Cowboys flash high-tempo offense at annual spring game

Apr. 25—LARAMIE — A brisk cold front wasn't enough to slow down the University of Wyoming's new-look offense Thursday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys hosted their annual Brown and Gold spring game after moving the event from Cheyenne to Laramie because of weather. Despite slow starts from both offenses, the Brown and Gold teams combined for 645 yards of total offense through 54 minutes of action.

"If you look at the play count today, there's 130 plays in that today," first-year head coach Jay Sawvel said. "We've never done that. We've never done that. We really hit the play count at halftime that I was kind of looking for, and that's why we ran the clock the way we did in the second half as much as we did.

"The pace that we're able to play at right now and the pace that everybody is working at, we're really pleased, but now, we flip that chapter and go to the next one. We have to have a great summer and lead into the fall."

The Brown team consisted of UW's first-team offense, while the Gold team was the first-team defense. The game featured two full quarters in the first half, and two 12-minute quarters with a running clock to close out the game.

Newcomers D.J. Jones and Chris Durr were the stars of this year's spring game. Jones, a graduate transfer from North Carolina, racked up 77 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries at running back, including a long of 13.

Durr, a 17-year-old true freshman, hauled in 12 catches for 121 yards to pace all receivers.

"I thought our team did a really good job today," Sawvel said. "(Former coach Craig) Bohl always had a standard, and he'd say for spring games, 'Make it look like football.' Really, by and large, I thought today it looked like football."

After a three-and-out to start the game from the Brown team, the Gold team gave the ball right back after a fumble by tight end Isaac Shoenfeld that was recovered by linebacker Nic Talich.

After another three-and-out from the Brown team, Gold went up 3-0 with a 19-yard field goal from walk-on Erik Sandvik. The Brown team answered with a 10-play, 56-yard drive capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Jones to go up 7-3 with 9 minutes, 47 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Gold team climbed back into the lead on its next drive, storming 75 yards on 10 plays to set up an 8-yard touchdown run by running back Sam Scott. The Brown team put together a solid drive on the ensuing possession, but Jones lost a fumble on a botched exchange with quarterback Evan Svoboda.

Brown had an opportunity to tie the game right before the half, but Cheyenne South graduate Keelan Anderson pushed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide left to keep Gold's lead at 10-7 going into the halftime break.

After a scoreless third quarter, veteran kicker John Hoyland tied the game for the Brown team with a 47-yard field goal. Svoboda came up with the dagger in the final minutes, connecting with redshirt freshman and Thunder Basin graduate Kayden LaFramboise on a 37-yard touchdown pass to seal the 17-10 win for the Brown team.

Svoboda, who's already been named UW's starting quarterback this fall, finished the afternoon 17-of-27 for 204 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Justin Stevenson led the Brown team with five catches for 56 yards, followed by tight end John Michael Gyllenborg with three catches for 40 yards.

Backup quarterback Jayden Clemons led the Gold team under center, finishing 18-of-27 for 174 yards. Third-stringer Kaden Anderson was 14-of-22 for 116 yards and an interception in his first spring game as a Cowboy.

Turnovers and penalties were the biggest driving forces in the slow start for both offenses. The teams combined for three lost fumbles and 11 penalties for 85 yards.

"There were some ebbs and flows, as coach Bohl would say all the time," Svoboda said. "Definitely ups and downs, and we definitely kind of got a slow start going, but we just have to take care of the ball on offense. We can't have the football on the ground so many times, and, obviously, (we need to clean up) the penalties. We can't have penalties hold us back."

The teams combined for 35 first downs, totaling 513 yards through the air and 132 more on the ground. Both offenses displayed a higher tempo — including going no-huddle at times — under first-year offensive coordinator Jay Johnson.

For Svoboda, the change of pace is a welcome one.

"I love it," Svoboda said with a smile. "I think it's going to give us such an edge on other teams, especially at this elevation. Not only do guys have to come up here and struggle to breathe sometimes, but imagine us pushing the tempo and they have to keep up with us.

"I think that's a super big competitive edge that we might have against a lot of teams."

The Cowboys will close out the spring portion of the season with their 15th practice Friday afternoon. The attention then shifts to summer workouts before returning to the field for fall camp in August.

UW will open the season on the road at Arizona State on Aug. 31 in Tempe.

"There's a big expectation, and the big expectation starts with what I expect from everybody," Sawvel said. "I think everybody else expects big things, too.

"... At the end of the day, it flips to tomorrow, and we've got to do something good tomorrow."

Alex Taylor is the assistant editor for WyoSports and covers University of Wyoming athletics. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @alex_m_taylor22.