LARAMIE – It’s a Power 5 program, and only the second time a team from the Southeastern Conference has played a game in Laramie.
Throw in the fact that it’s the season opener, and there is a lot of hype for Saturday’s game between the University of Wyoming and Missouri at War Memorial Stadium.
UW players are excited, but not because of who the opponent is.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, and I don’t care about the added pressure of having Missouri here,” senior strong safety Alijah Halliburton said. “I come into every game with the same mentality, and that’s to try and get the win for Wyoming.”
UW is an 18-point underdog, according to some oddsmakers. It also will be trying to snap a 13-game losing streak to Power 5 teams, including four straight at home.
The last time the Cowboys beat a Power 5 school was in 2007 at home against Virginia.
This is the 11th consecutive season UW has played a Power 5 team, and the third straight season at home. In the last two games, the Cowboys lost both by a combined 58 points.
“I’m excited, and wouldn’t want to play (Missouri) anywhere else but (War Memorial Stadium),” senior defensive end and co-captain Josiah Hall said. “I love playing here in front of our fans.”
UW is 3-10 all-time against SEC schools, but has won three of the last five. The first time an SEC team played in Laramie, UW beat Ole Miss 37-32 on Sept. 25, 2004.
Joe Verschueren, UW associate athletics director for ticketing and sales, said Thursday he anticipates a crowd of more than 25,000 for Saturday’s game. He also said ticket sales have improved each day leading up to the game.
UW is promoting this game as a “Stripe Out,” where fans are asked to wear either brown or gold colored shirts according to the section they are sitting in. Verschueren said six sections have sold out, and he anticipates three or more will by game time.
Verschueren said approximately 3,000 Missouri fans will be at the game. Missouri sold its allotted 1,900 tickets from UW. Verschueren added that fans have bought around 1,000 through UW’s ticket office.
As for season-ticket sales, Verschueren said the number is just shy of 8,400, and he anticipates it to climb to more than 8,500. That figure is slightly down from last season’s sales of around 8,800.
The record for season tickets sold in a season is 11,688 in 2011, the year Nebraska played at UW.
BACK IN THE GROOVE
Junior offensive tackle Alonzo Velazquez has started every game of his UW career. But that number is relatively small at 15 because of two different knee injuries.
A left knee injury forced Velazquez to miss three games in 2017 when he was a true freshman. A right knee injury allowed him to play in only five games last season.
Velazquez is healthy and slated to start at right tackle Saturday.
“I feel really good,” he said. “We’ve taken more precautions with my most recent injury, and this is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time.
“Football is a game where you might get injured, so I don’t think about it happening again. It is all behind me. I’m not worried about anything.”
Missouri coach Barry Odom is well aware of Laramie’s altitude of 7,220 feet, but he isn’t making a big deal out of it.
“We’ve researched any ideas or philosophies other teams would share with us,” Odom said. “We will inform and educate our players of the environment, but also understand it is about us and how we prepare.
“I want them to be aware of it, but not make it such a big deal that is weighing on their minds. At the end of the day, practice habits and execution will determine how we play.”
UW is 77-43-1 all-time in season-opening games, and 57-18-1 at home. Against nonconference opponents at home, the Cowboys are 48-11-1.
This will be only the fifth season-opening road game for Missouri since 1980. The Tigers are 6-17-3 all-time in season openers on the road.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.