Wyoming improves passing game against Air Force, but players see need for balanced attack


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LARAMIE, Wyoming — There were a lot of skeptics about Wyoming's passing game after its 17-12 season-opening win over Montana on Aug. 30.

The Cowboys threw for just 92 yards, and senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard was intercepted once, lost a fumble and was sacked six times.

But in last week's 17-13 come-from-behind win over Air Force, Kirkegaard was 23 of 37 for 282 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and no sacks.

On the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, Kirkegaard was 6 of 7 for 73 yards. He completed passes to five different receivers, including the game-winning 3-yard touchdown to senior tight end J.D. Krill with 58 seconds to play.

A big key on that drive was UW's production on first down. Three out of five times, the Cowboys gained eight or more yards on first down — all via the pass.

Two of those passes went to sophomore receiver Tanner Gentry. He caught a 25-yarder on the first play of the drive and, later, a 20-yarder down to the Air Force 5-yard line.

He finished with eight catches — one shy of his career best — for a career-high 91 yards.

"It was good to show we can definitely throw the ball," Gentry said. "We have talented wide receivers, and (Kirkegaard) proved he can make plays and make the necessary throws. It was good to show we can have a dynamic offense."

Senior receiver Dominic Rufran recorded his seventh 100-yard receiving game with six catches for a game-high 119 yards. It also was his second 100-yard game against Air Force.

Eight different UW receivers caught at least one pass in the game, but Gentry and Rufran combined for 210 of the 282 yards.

Still, nine different players have caught passes for the Cowboys in two games — five by receivers and two each by running backs and tight ends.

Despite the improved passing game, Air Force's 3-4 defense held UW to 51 yards rushing. The Cowboys will face a similar defensive scheme, but much better overall talent, when it plays at No. 2 Oregon on Saturday.

"They have a front seven with size and explosiveness, and pretty decent skill on the back end," offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. "Their linebackers play exceptionally fast. They are well-coached and know where they need to be."

Kirkegaard said UW must be more balanced offensively Saturday and the rest of the season. But as far as getting ready for the Ducks, he said he does not expect the team's preparations this week to be different than the previous two.

"You can't get off track with that," Kirkegaard said. "We will prepare like we did last week. We know we have to come out and execute at a high level and prepare like we have been."

Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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