The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: In a game overshadowed by tragedy, the grieving Wyoming Cowboys take on the fifth-ranked Texas Longhorns in a non-conference affair.
On Monday, 19-year-old Wyoming freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse was killed and three teammates were injured in a one-car accident.
Christian Morgan's injuries were serious but seemingly not life-threatening. Trey Fox, who was driving and apparently fell asleep at the wheel, suffered moderate injuries. As for J.J. Quinlan, the extent of his injuries wasn't initially reported.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ruben's family," Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman said. "Our thoughts are also with the students who were involved in the accident and their families as well."
None of the four men saw action in Wyoming's 28-20 season-opening victory over Southern Utah last weekend, but that doesn't lessen the impact of the tragedy.
Texas coach Mack Brown issued a statement to offer his sympathy.
"It's such a sad day to see a life taken so early," Brown said. "Our thoughts go out to Ruben's family, and we pray for them and the families of the injured young men."
Wyoming, a member of the Mountain West Conference, is under the guidance of Dave Christensen, now in his second year as the leader of the program. Last season, Christensen's group was picked to finish last in the MWC, but the group posted a 6-6 mark during the regular season and went on to shock Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. Now Christensen faces his toughest task of all, getting his team mentally prepared to play a football game that suddenly feels rather insignificant.
The Longhorns began the 2010 campaign with a 34-17 victory over Rice and weren't as dominant as many expected. Texas is considered a national title contender, but that seems to be the case every year.
Texas has won all three previous meetings with Wyoming, including a 41-10 romp over the Cowboys last season.
Last season, Wyoming ranked near the bottom of the FBS in scoring, as the club averaged just 18.3 ppg. Sure, the Cowboys did manage 28 points against Southern Utah in the opener, but the level of competition was sub par.
Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 26-of-32 passes for 319 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for the Cowboys. Zach Bolger was the best of the receivers, racking up 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns on five catches. The high-powered passing attack made up for a weak ground game that mustered a mere 36 yards on 25 carries.
"A win is a win", said coach Christensen. "I thought Austyn did a good job of keeping his composure, and I thought our receivers did a good job of getting open."
Defensively, Wyoming permitted 384 yards to Southern Utah and failed to come up with a single takeaway. The Cowboys did not allow many big plays through the air, yielding just 8.8 yards per completion. The run defense certainly has room for improvement, and Texas will undoubtedly pound that ball at the defensive front of Wyoming.
Shamiel Gary and Brian Hendricks both recorded 14 tackles for the Cowboys in the opener, and Marcell Gipson forced a pair of fumbles.
With Colt McCoy now playing in the NFL, Texas has turned the quarterback reins over to Garrett Gilbert. In the national title game a year ago, Gilbert took over for an injured McCoy early in the contest and played fairly well at times. He didn't do anything overly impressive in the opener against Rice, completing 14-of-23 passes for 172 yards, but the young signal-caller was able to avoid mistakes.
"Offensively we stayed pretty simple," said coach Brown. "It's amazing in a first game not to have any fumbles, no interceptions and no sacks. That may be the first time we've ever done that. We're proud of the guys for doing that."
Tre' Newton only rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries, but the Texas tailback reached the end zone three times. The 'Horns finished with 369 total yards and have plenty of room for improvement.
Keenan Robinson returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown for Texas against Rice, and the defense played fairly well in that contest. The Owls were limited to 219 total yards, and one of their two touchdowns came in the final minute of the contest, long after the outcome had been decided. Texas permitted just 88 rushing yards on 42 attempts and were fairly solid against the pass with the exception of a 47-yard touchdown.
Many have wondered whether this weekend's game should be played. Athletics serve as a positive emotional outlet in times of despair, so the best place for the Wyoming players may in fact be on the football field. Unfortunately, they will be dominated by the Longhorns.