Frank Crum doesn’t remember being nervous when he took the field Sept. 21.
The University of Wyoming redshirt freshman was thrust onto the field when junior right tackle Alonzo Velazquez suffered a right knee injury against Tulsa.
“It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to overanalyze it,” Crum said. “I just got out there and did what I had been preparing for. I don’t remember being too nervous about it.”
The 6-foot-7, 300-pounder made his first career start during the Cowboys’ 53-17 victory over UNLV on Sept. 28. UW rushed for 374 yards during that win.
“There are some things we can improve, but the offense put up some good points, and our defense held it down,” Crum said. “They ran the ball behind us a lot, so that showed me that they had confidence in us on that side.”
Crum wasn’t the only new starter on the right side of UW’s offensive line against UNLV. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Arnold started at right guard in place of junior Logan Harris, who suffered a concussion at Tulsa. The start was the fifth of Arnold’s career and his first since suffering a severely sprained ankle during the Cowboys’ 17-14 win over Wofford on Sept. 15, 2018.
“It was nice to hop back into a starting position,” the 6-foot-3, 296-pound Arnold said. “I knew we had prepared pretty well and were ready. We gave it our best, and it showed.”
UW’s success on the ground came, in part, because Arnold and Crum had been preparing to be starters, Arnold said.
“You always have to prepare like you’re the starter because you’re only one injury away from going in,” Arnold said. “If you travel and suit up on the sidelines, you have to be ready to play. I always focus on getting mentally right for the game, just in case I have to play.”
The Cowboys aspire to rush for at least 300 yards every game. They were at 296 when UW inserted its second-stringers. That group went three-and-out on its first drive.
Redshirt freshman Brett Brenton of Casper broke off runs of 34 and 41 yards on the final drive to get the Cowboys to their goal.
“Everyone knew what we needed to get to 300 when we went out for that drive,” Crum said. “We were even more excited than normal when (Brenton) broke those.”
Velazquez returned to practice Wednesday, and should play Oct. 12 at San Diego State. Harris just entered the concussion protocol this week, and may be cleared to face the Aztecs.
If Velazquez and Harris can’t play, the Cowboys are confident in Arnold and Crum.
“They got some meaningful game experience,” UW coach Craig Bohl said. “To play a game like that against a good opponent is going to prove well for us in the future.”
Senior place-kicker Cooper Rothe was 17 for 17 on field goal attempts last season, but is 8 for 12 this season. He also missed a pair of extra-point attempts during the Cowboys’ win over UNLV. The first of those was his first missed extra point in 63 attempts dating back to 2017.
Bohl said the blame for the Cowboys’ kicking struggles doesn’t rest entirely on Rothe’s shoulders, however.
“I’m going to be pointed in what I say,” he said Monday. “(Rothe) is kicking the ball really well, but there are three facets in that. There’s the kicker, there’s the holder, and there’s the snapper. We have some work to do with those three elements.”
Bohl was not at Tuesday’s practice because he was on the road recruiting. He said the Cowboys’ coaches would spend some time recruiting, but also working on fundamentals and building depth.
Because of the number of injuries UW had entering its Mountain West opener against UNLV, Bohl said he would have given up a month’s salary to have his first bye week last week. However, he changed his tune after the Cowboys pasted the Rebels.
“We need to get things done, get active rest, get strong in the weight room, get healed up, work on some fundamentals and build some depth,” he said. “We play in a really competitive conference, so it’s great to have a bye week now, especially since we’re going to go out and play what I think is an excellent San Diego State football team (Oct. 12).”
This is the first of two bye weeks for the Cowboys this season. The second comes the week of Nov. 2. UW returns to action Nov. 9 at Boise State.
“I like the way our schedule breaks up,” Bohl said.