Rams seek trophy Saturday

Nov. 2, 2012

By Gary Ozzello

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Every player, coach, and fan from either side knows what is at stake when Colorado State and Wyoming meet on the football field Saturday.

For starters, it marks the 103rd meeting of the Border War rivals.  Colorado State has won 54 of the previous 102 meetings, and there have been five ties.

Since 1968, the two teams have battled for possession of the Bronze Boot traveling trophy.  The boot was worn in Vietnam by CSU alum  and Army Capt. Dan Romero, and since its inception, Wyoming holds a slim, 23-21 series edge.

And Colorado State is aching to bring “The Boot” back to Fort Collins.

For the past three years, the keepsake has been kept by Wyoming, earning two wins in Fort Collins and another in Laramie during the streak, after CSU had won 8-of-10 meetings in the rivalry.

Rams’ Coach Jim McElwain has made no secret of the Bronze Boot’s importance throughout the week of preparation for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game in Laramie.

Players like linebacker Shaq Barrett knew before McElwain spoke to the team earlier this week how important this game is on an annual basis.  Not just for current players and fans.  But fans, players, alums, from previous years, too.

”This year, I heard Coach McElwain talk about the boot, and I didn’t know the significance of the ‘Boot,’” Barrett said.  “Coach McElwain explained the story that one of our graduates went over and fought in the Vietnam War, and we brought his boots back home.  Once he told us that story, we just know that we have to fight for it.”

Likewise, Colorado State will have to fight from first play to last to try and secure the Bronze Boot.

Colorado State, 2-6 overall, faces a 1-7 Wyoming team.  The Rams enter the game fresh off a 42-27 win over Hawaii that Barrett said has re-energized the team.

CSU enters Saturday’s game averaging 321.8 yards per game total offense, about 41 less than Wyoming.  Defensively, the Rams have given up fewer yards, 416.9 by CSU opponents as compared to 448.8 being allowed by the Cowboys.

Turnovers play a critical role in any game, but particularly in an emotion-filled rivalry contest.  To date, both teams are similar.  Colorado State is a minus-three in turnovers, while Wyoming is even on the season.

Playing its third starting quarterback this season, freshman redshirt Conner Smith will be under center Saturday.  Smith took over for former backup M.J. McPeek , who took over for former starter Garrett Grayson.  Both McPeek and Grayson were shelved by injuries, but both have practiced this week.

Smith, in a game and a half, has completed 28-of-39 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Runningback Chris Nwoke, who has been hampered by ankle problems since the season-opening win over Colorado, broke through last week for a season-most 115 yards on 19 carries including a touchdown. 

McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at defending national champion Alabama, inserted a new wrinkle into the team’s plans a week ago.

He used starting linebacker James Skelton into the backfield.  Skelton carried three times for 13 yards, and scored his first collegiate touchdown.

Defensively, end Lanston Tanyi tops the team with 60 tackles, while linebacker Aaron Davis is second with 56, followed by Barrett, who has 52 tackles.

Colorado State faces Wyoming’s no-huddle spread offense Saturday.  The Cowboys’ attack is spearheaded by quarterback Brett Smith, who averages nearly 300 yards per game in total offense.  McElwain has noted all week that CSU’s chances in the game hinge on controlling the versatile Smith.

Saturday’s game can be seen live on KTVD/My20 in Denver.  It will be broadcast live on the Colorado State Sports Network, including flagship station KLZ (560 AM) in Denver, KCOL (600 AM) in Fort Collins, KSIR (1010 AM) in Fort Morgan and KNZZ (1100 AM) in Grand Junction.