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Around MWC football: Wyoming appears to have found QB

September 29, 2009

Wyoming appears to have found a quarterback.

On Saturday, in his first career start, true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 24-of-37 pass attempts for 234 yards and three touchdowns to help the Cowboys rally for a 30-27 victory over UNLV.

“He’s a smart kid and a real competitor, which in my mind, just being around some great quarterbacks in the past, that’s the key,” said Wyoming assistant head coach Dan Hammerschmidt, who appeared on Tuesday’s MWC coaches conference call in place of first-year coach Dave Christensen, who was hospitalized Tuesday with kidney stones. “No matter if they can throw or run or whatever else. If you’re smart and you’ve got that competitive spirit, you’ve got a chance to be pretty good, and I think those are his two biggest attributes.

“He does have a good arm. He’s built for the spread offense, I believe. He’s a muscled-up kid that’s done a good job of lifting weights, so he can take a hit. But we were laughing last week a little bit. He’s got a little of that Fran Tarkenton thing to him. … He can get out of trouble better than you can think and keep his eyes down field while he’s on the move.”

UNLV coach Mike Sanford said Carta-Samuels reminded him of former Arizona State and Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. Sanford coached against Plummer both in college and in the pros.

“He’s a special player, and he makes things happen, and I think this guy (Carta-Samuels) did that in our game,” Sanford said. “He scrambled around and made plays. He was kind of not your normal quarterback. He just kind of ran around and made people miss and threw the ball up and guys caught it. That’s all I can say. He played great against us.”

New Mexico’s year goes from bad to worse

New Mexico is 0-4 after a loss to rival New Mexico State last Saturday.

Then, on Monday, it was reported by several outlets that coach Mike Locksley was reprimanded for a fight with an assistant coach that occurred Sept. 20 (a day after Air Force beat the Lobos, 37-13).

According to an Associated Press story, Locksley was issued “a verbal reprimand” with a letter placed in his personnel file.

Locksley, however, said the recent distraction is “old news” for his program.

“We dealt with that last week,” he said of the fight with his assistant. “Though it’s new news to the media, our players have handled it. I don’t think there are any ill effects from the off-the-field distractions of last week. … We’re beyond it as a program."

This is the second off-field distraction for the first-year coach. Last spring, Locksley was accused of sexual harassment, age discrimination and retaliation in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed by a former football administrative assistant.

Locksley said it is “unfair that some people like to piggy-back” the altercation to the harassment charge, which “is working itself through the process.”

“The best thing I know to do is to focus on the football,” Locksley said. “Because when it’s ultimately said and done, the bottom line is I’ve got to find a way to win ball games.” 

Asiata gone for season

Utah senior Matt Asiata, a preseason all-conference selection and the league’s leading rusher, will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in the Utes’ victory over Louisville on Saturday night.

“He brings a lot to the table for our team on a lot of different levels,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of Asiata. “That’s a blow to our team.”

Utah primarily will use junior Eddie Wide in place of the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Asiata. Wide (5-10, 195) does not have Asiata’s power – he relies more on speed and quickness, Whittingham said – and he also cannot carry the ball 25 to 30 times per game like Asiata could.

In addition to Wide, who had 129 yards on 19 carries against Louisville, Utah will use freshman Sausan Shakerin (6-2, 225) and junior Shaky Smithson (5-11, 210), who recently shifted from receiver to running back.

Utah will continue to run its “Asiata Package,” in which the tailback takes a direct shotgun snap from center, though “I suppose we need a new name for that now,” Whittingham said.

Whittingham added that with a bye week to heal, standout senior offensive lineman Zane Beadles (laceration on leg) should be back in the lineup.

Rebels in reverse

Sanford said he thought his team took a step backward last week in its loss to Wyoming and lost a game it could have won.

“I’ve got a really bad taste in my mouth because we did not play this last week like I know we can play,” he said.

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