CHEYENNE – There’s a different vibe this week than any other during the regular-season slate.
The energy is as electric as the air is crisp this time of year.
Both campuses – separated by some 65 miles along U.S. Highway 287 – are buzzing with hype, anticipation, excitement and angst.
Those from these parts know the importance of this week and what it stands for all too well, no matter what side they represent.
Border War. The longest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
Come 7:30 tonight at War Memorial Stadium, the University of Wyoming and Colorado State will renew their hatred for one another in the annual battle for the Bronze Boot.
The name of the traveling trophy fits the rivalry well. Every year since 1968, the winner of the annual rivalry game has taken home the Bronze Boot, which was worn by Capt. Dan J. Romero – a member of the CSU ROTC – during the Vietnam War.
UW owns a 27-24 advantage in the series since the Bronze Boot was introduced. But the game itself bears more weight than any other game each fall. Tonight will be no different.
WyoSports spoke with UW’s Alijah Halliburton and Austin Conway – both Colorado natives – along with CSU head coach Mike Bobo about what the Border War means to them and their favorite memories, and here are their answers:
Alijah Halliburton (UW senior strong safety, Aurora, Colorado): “That would mean a lot to beat CSU. I was recruited by them a lot. But in the recruiting process, they made me like a second option. And they said they take (junior college) products over me because I was too young. It’s a really big game to me. A little bit personal.”
On his favorite memory: “When we played them in the snow (at War Memorial Stadium). … Just coming back out (of the locker room), and it just completely being a snowed-out game. And it was just a fun experience. It was a grinder and you know, we came out and we got the dub.”
Austin Conway (UW senior receiver, Aurora, Colorado): “I understand what this game means. I understand who wants to win it, the alumni base, you know, the old football players, everybody. I mean, it’s a huge game for us. And I think it’s more important now because I’ve associated myself with this great state (and) great university for the last five years. … It means a lot to me because I am now in Wyoming.”
On his favorite memory: “The last game at Hughes (Stadium). The whole start of that game. They came out in new jerseys and warmed up … then came out in a whole different jersey set. And I was like, ‘OK, these guys came out looking sweet. Let’s go kick their butt.’ And then we ended up doing it (in) an incredible fashion. We handed it to them. … No matter what, the last game at Hughes, we’re going to say we won it. … It felt like our stadium. Our fans packed that game. It felt like a home game, and I’ll never forget that one.”
Mike Bobo (CSU head coach): “Well, I think they hate us. I think there’s no doubt about that. They hate everything about CSU. I want us to go out and play a game and take advantage of our opportunities, is what I want us to do. We’re playing hard. We can have hatred, we can love them. I don’t care. I want to kick their butt, and they want to kick ours. … There’s always teams you dislike as a coach and as a player. I had ‘em as a player, and I have ‘em as a coach. I would say the Wyoming-Colorado State is a ‘we dislike each other’ rivalry.
“And then you have the friendly rivalries somewhat. I’m going to talk about other schools. Georgia-Auburn is kind of a friendly little rivalry – the oldest rivalry in the South. It was competitive, and it’s a hard-nosed football game, and it’s always (a game) to determine whether you’re going to have a chance to win the SEC because it was late in the year after the Florida game. Georgia Tech was a dislike rivalry, a hatred. So, I put Wyoming in that category, if that answers your question.
“It’s going to be a big, big challenge for us going on the road to Laramie. It’ll be the third time that I’ve been there. It’s always an awesome atmosphere, in my opinion. It’s a hostile place to play. There’s no love lost between the two teams. Their fans are in it. They’re very, very energetic, very passionate. Sometimes you like getting on a bus and going somewhere to play someone like that. So, that’s going to be a big challenge for us, and is something that we’re talking about having to execute in a hostile environment. But we’re looking forward to the game.”
On his time coaching during the Border War: “I’m watching that film from two years ago, and it’s just a beautiful first half, and then you go to the next play, the first play of the second half, wow. And that was a great game. That was one you wish that you were on the winning side because that was a true, true Border War traditional fight. And I was proud of our guys that day. Josh Allen just put the team on his back on that dang drive and took them down the field.”