Christensen names Carta-Samuels starting QB for Pokes

2009-09-22T00:40:00Z Christensen names Carta-Samuels starting QB for PokesERIC SCHMOLDT Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
September 22, 2009 12:40 am  • 

LARAMIE - Tate Forcier has led the Michigan Wolverines back into the top 25.

Matt Barkley had USC in the top five until he suffered an injury and the Trojans suffered an upset.

Wyoming might not be worried about national rankings, but it will become the fifth program - Rutgers starts Tom Savage and Army starts Trent Steelman - in the country to put the success of its football program in the hands of a true freshman.

UW coach Dave Christensen announced Monday that Austyn Carta-Samuels will take over as the Cowboys' starting quarterback on Saturday against UNLV and the Pokes will put an end to the quarterback rotation used in their first three games.

"Austyn's going to be our starter and we don't have a rotation planned this week," Christensen said during his weekly meeting with the media. "He did some good things with his feet, getting out of the pocket ... when pressure was coming. He scrambled to make plays. He knows where to go with the ball in our scheme, has made some good throws.

"We think at this point in time he gives us the best chance."

Junior college transfer Robert Benjamin started the first three games for the Cowboys, but - aside from the Pokes' first offensive drive of the season - never seemed to find a rhythm with UW's new spread offense.

He completed 25 of 56 passes for 209 yards and ran the ball 25 times for 91 yards.

"You just base it on productivity and, right now, Austyn is making more things happen when he's in there," Christensen said. "They've had equal opportunities to compete and see who can get it done."

Carta-Samuels has played in all three games in varying amounts. He took the majority of the reps in the season-opening victory, played just the final quarter against Texas and then led UW's offense for the final three quarters in a 24-0 loss to Colorado on Saturday.

But the San Jose, Calif., native has said all along that part of the reason he came to UW was the opportunity to play a prominent role as a freshman, and it doesn't get any more prominent than starting the Pokes' first Mountain West Conference game.

"This is what I've been working for forever and there's just a lot of opportunity in front of me," Carta-Samuels said. "No mentality change, it's just a lot more smiles and a lot more excitement."

Current UW senior Karsten Sween started seven games as a redshirt freshman, but Carta-Samuels is the first true freshman quarterback to start for UW since Rick Costello in 1974.

That year, Costello, also a California native (LaMirada), set a school record with 21 interceptions.

Carta-Samuels hasn't turned the ball over once, but now he'll be charged with jumpstarting an offense that hasn't scored a touchdown in nearly 10 quarters.

"We're not producing at all, but when he goes in, what the tape says is that he's doing some things that give you a chance," UW offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. "I think the continuity is something we're really excited to see - one guy being the one voice."

Watts to kick

The only other major depth-chart change announced Monday was a change in kickers.

Walk-on Ian Watts, who handled kickoff duties the last two weeks, is now the starter on field goals and extra points.

Sophomore Austin McCoy went 0-for-2 on field goals in the Pokes' shutout loss at Colorado.

Senior kicker Jake Scott, who had fallen off the depth chart last week, will return to his role as starting kicker for kickoffs.

Givens to get more

Whether Fred Givens gets his starting job back or not, his playing time will be increasing.

Givens, who started at noseguard when Alex Stover couldn't make the trip to Boulder because of a groin injury, stopped the Buffaloes on back-to-back plays when they needed just one yard.

He finished with six tackles and now has nine - 1.5 for loss - on the year.

"It was his chance to work his way in, so to speak, and he didn't disappoint," UW defensive coordinator Marty Fletcher said. "He's got himself in a situation where those two will rotate a lot."

Battling the elements

The Cowboys got a rude awakening from the weather, literally and in more ways than one.

A heavy storm rolled through Laramie on Sunday night and early Monday morning, including a hail storm said to have awakened many around UW at about 2 a.m.

The players awoke to temperatures in the 30s, wind chills in the 20s and light snow throughout the day.

"It's stupid weather," freshman safety Shamiel Gary said. "I'm not used to this. I'm just gonna get my long sleeves on and get ready for practice. I've played in weather like this in November, but not in September."

Current forecasts for Saturday are calling for clearer conditions and temperatures in the 60s.

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