Think the CSU football team isn’t taking the Wyoming Cowboys seriously? Think again.
The Rams are smarting. After a road loss to Fresno State dropped them from the national rankings, CSU will be angry when a Wyoming team battling for the cellar of the Mountain West Conference comes to Hughes Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Adding to the mix is the fact Saturday will mark the 94th time the two schools have met in “The Border War,” the longest running rivalry for both schools. Whenever these two schools meet – which they have every season since 1899 – the stakes are always high.
“There’s pride on the line in the Border War,” head coach Sonny Lubick said. “I don’t think it’d matter if both schools didn’t have a win, it’d still be one of the biggest games of the year. They’re down this year, but I guarantee they want to beat us as bad as anybody.”
To say the 1-4 Cowboys are struggling through a down year is a compliment. Wyoming has looked pitiful in losses at Central Michigan and home against Boise State. And it was far from brilliant in defeating Division I-AA The Citadel last week, 34-30, a game that broke a school-record 12-game losing streak.
Talking with the Rams, one might think they hadn’t noticed.
“We wouldn’t overlook Wyoming if they were undefeated, we’re not overlooking them now,” senior wide receiver Joey Cuppari said. “It’s a rivalry game and they always come with their A game against us and vice versa.”
The game marks the conference opener for both teams. Despite the drop from the rankings, Lubick has said all along his team’s goal is to win the Mountain West Conference. Losing to Wyoming would put a huge dent in that goal.
“Our new season begins Saturday,” Lubick said. “We’ve done a good job to this point. Four-and-two was a great way to start the season but we have to keep rolling and take conference one game at a time. We don’t overlook anyone in conference because anyone can beat anyone.”
For the Rams to defeat the Cowboys, their special teams will have to undergo a renaissance of sorts. The past weeks have seen the Rams’ normally stellar special teams units collapse. Against Fresno State, special teams breakdowns were directly responsible for 12 Bulldog points. Considering the Rams lost by two, many special teams members have pointed the blame directly at themselves.
“We’re going back to basics. Special teams usually win games for us; we’ve always been known for that,” said Brandyn Hohs, a member of CSU’s special teams. “We pride ourselves on our performance. We’ve lost that pride and we need to get it back. I think everyone will see the real special teams come out this week.”
Wyoming is led by quarterback Casey Bramlet. The junior signal-caller, who was a second-team All-Mountain West pick as a sophomore, was No. 14 in the nation in total offense in 2001, averaging 277.1 yards per game. This season, Bramlet has thrown for 1,079 yards and eight touchdowns, but also has eight interceptions.
“We only gave up 180 yards to Fresno, so I don’t feel we’re always going to struggle against passing teams,” said Marvin Sanders, the Rams’ secondary coach. “Bramlet’s a good quarterback and he’s going to test us a little bit so we have to be ready.”
Offensively, the Rams again will try to put together a consistent game. The unit showed flashes of consistency against Fresno, but threw several series away due to lack of focus. On the good side, Wyoming is giving up a league-worst 502.4 yards per game.
“It’s not the plays we’re running, those don’t need tweaking. It’s all heart,” Cuppari said. “We’ve lacked heart and focus at spots during game. We’re looking forward to redeeming ourselves this week.”
– Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin