  • Coach of the Year: Wyoming coach Dave Christensen

Moore completed 300 of 405 passes for 3,507 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, setting Boise State and Mountain West single-season records in completions and touchdowns. His completion percentage (.741) is also the highest single-season mark in program history.

Carder becomes the fourth player in league history to win back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors, after making 66 tackles and recording two interceptions.

McCoy gives TCU three straight special teams player of the year honors. He leads the MWC and ranks fourth nationally with a kick return average of 31.6, and has two kick returns for touchdowns this season.

Smith set a new Mountain West freshman single-season record with 3,140 yards of total offense, surpassing former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton (2,691 yards in 2007).

Christensen led Wyoming to an 8-4 regular season, improving on a 3-9 season in 2010. The Cowboys' five conference wins also ties a program record.

Here are the first-team selections:

Offense

QB: Kellen Moore, Boise State

WR: Josh Boyce, TCU

WR: Tyler Shoemaker, Boise State

RB: Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State

RB: Doug Martin, Boise State

TE: Gavin Escobar, San Diego State

OL: Kyle Dooley , TCU

OL: Tommie Draheim, San Diego State

OL: Blaize Foltz, TCU

OL: Nate Potter, Boise State

OL: A. J. Wallerstein, Air Force

PK: Parker Herrington, Air Force

PR/KR: Greg McCoy, TCU

Defense

DL: Nordly Capi, Colorado State

DL: Tyrone Crawford, Boise State

DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU

DL: Shea McClellin, Boise State

LB: Miles Burris, San Diego State

LB: Tank Carder, TCU

LB: Carmen Messina, New Mexico

DB: Jon Davis, Air Force

DB: George Iloka, Boise State

DB: Leon McFadden, San Diego State

DB: Larry Parker, San Diego State

P: Brian Stahovich, San Diego State

Andrea Adelson talks with the coach about the expectations for the upcoming season.

Austyn Carta-Samuels leaves Wyoming

January, 11, 2011
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Wyoming starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has decided to transfer after a tumultuous sophomore season that ended in disappointment.

Speculation swirled in December that Carta-Samuels was headed out of Laramie. But coach Dave Christensen said his quarterback was staying. He was under that impression until Monday, when spring classes started and Carta-Samuels informed Christensen he would not return to the team in 2011.

“I had met with Austyn at the end of the season,” Christensen said in a statement issued through the school. “After our meeting, he had indicated he was excited to be a Cowboy, and had already signed up for his spring lifting schedule.

“While it is disappointing to our team and Wyoming fans that Austyn has made this decision, if you are in this business long enough as a coach you face situations where young men choose to transfer. We wish Austyn the best in his future."

In an interview with the Laramie Boomerang, Carta-Samuels declined to say why he decided to leave. He said he would enroll in a junior college and work with a quarterbacks coach and former Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli with the hopes of playing football again.

“After the season, I made a tough decision that it was best for me not to come back, and I promise that it wasn’t for the wrong reasons,” Carta-Samuels told the newspaper.

As a freshman in 2009, Carta-Samuels threw for 1,953 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, leading the Cowboys to a bowl game. But this past season, Wyoming went 3-9 and Carta-Samuels struggled, throwing nine touchdown passes, eight interceptions and 1,702 yards. He also missed a game with a concussion.

His transfer leaves Wyoming thin at quarterback. Nobody on the roster has taken a snap in a collegiate game. The Cowboys have now lost their best offensive and defensive players. Wyoming announced last week that starting strong safety Shamiel Gary has also left the team.

Non-AQ Did you know, Week 5

October, 1, 2010
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Now it is time for a little bit of non-AQ Did You Know?

You probably know that Air Force leads the nation in rushing with an average of 394 yards per game. But did you know the Falcons have finished the season with the NCAA rushing title just once since 1980? It happened in 2002, when they averaged 307.8 yards a game. They have been awfully close, though, finishing second 11 times in the same span.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen and offensive line coach Jim Harding return to a very familiar place when the Cowboys play Toledo on Saturday. Christensen spent nine seasons at Toledo as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator from 1992-2000. During his nine seasons, Toledo won outright or tied for three MAC West titles (1997, ‘98 and 2000) and won the MAC title in 1995, advancing to the Las Vegas Bowl where it defeated Nevada 40-37. Harding was a former offensive tackle for the Rockets from 1997-2000, starting a school record 46 consecutive games. In his senior season, he helped lead Toledo to a road win against Penn State, a 10-1 record and a No. 25 national ranking.

Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel needs 393 yards of total offense to reach 7,000 career yards, becoming just the second quarterback in school history to reach the milestone. He also needs 220 passing yards to crack the top five on the school’s career passing list.

Western Michigan receiver Jordan White is second in the nation in receiving yards with 127.3 a game. He averages nine catches.

Boise State receiver Titus Young has caught a pass in 33 straight games, the third longest active streak in the nation. He leads the country in all-purpose yards with 208 a game.

Nevada is 19-for-19 in the red zone with 14 touchdowns and five field goals this season. The Wolf Pack also have converted 6-of-7 fourth-down attempts.

TCU (27-3) and Utah (27-3) are two of six teams (Alabama 30-2, Florida 30-2, Boise State 29-1, Texas 28-3) with 27 or more wins since the beginning of the 2008 season. The Mountain West is one of two conferences (SEC) to have two teams with 27-plus wins during that span.

San Diego State and Utah are two of 12 teams in the country that have allowed just one sack this season. Both are off this week.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe passed Tulsa's Paul Smith (2005-07) to move into fifth place on the all-time Conference USA passing list in last week’s game against Memphis (10,669). Vittatoe is also fifth on the conference list in touchdown passes (83).

North Texas defeated Florida Atlantic for the first time in school history last week. The Mean Green were 0-6 all-time versus the Owls coming into this game. North Texas starts the Sun Belt season 1-0 for the first time since 2005 when it won a road game at Middle Tennessee 14-7 to begin the conference season.

Five Northern Illinois starters -- running back Chad Spann, guard Joe Pawlak, tight end Jason Schepler, defensive end Jake Coffman and defensive end Sean Progar -- and 11 players on the current depth chart originally arrived to the school as walk-ons.

It appears Saints quarterback Drew Brees lost a bet with receiver Lance Moore when Toledo beat Purdue last week. Moore, who went to Toledo, sent out a Twitter message and picture of Brees wearing a Rockets shirt. Brees played at Purdue. The twitter message said, “Ok so I wasn't gonna do it but I couldn't help myself. Thanks Rockets for beating Purdue! @drewbrees u look good in that bro.”

Terrific note from ESPN Stats & Information: This year marks the first since 1947 that both New Mexico (0-4) and New Mexico State (0-3) have entered the month of October winless. Football seasons started later back then, and New Mexico was 0-1 while New Mexico State was 0-2 entering October. If neither team wins this week, something will have to give next week since they play each other in Las Cruces.

Boise State ready to play again

September, 16, 2010
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For Boise State, the business of getting back to football begins Saturday at Wyoming. But even then, the Broncos will be judged on more than their performance on the field.

[+] EnlargeChris Petersen
AP Photo/Charlie LitchfieldBoise State coach Chris Petersen has to get his team ready for Wyoming following a long layoff.
We have seen it already. No. 3 Boise State was off last week after its 33-30 win against Virginia Tech, but might as well have lost for all the hand-wringing that ensued following the Hokies’ loss to James Madison. What Boise State does in its games is no longer good enough.

People will wonder not only whether they did enough to win (i.e. did they win by enough points), but they will look at their opponents to see how they did, too. When you are an outsider playing in a non-AQ conference, hoping to become the first to play for a BCS national championship, the over-scrutiny goes along with your performance.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen has done his best to preach to his team to avoid listening to what everybody else says about his team.

“We just hear so much outside noise, you can never win,” he said. “It just doesn’t matter. We’re past Virginia Tech, and Virginia Tech has got their own season. We’re just worried about Wyoming.”

Boise State should just worry about Wyoming. Though critics cite the remaining Broncos schedule as a bunch of cupcakes, Virginia Tech proved last week that no win is a given.

The Cowboys have played the Broncos tough in their most recent meetings, and especially the last time the two teams met in Laramie in 2006. Wyoming outgained Boise State and had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game before throwing an interception. The Broncos won 17-10 en route to their undefeated season and eventual win in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Wyoming brings a high-octane spread offense into the game with Austyn Carta-Samuels leading the way. Petersen called the Cowboys “extremely” creative on offense. They certainly have that capability, and could try to pick on Jamar Taylor early the way the Hokies did in the opener.

But they are no doubt facing a very tough defense, one that kept the pressure on Tyrod Taylor all night. This game is also in the middle of a tough stretch for the Cowboys, after going on the road to play Texas last week and losing 34-7.

The difficulty of playing back-to-back teams ranked in the Top 5 is not lost on Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, though he refuses to use that as an excuse. Wyoming's last victory against a Top 25 came on Oct. 26, 2002, when the Cowboys defeated No. 22 ranked Air Force 34-26.

On top of the challenge of playing consecutive ranked teams, Wyoming has had to deal with the tragic death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse, killed in a car accident last week.

Wyoming held a memorial service for Narcisse this past Monday. His family attended and spoke to the team.

“We’re in a better place right now than we were a week ago,” Christensen said. “We’re moving forward. We’re not trying to move on, but we’re in a better place now than we were.”

The atmosphere is sure to be intense on Saturday night. The game is sold out, and Boise State comes into town as the second highest ranked team ever to play in Laramie, behind No. 2 Texas last year.

Wyoming wants to harness that excitement into an upset. Boise State must avoid that at all costs. Now the Broncos face the task of playing again after a week off, and perhaps losing some of the momentum they built in the opener.

“Early in the season, you’re trying to get into a rhythm,” Petersen said. “You start to develop and then you have a bye. It is what it is and we just try to make the best of it.”
A memorial service will be held to honor linebacker Ruben Narcisse on the Wyoming campus Monday afternoon. Narcisse died in a car accident on Monday and three teammates were injured in the wreck as they drove home from Fort Collins, Colo. The service is open to the public.

Wyoming has done its best to maintain normalcy and routine this week as it deals with the tragedy. Coach Dave Christensen said the team will wear decals (see right) with Narcisse's initials on their helmets for the rest of the season, and players will rotate wearing his No. 12 in honor of him. Sophomore strong safety Shamiel Gary will wear the decal first. The team has also kept his locker the way he left it and will keep it that way for the next four years.

The Cowboys travel to play Texas on Saturday.

The Ruben Narcisse Memorial Fund has also been established. All donations will go to the Narcisse family to help defray funeral and other costs associated with his death. Send donations to:

Ruben Narcisse Memorial Fund
Cowboy Joe Club
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3414, 1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

Wyoming works through tragedy

September, 7, 2010
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Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is trying to keep the routine this week as normal as possible as his team tries to work through tragedy.

Early Monday morning, freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident. Freshman cornerback Trey Fox, freshman wide receiver C.J. Morgan and redshirt freshman linebacker J.J. Quinlan were also injured in the wreck near the Colorado-Wyoming state line. Fox apparently fell asleep at the wheel and the pickup they were riding in veered off the road, ejecting three of the players. They were returning from Fort Collins, Colo., where they went to visit some high school friends, hoping to make it back on campus in time for academic mentoring appointments.

"We're going to try to stay as close to normalcy as well can," Christensen said Tuesday on the Mountain West coaches conference call in his first public comments since the tragedy. "We think it will help get the kids get their minds on something different. There’s not a manual on how to do these things. It’s something we’re going to take one day at a time and make the best of an awful situation."

Narcisse came to Wyoming from Miami after initially wanting to play at USF. But he never got a scholarship offer and settled on the Cowboys.

"He spent a lot of time up here in the summer time, a great young man -- had a smile on his face the whole time," Christensen said. "What a huge impact he made on our campus in such a short period. A very promising athlete, a good student, a good person and a guy that’s going to be sorely missed in our program."

Wyoming plans on wearing a decal with his initials on its helmets when it plays Texas on Saturday. Several players have asked to wear his jersey number, 12, and they will be allowed to do so. Counseling has been made available to the athletes, coaches and students on campus as well. But Christensen has no idea what to expect from his team come game time.

"I’d be lying if I said I knew how we were going to react," he said. "I’m hoping this will pull us together, make us stronger. I don’t know; we’ll find out."

Tragedy hits Wyoming

September, 6, 2010
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Tragic news at Wyoming today: freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse was killed and three of his teammates were injured in a car accident early Monday morning.

Freshman cornerback Trey Fox, freshman wide receiver C.J. Morgan and redshirt freshman linebacker J.J. Quinlan were also in the car. The four players were in a Toyota Tundra pickup about 6 miles south of the Wyoming state line when Fox apparently fell asleep at the wheel. The Colorado State Patrol spokesman Sgt. John Hahn said there is no evidence that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash.

Troopers say Morgan was injured seriously, but wasn't in life-threatening condition. Fox had moderate injuries. Both he and Quinn were treated and released.

Counseling support was being offered to team members and coaching staff, as well as Wyoming students.

“We’re reaching out to our entire team and coaching staff,” Coach Dave Christensen said in a statement. “It’s a terrible tragedy, and a terrible loss. Our focus now is helping our team and staff deal with this tragedy and making sure the families of the young men involved know that we are here to support them in any way we can.”

Wyoming plays Texas this Saturday.

Mountain West media days recap

August, 3, 2010
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Let us recap what happened at media days for the non-AQ conferences, starting with the Mountain West.

Preseason favorite: No surprise here. TCU was picked to win its second straight MWC title in the poll of media members last week in Las Vegas. The Horned Frogs received all 31 first-place votes. After going 12-1 last season with an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, TCU returns seven starters on defense and nine on offense and should be a preseason top-10 team.

The rest: Here is the rest of the preseason order:

2. Utah

3. BYU

4. Air Force

5. Wyoming

6. San Diego State

7. Colorado State

8. UNLV

9. New Mexico

Preseason first team: Check out the complete first team here. Preseason players of the year: TCU QB Andy Dalton, offense; TCU LB Tank Carder, defense; TCU KR/PR Jeremy Kerley, special teams.

Seen and heard: TCU coach Gary Patterson addressed the preseason ranking, saying he tries not to pay attention. “We understand we’ve got quite a nonconference schedule ahead of us. If you win those kinds of games, for us to start as high as we’ll start in the preseason rankings gives us the opportunity to reach the top of our pyramid. That’s what our goal is.”

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall on the BYU-Utah rivalry changing once the Utes go to the Pac-10: “There’s no way the rivalry can be quite the same.” Indeed. The game will most likely move to either September or October, rather than serving as the regular-season finale for both.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Boise St. will replace Utah in the conference schedule for 2011.

Speaking of Utah, coach Kyle Whittingham said his team won’t lose focus on the MWC even though this is its last season. “We obviously have change on the horizon, but we’ve got challenges ahead this fall that require all of our attention.”

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun on what it will take to crack TCU, BYU and Utah: “We’re to the point where we have it layered the way you’d like to have it at the Academy. You never stop developing. It’s during January and February. For our guys, it’s finding their own way.”

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen on building off last season: “We harp on consistency on a daily basis. We never look too far ahead. It’s a process of building this program. We’ve laid a really good foundation and now we’ve got to build on that.”

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck on top priorities: “The first priority has got to be improve on defense. Fundamental work. As we move through camp we’ll continue to educate our team on the intricacies of the game.”

New Mexico’s motto for this season: All in. Coach Mike Locksley said his team is buying into his program, and he is very optimistic about the 2010 season.

Top San Diego St. recruit J.J. Whittaker, a defensive back, tore his ACL and is out for the season.

Colorado St. ended the season on a nine-game losing streak, but coach Steve Fairchild has high hopes going into the year. "I'm dumb enough to think we can win a national championship," he said. The Rams are still undecided at quarterback, but a freshman will start for the first time in school history. The job will go to either Pete Thomas or Nico Ranieri.

Spring superlatives: Wyoming

April, 16, 2010
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Wyoming exceeded expectations last season by going to a bowl game and winning that bowl game to finish 7-6. First-year head coach Dave Christensen became the first coach in Wyoming history to win a bowl game in his first season and it netted him a contract extension. However, the second year is always the hardest, especially with raised expectations. But Christensen returns and recruited some good players that figure to make the Cowboys another threat in the Mountain West.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for Wyoming this spring:

Strongest position: Linebacker

Key returners: Junior Josh Beizuns (61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks), junior Brian Hendricks (116 tackles, five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), sophomore Ghaali Muhammad (21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks), junior Gabe Knapton (128 tackles, four tackles for loss, .5 sacks)

Key departures: Weston Johnson (106 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)

The skinny: Wyoming switched to the 4-3 defense this year and moved linebackers Gabe Knapton and Josh Beizuns to the defensive line. Although those were two of the team’s best linebackers, the linebacking corps still has a lot of talent with players such as Ghaali Muhammad and Brian Hendricks. And if there are injuries in the linebacking corps, coach Dave Christensen knows that he has players that can move back into that position and still play a high level of defense.

Weakest position: Receiver

Key returners: Senior David Leonard (77 catches, 705 yards and three touchdowns), senior Zach Bolger (28 catches, 314 yards, one touchdown), senior Travis Burkhalter (21 catches, 213 yards, two touchdowns)

Key departures: Orlando Arnold (17 catches, 172 yards), Greg Bolling (18 catches, 170 yards, one touchdown)

The skinny: Wyoming had one of the worst passing offenses in the country last year and some of it was because Christensen didn’t have the right receivers to play his spread out system and some of it was consistency. This season, the Cowboys figure to be better with the addition of junior college transfers DeJay Lester and Mazi Ogbonna, who have both impressed during spring drills and will likely be starters in the fall. If the Cowboys can have a more consistent passing attack, they could be a legitimate threat in the Mountain West.
Wyoming announced Tuesday that it was extending the contract of coach Dave Christensen an extra season so that his contract ends on Dec. 31, 2013.

That was a smart move by Wyoming.

In just one season, Christensen transformed the mentality of the team and the fanbase. He became the first Wyoming head coach to win a bowl game in his first season and just the second Wyoming head coach to make a bowl game in his first year (Paul Roach, 1987).
“In his first year, coach Christensen did an outstanding job of returning Wyoming football to a competitive position in the Mountain West Conference,” Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman said in a statement. “He led our football program to a winning record and a New Mexico Bowl victory, and it was evident by the large number of fans at the bowl game that he has reenergized our fan base.
“We are excited about the future of Cowboy football and the leadership that coach Christensen has provided, and we are pleased to announce this extension of his contract.”


Make no mistake that Christensen’s 7-6 season with Cowboys did not go unnoticed nationally and one more bowl berth might make him a candidate for some of the open positions available after next season. But you never know how that second year might go (see Steve Fairchild at Colorado State), which is why Wyoming’s decision to add a year to Christensen’s contract is good all around. It gives both Christensen and the school some security depending on next year’s outcome and the extension shows the type of commitment Christensen can sell while recruiting.

Christensen does have high hopes for the 2010 season. With Austyn Carta-Samuels, the reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year, returning, and several junior college transfers to help on both sides of the ball, Christensen expects more from his second season.

“We lost some pretty good players and some leadership in that senior class, but it’s exciting to know that we’ve got so many young guys coming back that can play and contribute, and then we’ll add another class to that," Christensen said in an earlier interview with ESPN.com. "We’re still building. We haven’t arrived by any means. We’ve laid a foundation and now we’ve got to continue to build upon that foundation.”

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