It’s the same story as last week for University of Wyoming starting quarterback Brett Smith.
“He’s doubtful right now,” coach Dave Christensen said Monday.
Smith, a sophomore, didn’t play in UW’s 24-22 home loss to Cal Poly because of a head injury suffered the week before against Toledo. Smith is listed third on the depth chart behind junior Colby Kirkegaard and true freshman Jason Thompson.
Smith wasn’t at Monday’s weekly interview session with the media.
But Christensen also didn’t rule Smith out for Saturday’s game at Idaho, nor would he name a starter.
“We’re going to have a possibility of one of three quarterbacks to start this week,” he said. “We’ll announce it at (3:06 p.m.) Saturday.”
Kirkegaard started and played the entire game against Cal Poly. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Gregg Brandon said Kirkegaard graded out at 82 percent. Brandon said he normally likes his quarterbacks in the 90s.
Kirkegaard was 15-for-23 for 123 yards with an interception, which came late in the game and sealed the victory for Cal Poly. He wasn’t sacked, and ran the ball four times for 21 yards.
“I didn’t ask Colby Kirkegaard to win the football game. I asked him not to lose it, and he didn’t,” Brandon said. “We needed to run the ball better and play better overall as a team when you play your backup quarterback. We didn’t get it done.”
“Last Saturday the plan was to run the ball and throw the quick passing game. We didn’t have the quarterback run package in. Based on our running game last week (137 yards), if we threw more downfield, maybe it would have helped him.”
Brandon said he didn’t consider playing Thompson.
“He’s got a stronger arm,” Brandon said. “But as far as knowing to go with the ball every time? He’s not there yet.”
Kirkegaard said if he starts again this week, he’s confident he can handle a more aggressive game plan.
Christensen said three quarterbacks could play this week, but that also means three different game plans.
“I don’t think all three of them are the same package.” he said. “A number of plays are going to be the same, but as far as what we would call with what quarterback it’s going to vary drastically between who is playing.”
Despite its struggles against the run (269.7 yards per game) and opponents making about 48 percent of their third-down conversions, UW is still confident in its defense.
But the first thing to fix is giving up big plays.
Against Cal Poly, UW allowed a 65-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the game, and a 75-yard run on the second that set up another touchdown.
Those two runs accounted for 140 of Cal Poly’s 325 rushing yards in the game, and it scored just one touchdown the rest of the game — on a drive that started at the UW 40-yard line.
“It’s about leverage in the secondary and understanding our assignments up front,” first-year defensive coordinator Chris Tormey said. “Then settling down and playing good solid football the rest of the game.
“I think (the players) see the schemes can work if everyone gets lined up, gets on the same page and understands their assignments and concepts we do.”
Christensen said after UW’s 34-31 home loss to Toledo on Sept. 8 that mental errors were the biggest factors in many of the big plays the Rockets made, including a pair of 35-yard touchdown passes. He said there were a lot fewer mental errors against Cal Poly.
“We’re not satisfied with the way (the defense is) playing,” Christensen said. “Each game there have been times they played to up to our capabilities, and times they haven’t. We’ve addressed those issues with the defensive staff and they’ve addressed it to the players.”
Christensen said junior receiver Robert Herron, junior running back Brandon Miller and senior defensive end Miraldo Michel are doubtful for Saturday.
Senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau is back after missing last week with a wrist injury, but is listed as the backup behind junior Patrick Mertens.
Redshirt freshman right guard Jake Jones left the Cal Poly game with an injury, but was listed as the starter. Christensen expects the same starting five as in the first three games: senior Josh Leonard (left tackle), junior Tyler Strong (left guard), senior Nick Carlson (center), Jones and senior Kyle Magnuson (right tackle).
Sutton in the mix
Sophomore running back Kody Sutton isn’t listed on the depth chart for the fourth consecutive week, but Christensen said Sutton will make the trip to Idaho since Miller is doubtful.
Sutton played in UW’s last six games of 2011 as a true freshman. He left the team for personal reasons briefly during fall camp but later re-joined the squad. Sutton spent the last three weeks practicing on the scout team.
“He’s going to get some work with us this week,” Christensen said. “If he continues to have the right type of work ethic, that increases his chances. He’s performed well (on the scout team). If that continues he has opportunity to continue to climb.”
Two players leave
Christensen said junior receiver T.J. Smith has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, and senior offensive guard Zach Rushing decided to give up football, but is still in school.
Smith played sparingly in two games this season, didn’t catch a pass and was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. Smith caught 10 passes for 183 yards as a true freshman and sophomore, including eight passes for 175 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman in 2010.
Rushing, who transferred last season from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, played in the opener at Texas but was injured last week before the Cal Poly game and didn’t play. Rushing played in all 13 games last season, including four starts.
Tormey played linebacker at Idaho from 1974-77, was an assistant coach there from 1982-83 and the head coach from 1995-99.
“It’s going to be an emotional time for me. I spent 12 years of my life there,” he said. “It’s a special place. But we need a win. We have to stay focused at the task at hand.”
The great indoors
This will be UW’s first game in a domed stadium since 2006 when it lost 40-34 in overtime at Syracuse on Sept. 30, 2006.
Idaho’s Kibbie Dome might be the smallest dome the Cowboys will ever play football in as it seats 16,000.
“It’s a little bit like playing football in a basketball arena,” Tormey said. “It’s smallish. The fans are right on top of you. The lighting is different. It takes a while to get used to that type of atmosphere.”
Brandon said the first recruit he landed when he was an assistant at Weber State in the 1980s was current Idaho coach Robb Akey.
Weber State was Brandon’s job as a college assistant.
Cowboys Game Day
Game: Wyoming (0-3) at Idaho (0-3)
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie