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Kirkegaard says he will be ready if called

Sep 14, 2012 - The Associated Press

LARAMIE -- If Colby Kirkegaard is called upon, he said he'll be ready.

And if he does, it will be the first start for the University of Wyoming junior backup quarterback.

Kirkegaard took his first snaps of the season late in UW's 34-31 home loss to Toledo on Saturday after sophomore starter Brett Smith was knocked out of the game after a couple of big hits late in the fourth quarter.

Kirkegaard was quarterback when UW scored its last touchdown as senior receiver Chris McNeill took a reverse and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Riley Lange. Kirkegaard threw a two-point conversion pass to Lange, and was under center in the final minutes when UW had a chance for a game-tying or game-winning drive. He finished the game 1-for-3 for zero yards and ran once for minus-1 yard.

Kirkegaard was Smith's backup last season, his first at UW after transferring from Phoenix (Ariz.) Community College. In four games he was 5-for-10 for 37 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

He took all of the Cowboys' snaps during spring drills as Smith recovered from offseason thumb surgery.

Snaps in scrimmages and practice differ greatly from snaps in real games, especially as the starter.

"I've taken a lot of reps and I feel very confident," Kirkegaard said.. "If I'm the guy I will be prepared, and so will the team."

Kirkegaard also has the support from his teammates.

"If Brett isn't back I think we'll be fine," said sophomore receiver Dominic Rufran, who caught three passes for 102 yards and a touchdown against Toledo.

"Colby's been through a lot this spring and studies a lot of film with Brett. I think he'll be ready. We've got to move on to the next player and Colby's the guy. We just need to put our trust in him."

UW coach Dave Christensen also said true freshman Jason Thompson, the third-string quarterback, will have to get ready to play this week if Smith is out. Thompson has not played this season.

UW offense

Wyoming trailed Toledo 17-14 when Brett Smith decided to run. No, this wasn't the play that ended in the sophomore quarterback's head injury.

This was before that, in the second quarter when Wyoming had a third-and-goal from Toledo's 2-yard line.

Smith tried to push forward for a touchdown. But Toledo pushed back. By the time Rockets' defensive end Hank Keighley and defensive back Junior Sylvestre brought Smith to the turf, the Cowboys had lost four yards. They had also lost another chance at a successful third-down conversion. Wyoming kicked a field goal. The play highlights one of the problems Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said his team needs to fix if the Cowboys' 0-2 season is going to turn around. "You can't get off the field on third down, you don't stay on the field when you have the ball on third down, it's tough to win," Christensen said. The Cowboys are two games into their season, so it's hard to call any occurrence a trend. But Wyoming's issues turning third downs into a new set of downs is troubling. Twenty-three times this year, the Cowboys' offense has lined up on third down. Of all those tries, the chains have moved only four times. Wyoming completed one-of-11 third-down conversions against Texas in its season opener. The following week, the Cowboys completed just three-of-12 against Toledo. "To only get three of them, it's disappointing, especially on the third-and-one to third-and-six area," Wyoming offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon said. "To not pick those up, it's lack of execution.

The plays we had in for those situations were all good. We've reviewed that. We've just got to step it up.

In crunch time, crucial situations like third-and-short and in the low red zone, we've got to do our job. We're not good enough to overcome that stuff."

Stalled drives have forced Wyoming to punt seven times in four games. But even more frustrating for Brandon is when his team's failure to convert third downs comes when the offense has already moved the ball deep into opponent's territory."

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