FORT COLLINS –– Colorado State defensive lineman Manny Jones, a native of Cartersville, Ga., recalls struggling to fully grasp the annual Border War’s significance during his freshman year in 2017.
However, once Wyoming week rolled around, it wasn’t as if veteran contributors needed to set time aside to stress the century-old rivalry’s community-wide importance to Jones and his fellow underclassmen. When Colorado State begins preparing to battle its bitter foe, even a casual observer who happens to stroll past the Rams’ practice can feel the intensity in the air.
“I didn’t know anything about the Border War when I was younger,” Jones said. “I learned as I went, and that’s what the younger guys have to do. You can’t explain it. You just have to be there and sense it. Get through the week and sense the older guys changing and getting in that mode. Because the mode for this game is different than any other. It’s bigger than a championship for us.”
This fall, CSU made it easy for newer roster members to comprehend the magnitude of the rivalry by continuously blasting Wyoming’s fight song through the speakers outside Canvas Stadium during practice.
CSU secured the Bronze Boot a year ago. And, the Rams intend to keep the trophy when they travel to War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s a very special game,” tight end Trey McBride said. “Being from Colorado playing in this Border War, it means a lot to me, this university, to this town, to this state. I love being a part of it. But most of all, we know that trophy belongs here in Fort Collins, and we’ll do everything we can to keep it here.”
Beating the scuffling Cowboys would place second-year head coach Steve Addazio in the record books as the first CSU coach to defeat Wyoming in his first two seasons since Sonny Lubick did so.
“It was so much different the first time because the atmosphere wasn’t there,” Addazio said of no fans being allowed a year ago due to the pandemic. “I’m sure I missed out on a lot of what it really is. I’ve never been up there. But, as I told our guys, we know we’re going into a hornet’s nest.”
Wyoming has been struggling, though, with an 0-4 MW record after going 4-0 in non-conference play. The majority of Wyoming’s issues reside on the offensive end.
“In some respects, they kind of remind me of us,” Addazio said. “Probably disappointed where their record is, very physical, very tough, very talented.”
Wyoming’s average of 9.5 points per game in conference play is last in the Mountain West.
CSU’s biggest challenge will probably be moving the ball against Wyoming’s at times stingy defense. The Cowboys have the MW’s best pass defense. Guided by safety Esaias Gandy and cornerback C.J. Coldon, Wyoming has surrendered less than 175 passing yards in six consecutive games.
CSU’s biggest problem on offense has come in the red zone. In 34 drives into the red zone, the Rams have only 14 touchdowns. Last week, CSU had four trips into the red zone against Boise State and finished with four field goals.
“We needed to run the ball better, which I believe would have helped us in the red zone,” Addazio said. “You have to be able to run it well down there. We move the ball down the field very well. But as fatigue sets in, we make more mistakes. And when they’re at the point of attack, they end up being big mistakes. We have to be more bread and butter down there. We’re giving away too many points.”