Cowboy Seniors Look to Go Out with a Unbeaten Career Ledger Against Rival CSU
LARAMIE -- Wyoming coach Craig Bohl had to be wondering what he had gotten himself into. Two years into having left Division I-AA powerhouse North Dakota State to become the head coach at Wyoming, the Cowboys had to knock off New Mexico in the final game of the season to claim only the second win they managed in that 12-game season.
Bohl and his staff, however, had a plan. They were convinced that could rebuild the Cowboys into a Mountain West factor. The key was selling the plan to recruits.
Four years later, those recruits they wooed for the Class of 2016 are getting ready to play the final home game of their career, being honored on Senior Night prior to the 111th rendition of the border war, against Colorado State, at War Memorial Stadium. And the rebuild is showing positive results.
With two games to play, the Cowboys are 6-4, assured of a fourth consecutive non-losing season and a win on Friday night against the Cowboys, they can claim their third winning season and virtually lock up their third bowl appearance in the last four years.
And for Bohl, who inherited a team that had only seven seniors in 2015, his second season in Laramie, this group of seniors has a special place in his memory and for Wyoming athletics.
"That have laid a great foundation," Bohl said. "This guys came here when nobody would give us a plug nickle. These guys believed in where we are going."
They still have some work to be done. They want to gain that needed win so they can be a part of taking Wyoming to three bowl games in four years. They have been keys to the Cowboys putting together four consecutive non-losing seasons for the first time in the 21st century.
And it seems only fitting in that Senior Night will come in a game featuring Colorado State. After all, most of the seniors are quick to point to that snow-filled second half against Colorado State at War Memorial Stadium two years ago as the most memorable game of their career.
After Colorado State took a 13-9 lead on a field goal with 10:39 to play, Josh Allen fumbled the ball away on Wyoming's 49, and a CSU defensive back walked over and stepped on Allen's throat.
When the teams came off the field, CSU players broke out in a celebration, hoisting a Turrnover Buckle and bouncing around on the field. Allen approached the Cowboys defensive huddle and pronounced if the defense could get the ball back, he promised a victory.
And he delivered.
Facing a 4th-and-6 from the Wyoming 35, CSU decided to go for the first down and work to run out the clock. They, however, were stopped two yards shy of the first down, turning the ball over to the Cowboys, and Allen went to work, taking the Cowboys on an eight-play, game-winning scoring drive.
"I have a friend who plays for CSU," Austin Conway said of Rams linebacker Tre Thomas. "I "I tell him I never lost to him. When we played CSU (last year) he tackled me and said, `I got you this time." I told him, `Sorry, we're going to win. I don't care how many tackles you make.'"
"It is bragging rights," said the Aurora, Co., native. "It is nice going home knowing you beat CSU."
Placekicker Cooper Rothe, a native of Longmont, Colo., who never got a personal response from CSU when he inquired about the school his senior year in high school, accounted for 10 of the Cowboys 16 points in that game two years ago. He kicked two field goals in the second quarter, another in the third, and then the extra point to finish off the game-winning drive in the fourth.
"It was the right decision," Rothe said of coming to Wyoming initially as a walk-on. "There is a pride for the Colorado guys, playing to prove something (against CSU). This is a strong team atmosphere. It's `One Wyoming.' When you play agianst a team that didn't want you you want to prove something to them."
Defensive back Alijah Halliburton, who is also from Aurora, said he was lured to Wyoming in part because of the early struggles, and in part because "CSU treated me like I was a second option. It makes me feel it is personal (in the Border War)."
A product of Natrona County High School in Casper, linebacker Logan Wilson doesn't have a rejection grudge against CSU, but he grew up knowing the Rams were the Cowboys No. 1 rival, and when he came to Wyoming he knew that beating CSU was a must.
While he said playing in the conference championship game in 2016 was his highlight, he quickly added the 2017 Border War win over CSU is right at the top of the list, too. A sophomore at the time, he led the Cowboys with 14 tackles in that game
"A game like this is not any game," he said. "It is the Border War. It's our rivalry game. If you are from Wyoming you grow up knowing what this game means to the state and the university."
He smiled at mention of the 2017 game.
"It was really nice weather in the first half, and then we come out for the second half and it's snowing," he said. "During timeouts they are shoveling show off the yard markers. You play hard no matter who you are playing, but that was a special home. It was a fun game to play in."
Friday night, Wilson and his fellow seniors are looking to create one finale memorable moment against Colorado State and at War Memorial Stadium.