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Cowboys defense has been giving up an average of 16 points in the first quarter last 3 games


LARAMIE, Wyoming — Sluggish starts on defense have cost Wyoming dearly over the past three weeks.

On Oct. 24, Boise State scored on its first four drives and didn't punt until the second quarter.

On Oct. 30, Utah State opened the game by tallying points on six straight series — and nine of its first 10. The Aggies' lone punt came in the fourth quarter.

And last Saturday, Colorado State scored on its first four drives, not punting until the second quarter.

The result? Three discouraging losses, with UW giving up an average of 16 points in the first quarter alone.

"That's been frustrating," UW coach Craig Bohl said. "... We're going to work really hard defensively on starting faster. We'll do some pin-pointed things in practice that are aimed toward that."

Eleven of Wyoming's 22 players who saw extensive playing time against Colorado State were freshmen.

Some have played since the season opener, and others haven't been relied on until recently, primarily due to injuries like junior linebacker Devin McKenna's ACL tear and junior nose tackle Chase Appleby's MCL tear.

"Some of that is some growing pains that we're going through," Bohl said. "Even though it's late in the (year), you still have those."

UW defensive coordinator Steve Stanard noted that a single mistake on one drive has often proved costly.

Against CSU, the Pokes were on the verge of a three-and-out as the Rams faced third-and-10 on their opening drive. Quarterback Nick Stevens connected with receiver Kivon Cartwright for 9 yards and then gained a first down on a fourth down run.

"Freshman corner didn't read the route right," Stanard said. "We should've been off the field. They were dead in the water with the route they ran. Eliminating those mistakes is how you start fast."

Turnovers haven't helped either, often giving opponents prime field position.

The Rams converted a short field goal to increase their lead to 10-0 and then added another touchdown drive to end the first 15 minutes up 17-0.

UW certainly hopes to avoid a similar start this Saturday against San Diego State.

"I know that first quarter against CSU was tough for us as a team," Stanard said. "We weren't getting ourselves off the field, and we were out there for a lot of snaps that first quarter.

"As you go through this process, you're 1-9 and you've got a bunch of young players, the thing that we've got to continue to work on is making sure they're convinced that they can go out and get it done from the first snap. Sometimes when you're 1-9, there's a little bit of doubt in the back of your mind. Then after a series or two, you realize we can go and take care of these guys."

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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