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Wyoming QB Nick Smith ready if Josh Allen can’t play

December 15, 2017

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Nick Smith has the mentality of a backup quarterback down pat. Prepare as if you’re going to play, because you’re always one play away.

But with the status of Josh Allen’s shoulder remaining up in the air for the third straight game, maintaining that mindset would be a challenge for anyone.

“It’s tough, because there’s still a lot of unknown and not knowing what’s going on,” Smith said. “Maybe there will be some more clarity this week, but you never know just kind of with the situation as it is. Kind of taking it the same as the previous weeks.”

In the week after Allen injured his throwing shoulder Nov. 11 at Air Force, head coach Craig Bohl told media there was a chance Allen could return to practice before Wyoming’s home finale against Fresno State. But Allen did not even warm up for that game, much less play in it.

The message surrounding Allen was the same for the regular-season finale, but, while Allen warmed up at San Jose State, he didn’t play. Bohl said Allen would have only played as an emergency replacement.

Now, Allen’s status continues to improve, according to both Bohl and Allen himself, but there remains uncertainty as to whether he will play in the Dec. 22 Potato Bowl. Allen said he wants to play if he’s 100 percent, but he’s not yet there.

In Allen’s place, Smith completed 20-of-32 passes against Fresno State for 231 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. But Wyoming lost that game, eliminating any chance the Pokes could compete for a conference title. Against the Spartans, Smith was 17-of-37 for 171 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown.

“I mean, he’s done his part,” Allen said of Smith. “He’s done a good job. Kind of a few hiccups here against the San Jose (State) Spartans, but against Fresno State, he played as well as anybody would’ve. He completed the ball. He took care of it. He almost won that game in the last 2-minute drive.

“He’s done well. I know it’s not easy for him, for me being in my situation where I don’t know if I’m going to play or not, so he’s still trying to take mental reps with the 1s, but he’s not getting the physical reps. He’s put in a tough spot, but he’s responded well. He’s a tough kid. He’s mature, and I love that guy.”

Should Smith have to play in the bowl game, limiting turnovers is a focus of his, he said.

“I feel like, watching that (San Jose State) game, those two interceptions I wish I could’ve had back and maybe one or two other throws,” Smith told the Casper Star-Tribune. “Other than that, I think we know as the season’s gone on if we can limit our turnovers, our defense is going to give us some chances to get the ball back, and that’s been kind of a big factor. When we turn the ball over, it just makes it harder on ourselves to win games.”

Wyoming’s offense actually gained more yardage in the San Jose State game than it had against any other Football Bowl Subdivision team that season, with 357. But 187 of those yards came on the ground, a season high for the Cowboys’ rushing attack.

“Yardage wise, I think yardage doesn’t always tell you the full story,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t finish drives and the turnovers, I think, were kind of big. I feel like if we at least get some points there before the half, that changes the game. Settling for field goals isn’t what we want, either. It was good to get some more yards, especially in the running game, I think, but for us, yardage isn’t always going to tell the full story. It’s not going to be a key to our success always.”

As for Allen, he took the majority of the first-team snaps Thursday in practice.

“I think he’s making progress,” Bohl said Thursday. “He threw yesterday. From my standpoint, I know he may feel like he’s off a little bit here or there, but it’s pretty minimal. I don’t see him wince with any throws or anything like that, so I’m encouraged with what we’re seeing so far.”

Still, Bohl hasn’t made an official call.

“We’re not there yet,” he said, “but I think his demeanor and stuff and how we’ve been working, that’s our anticipation (that he will play).”

“If the trajectory looks good, then we’re going to continue on this path. If something would present itself that would go to where he’s swimming upstream, then we’d probably make an adjustment.”

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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