When the Colorado State Rams take the field on Saturday afternoon, they will be playing much more than a typical game.
The Rams (5-6, 3-4 MWC) are set to face the Wyoming Cowboys (4-7, 1-6 MWC) at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, renewing one of the biggest rivalry games of the season. Not only will CSU be playing for the bragging rights of the Bronze Boot, but also a potential bowl berth – all while in the shadow of the historic 100th installment of the Border War.
Head coach Steve Fairchild said that he appreciates the opportunity to once again be part of such an intense rivalry and has tried to provide a little bit of motivation for the Rams this week in light of the 100th meeting between UW and CSU.
“Just the fact that it’s a game that has been played that long and is a rivalry makes it really important,” the former NFL offensive coordinator said. “We’ve had various speakers come over and visit with the team about how important it is, not only to the universities and communities, but to a lot of people.”
Wide receiver Dion Morton explained that Fairchild’s guests had a positive effect.
“Honestly I didn’t hear about that until yesterday at the team meeting,” the junior said, referring to the 100th meeting of the rivals. “Whether it’s the first meeting or the hundredth, it’s going to be a dog fight and it will be real exciting to play in.”
Cornerback Nick Oppenneer will be playing against the Cowboys for the first time on Saturday. The junior is familiar with how big the Wyoming game is to Ram nation and looks forward to becoming part of it.
“The Border War has been around forever and I’ve heard all about it growing up, especially going up to Wyoming to play makes it exciting,” he said. “This year just adds a little more to the pot. To play for all those who played before us is exciting in itself.”
Wyoming enters the showdown at the end of a tough season and on a one game losing streak. The Cowboys fell to the UNLV Rebels last week 22-14 in Las Vegas, eliminitating themselves from bowl contention.
Wyoming’s biggest struggles this year have come on the offensive side. They have averaged just 12 points per game so far this season, while playing three different quarterbacks.
Even though the Rams are coming off of their strongest defensive performance of the season in a 20-6 victory over New Mexico, Oppenneer explained that CSU can’t take the Cowboys lightly.
“Football is one of those things you have jump on them early,” he said. “They are division-one athletes to and if they get players going, they can take off on us. But if we can get going early I think we’ll be the better defense.”
Amid all of the distractions, including the rivalry game and a possible postseason appearance, Fairchild said he is pleased with the focus his team has shown.
“There are a lot of distractions this time of year but we have done a nice job of improving this last month,” the former CSU quarterback said. “I think we are still headed that way.”
Morton agreed, adding that the team doesn’t plan on losing sight of their season long goal one game away from accomplishing it.
“We are definitely staying focused because we have to win this game in order to go to a bowl game,” he said. “If we don’t win it we aren’t going. You can’t really look forward to the next game without winning this one.”
Kickoff of Saturday’s Border War is scheduled for noon.
Football beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.