Sickafoose: Border War rivalry as good as it gets

Quentin Sickafoose

Quentin Sickafoose
Quentin Sickafoose

LARAMIE, Wyo. — In one of the dark corners of the Buckhorn Bar, some brave soul left their mark.

More than a half-hour passed between me walking through the front door of the saloon near the University of Wyoming campus and discovering it. After all, it wasn’t as blatant as the number of mounted deer heads, the signed crossbar from the Cowboys’ 1999 win over BYU that was hanging overhead or even the cracked mirror behind the bar well that looked like it may have been struck by a pool ball.

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But near the back, on the same type of wood side paneling that was used in my grandmother’s house, one person had taken a Sharpie and written “CSU 52-22” and added “10-19-13” beneath it.

It’s probably the only evidence in town left from the 2013 Border War.

A full calendar year has passed, and Wyoming’s loss still remains a tender topic of discussion in Laramie. The die-hard fans continue to have a tough time swallowing the fact that the Bronze Boot now lives 65 miles south down Highway 287, secured across state lines for the first time since 2008.

The rivalry between Colorado State and Wyoming is one of the best out there. Each annual installment is one battle to an ongoing war that will play its 105th matchup since 1899 on Saturday at Hughes Stadium.

On Wednesday, Scott “Scooby” Joseph was watching Game 2 of the World Series at the 3rd Street Bar, where pictures and jerseys of notable former players have homes on the walls. The picture of Joseph’s face has a spot next to what used to be a walk-in safe for the bank that once occupied the building, now used as a liquor closet.

He was more than willing to take a break from watching his San Francisco Giants lose to talk about the second-longest continuously-running rivalry west of the Mississippi River.

“That game was always everything,” said Joseph, who played wide receiver for the Cowboys 1986-87. “CSU was the only thing that mattered. We knew that before we even got here.”

In the first of his two seasons, Joseph and the Cowboys were dealt a 20-15 loss by CSU at Hughes in Dennis Erickson’s only year as coach.

“I remember coming back from Fort Collins thinking how bad that one hurt, and it would until we set the record straight,” Joseph said. “Man, we were fired up that next year.”

The Cowboys returned the favor to the Rams at War Memorial in 1987 by the same score. Nearly 30 years later, that same mindset persists. CSU is currently in the driver’s seat with possession of the Bronze Boot and will likely remain there after this weekend.

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But it won’t keep Wyoming fans from holding hope until the tables turn. That’ll happen to an athletic program in a state without professional sports, or even another four-year college within the nearly 100,000 square miles of land Wyoming covers.

Nowadays, CSU has other rivals in CU and occasionally Air Force if the football season plays that way, but Wyoming fans still treat the Border War like Christmas.

“I gave up my shifts this weekend to go down there for it,” the bartender at Roxie’s said as she switched out an empty bottle of Wild Turkey for a new one. “People take off work for holidays.”

So when Saturday’s sellout crowd filters into Hughes, in the mix will be a number of the people I encountered in Laramie Wednesday night.

For the first time since 2011, the game won’t be played in their house. The odds won’t be in their favor. But none of that will keep them from showing up — which fans on both sides of a great rivalry should appreciate.

Collegian Sports Columnist Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at qsickafoose@collegian.com and on Twitter @QSickafoose.