ROTC cadets run a game ball from Colorado State’s Canvas Stadium to Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium in advance of the Border War football game.
Nobody associated with Colorado State likes losing to the University of Colorado in anything, especially the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown football game.
Losing to Air Force is nearly as difficult to swallow.
But nothing riles up CSU football’s players, coaches and fans more than a loss to Wyoming in the annual Border War.
Colorado has 10 times as many residents (5.7 million) as Wyoming (577,000), Fort Collins (population 170,000) is five times larger than Laramie (population 32,500) and CSU has nearly three times as many students (33,769) as the University of Wyoming (12,450).
Everything in Colorado, CSU fans argue, is bigger and better than Wyoming.
The recruiting services tend to think so too, routinely ranking CSU’s recruiting classes above Wyoming’s. Meanwhile, Wyoming tends to load up on players from Colorado who weren’t heavily pursued by CSU and go out of their way to try to prove they should have been whenever they face the Rams.
No wonder CSU fans get a little out of sorts when their team loses to that team from the little school in the little town in the nation’s least-populated state, as has been the case for three straight years and seven of the past 10.
Many Wyoming fans are residents of Fort Collins and surrounding communities, and they never hesitate to rub it in, either. They proudly wear their brown-and-gold hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets around town. It seems to be required attire for those who live north of the state line whenever they come to Northern Colorado to enjoy its expanded shopping and dining options.
“It sucks to lose that game,” CSU defensive end Manny Jones said. “That game’s our own little Super Bowl, our own little championship. That’s one that you hate to lose.”
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Jones is not from Colorado or Wyoming. He’s a junior from Georgia who, like most of his teammates, has never won the Bronze Boot traveling trophy that has gone to the Border War winner every year since 1968.
CSU last won it in 2015, beating the Pokes 26-7 in Laramie.
Since then, they’ve seen the Cowboys parade the trophy, an actual bronzed combat boot worn in Vietnam by former CSU ROTC instructor Dan Romero, around Hughes Stadium in the final Border War game there in 2016, through Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium in a blizzard in 2017 and after the rivalry’s first game at Canvas Stadium in 2018.
It’s painful to watch, CSU players said. More so even than watching CU players carry the Centennial Cup off the field at Denver’s Mile High Stadium or Air Force players hoisting the plexiglass-encased Ram-Falcon Trophy over their heads at Falcon or Canvas stadiums.
CU and CSU didn’t play one another for 24 years from 1959-82 or in 1990-91 and 1993-95. They won’t play again in 2021-22, either, and only plan to meet intermittently after that. And CSU didn’t play Air Force until 1957, three years after the academy was established. The Rams didn’t start playing the Falcons every year until 1978.
Those rivalries can’t match the tradition, longevity or intensity of the Border War, which has been played continuously since 1946 and in 110 of the past 119 years.
Wyoming has 23 players from Colorado high schools on its roster this season, including 10 who are on the two-deep depth chart this week. CSU has 32 players from Colorado on its roster, including nine on the two-deep depth chart.
Many of these players have been playing football against each other since they were kids in youth leagues. Some, like CSU linebacker Max McDonald, kicker Max Poduska and Wyoming defensive end Teagan Liufau (Rocky Mountain in Fort Collins) and CSU fullback Corte Tapia and Wyoming offensive lineman Zach Watts (Windsor) were even high school teammates.
When the Rams and Pokes line up across from each other on the football field, though, there’s no love lost. They dislike each other at least as much, if not more, than their respective fan bases.
“I don’t like them at all,” CSU safety Jamal Hicks said. “I’m ready to go to war against them.”
Kelly Lyell covers CSU and other local sports and sports-related news for the Coloradoan. Follow him at twitter.com/KellyLyell and facebook.com/KellyLyell.news and help support the work he and his fellow journalists do in our community by purchasing a subscription at coloradoan.com/subscribe.