There’s something different about rivalry games — the tackles are bigger, the hatred runs deeper and the trash talk is louder. Records are thrown out and no one cares who you’ve played or what you’ve done this season. It’s all about this one game.
There’s one record that CSU can’t ignore. The Rams haven’t beaten Wyoming in four years and no one on the Rams’ current roster has touched the Bronze Boot trophy that is given each year to the winner of the annual Border War.
The Cowboys came to Fort Collins in 2009 and beat the Rams 17-16, taking the Bronze Boot back to Laramie where it has resided ever since.
“It’s frustrating, angering, all of the above,” said CSU defensive back Shaq Bell. “We’re just going to use that as more motivation to get it back in our house.”
In 1899 the Rams and the Cowboys met on the gridiron for the first time. As the second oldest rivalry this side of the Mississippi, the two schools will meet for the 105th time on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo. The Rams own a 55-44-5 record vs. the Cowboys as CSU does not count the first game in their records which was a win by forfeit.
Since the inauguration of the trophy in 1968, a bronzed boot that was worn in Vietnam by former CSU ROTC assistant professor Captain Dan Romero, Wyoming has gone 24-21 against CSU. The Border War remains one of the most important games of the year between the two teams.
“I know the history of it, in fact I know the history of it very, very well,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said. “Probably the first thing that was brought to my attention when I came here was the importance of this football game.”
Christensen is in his fifth season with the Cowboys and has yet to suffer a loss to CSU.
As much as fans and players detest the University of Colorado, the rivalry with Wyoming has been the most frustrating for the players in recent years.
“The one that annoys me a little bit more is this one because we haven’t had that boot yet,” said offensive lineman Brandon Haynes. “We definitely want to get that back.”
The increased trash talk also adds fuel to the fire for both teams.
“There’s always some trash talk in this game and I think that’s just a part of the rivalry,” said Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. “(It’s) so intense and both teams really dislike each other.”
Smith has dominated the Rams in the past couple of years. Last year he torched the CSU defense for 235 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 Cowboy victory.
This season Smith has passed for 1,854 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. Smith is an explosive player and when he isn’t using his arm to burn opposing defenses, he uses his feet to create monster plays. He has rushed for 420 yards and three touchdowns through six games and is the second leading rusher for the Cowboys.
The Rams have struggled this season containing explosive playmakers and as a result, head coach Jim McElwain said Smith is probably “licking his chops” waiting to play CSU.
But the Rams aren’t intimidated. In fact, some can’t wait for the challenge of facing one of the top players in the Mountain West Conference.
“I know for myself I want them to throw it. I haven’t been getting a lot of action so I speak for the whole secondary and I know they want the ball thrown at them because that’s a chance for us to make a play as well,” Bell said. “We’re not afraid that they’re going to throw deep — we’re hoping they do.”
Saturday at 12 p.m. MT the Rams will have the chance, the final chance for the seniors, to bring the boot back to Fort Collins.
“This ought to be a lot of fun and we should look at it that way,” McElwain said. “It means so much to so many people and we get the opportunity to go and get that boot. You should want to be a part of that.”
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @KatieLOK.