Colorado State University has been playing football since 1893, and they’ve developed several rivalries in that time, but no rivalry has the history, the meaning or the importance of the Border War with Wyoming.
The Border War officially started in 1899 when CSU defeated the Cowboys in a 13-0 forfeitted game in Fort Collins, and since then the teams have played 113 games that have culminated in a 56-44-5 overall record in favor of CSU. However, in the most recent era of the rivalry which started with the Bronze Boot in 1968, Wyoming has a 24-22 advantage against the Rams.
This Saturday marks the 115th anniversary of the Border War, making it a rivalry that touches three centuries and is by far both teams’ oldest rivalry. With such a history behind the upcoming matchup, CSU head coach Jim McElwain reached out to the best coach in CSU history for some perspective.
“I talked to Sonny (Lubick) today for a long time,” McElwain said. “Just about the meaning of the game and some of the things that he probably did to be successful in something that means so much to so many people, not only your team, but so many people.”
In McElwain’s first two seasons with the Rams he’s had to travel to Wyoming for the Border War. CSU lost the first matchup 45-31, but they blew out the Cowboys last season 52-22 and brought the Bronze Boot trophy back to Fort Collins. Rams senior quarterback Garrett Grayson considers last year’s win over Wyoming to be one of CSU’s most important wins in recent history.
“I look back at the Alabama game and that game (against Wyoming) and those were the two games where I look back and say, ‘You know, those catapulted us in the right direction and gave us some confidence going forward,’” Grayson said. “Winning in the way we did, that was something that was huge for us.”
While the Border War has certainly been a historical event for CSU and Wyoming football, the rivalry also goes beyond football. The Bronze Boot trophy that’s hoisted after every Border War game was not always done so. The boot originally belonged to Capt. Dan Romero, a CSU Army ROTC graduate who wore it in combat in Vietnam from 1966-67.
In 1968, the idea of a Bronze Boot was introduced by CSU Army ROTC Maj. Vic Fernandez, and soon after Romero donated his combat boot, it was bronzed and placed on a wooden base, and it now acts a symbol not just for Wyoming and CSU football but also their respective ROTC battalions. Free safety Kevin Pierre-Louis knows the history of the boot, and he believes it rightfully belongs in CSU.
“We feel like that boot deserves to be at CSU because (its owner) is one of us,” Pierre-Louis said. “It means a lot because I wouldn’t like my stuff being at some other place. I want to take care of it on my own, I want to see it every day.”
With all of the history and excitement surrounding Saturday’s Border War matchup, it can be easy to forget what’s at stake other than winning the Bronze Boot. Senior linebacker Max Morgan doesn’t want to make that mistake.
“It’s a division game and it’s a conference game so that just adds on top of it, but also it’s the next game we’ve got on our schedule,” Morgan said. “Every week’s a big game for us, especially when you get into these Mountain West games. You just always got to be on your A-game.”
Although the Rams are maintaining a high focus going into the game, the players can’t help but admit how excited they’d be to be able to hoist the trophy in front of the Hughes Stadium home crowd.
“I can’t tell you what that feeling would be like,” Grayson said. “It’s going to be very important for us, something we all want to do. To be able to hold that boot up on our field and let the fans celebrate and react to it; that will be something that I’m sure we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.