As the clock hit triple zeros on the 2009 edition of the Border War, a loud cry went up from the North West corner of Hughes Stadium. Unfortunately for fans of the CSU Rams everywhere this was the section packed with yellow and brown clad Wyoming fans.
The Rams (3-9 0-8) fell to the Wyoming Cowboys (6-6 4-4) 16-17 Saturday afternoon, losing possession of the prized bronze boot, ending their season with a nine game losing streak and sending 16 seniors away with a loss.
With 1:27 seconds left in the game, Wyoming kicker Ian Watts drilled a field goal from 33-yards out, giving the Cowboys a one point lead but leaving time for one final CSU drive.
Starting from their own twenty yard line the responsibility fell to quarterback Jon Eastman to lead the Rams in his first start of the season. Eastman, a junior college transfer, began the drive on a good note with a 23-yard run, positioning the Rams on their own 43 but, stalled from there.
After a six yard pass, an incomplete pass and one yard quarterback keeper, CSU faced the games defining moment at the 50-yard line. Needing three yards to continue the drive Eastman dropped back, hitting an open Matt Yem in the middle of the field. Yem bobbled the pass, lost control and had the ball intercepted by Wyoming linebacker Ghaali Muhammad.
The Cowboys took over possession and downed the ball to win the game and gain bowl eligibility.
Fighting to hold back tears in his post game press conference Steve Fairchild said the game well represented what the Rams have done most of the season.
“Obviously we had more than enough chances to win that football game,” the second year CSU head coach said. “Neither side of the ball made enough plays to put it away. There are 16 very disappointed seniors in that locker room.”
Both teams came out of the gate slowly, failing to score in the games opening 21 minutes. The Rams finally broke a 0-0 stalemate midway through the second as running back Lou Greenwood ran the ball in from eight yards out. Ben DeLine missed the extra point, to put the Rams up 6-0.
Wyoming answered two drives later with a six yard keeper from true freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. Watts hit the extra point to take a 7-6 lead going into halftime.
The Rams came out strong from the break and started the third quarter with a 61 yard drive ending on a four yard pass from Eastman to Zac Pauga that put the Rams up 13-7.
Once again Wyoming answered back, this time at the start of the fourth quarter, again on a Samuels touchdown run coming from 49-yards out.
DeLine hit a 23-yard field goal for the Rams with just under seven minutes remaining, giving CSU a 16-14 lead and marking the fifth lead change of the game, but it wasn’t enough.
Eastman was disappointed by the loss in his first start with the Rams and said the game was theirs for the taking.
“It felt pretty good out there but there are definitely some plays we left out there that would have helped if we could have made them,” the junior said. “I don’t feel too good about those, but there were some good things we did too.”
Eastman finished the game going 22-30 with 185 yards one touchdown and an interception off the bobbled pass to Yem.
Pauga, a fullback, agreed with Eastman that the Rams could have won the game and described the loss as “amazingly tough.”
“We’ve been sliding so long that we thought we could get a win this week,” the junior said. “There were just so many points and plays left out on the field. It was heart breaking.”
While the Rams season is now over, the Cowboys have a good chance of seeing more playing time as the team became bowl eligible with the win.
Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen joyfully addressed the media after the game while jokingly taking a drink out of the winning trophy.
“I got a bronze boot my first year here,” he said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy coming here, but we got our sixth win. We’re going bowling.”
Fairchild stood on the opposite end of the spectrum and admitted he could have done a better job while already looking to next season.
“We’re going to get it done here,” he said. “I should have done a better job of coaching this year. We’ll have this looming over our heads in the off season but I’m quiet confident we will rebound from this.”
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org_