Gear up for gameday: BYU
PROVO, Utah -- This space, as always, is reserved for story time.
When it comes to the Cowboys' next opponent, numerous tales come rushing to mind. Sharable ones, on the other hand, not so much.
Hey, we have to keep things semi-professional around here. And that's no small task when you're talking about those three infamous letters -- BYU.
Is the bad blood -- and dare I use the word hatred -- really still alive and well after all these years? 100%. To this day the hardest question for any Wyoming fan to answer is this one: Who do you dislike more ... BYU or Colorado State?
There isn't a wrong answer.
This was never one of those friendly rivalries, for me. We didn't break bread in the parking lot. We obviously didn't crack beers together. Heck, eye contact was asking too much. Stress levels, always dangerously elevated. Blood pressure, pegged. Especially at their place.
Let's face it, for many of us in the Cowboy State, Provo is like visiting a different planet.
This series, which will reach game No. 79 Saturday night, features all the storylines that lead to a nasty rivalry.
Of course, that all starts with the Black 14 incident back in 1969 when head coach Lloyd Eaton dismissed 14 African-American players who asked to wear black armbands in protest of the then-racist policies of the Mormon Church.
Wyoming was a powerhouse in those days. BYU may hold a 45-30-3 advantage in the series now, but when talking to some old-timers, the lowly Cougars were rarely a threat then. From 1949-69, the Cowboys claimed victories in 18 of 21 meetings. That included two ties.
Post Black 14, BYU won 14 of the next 17 meetings. To make matters even worse, that team won a national championship in 1984.
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Three years before the Cougars hoisted that trophy, LaVell Edwards dropped a quote that is still recited from memory for most UW fans. "I'd rather lose and live in Provo than win and live in Laramie," BYU's legendary head coach said after a 33-20 loss inside a snowy War Memorial Stadium back in 1981.
Now for my worst memory of this game.
In 1996, I was just 13 years old. I had never been on a plane before, but my dad lived 100 miles from Las Vegas. I wasn't about to miss the inaugural WAC title game after the magical season the Cowboys put together led by record-breaking performances from Josh Wallwork and Marcus Harris.
In front of nearly 42,000 inside Sam Boyd Stadium, BYU jumped out to a 13-0 lead at the half. Jay Jenkins finally ignited a UW rally in the third, returning a fumble 25 yards to the end zone. Cory Wedel would tack on a 20-yard field goal and Wallwork would twice connect with wideout David Saraf, giving the Pokes a late 25-20 lead.
Then came the safety.
Joe Tiller, may God rest his soul, opted to hand the Cougars two free points rather than take the chance of Ronney Jenkins or James Dye returning a punt to the house with the Cowboys kicking out of their own end zone.
Ethan Pochman sent this one into overtime with a 20-yard chip shot at the buzzer. BYU's kicker would also eventually drill the game winner.
That was a sadness I can't even describe to this day. Tears flowed, but rage took over as Cougar fans flooded the playing surface. To add to the misery, Wyoming, despite being 10-2 and ranked in the Top 25, was left out of the bowl picture. WAC commissioner Karl Benson was too busy politicking for BYU to get into an Alliance Bowl to be bothered with the Cowboys and another trip to the Copper Bowl.
I can't end on that note.
A great memory came in 1999 when Dana Dimel's boys rolled to a 31-17 win over the Cougars in Laramie. Wendell Montgomery snagged a couple of touchdown passes from Jay Stoner in that one. Patrick Chukwurah and Brian Van Emmerik both sacked Kevin Feterik twice and Robbie Duncan picked off the senior in the victory.
The field-goal posts ultimately took a ride to the Buckhorn on a picture-perfect November night on the High Plains.
The 2003 win was a special one, too.
Joe Glenn, in his first season in Laramie, led the Cowboys to a 13-10 upset. The only Wyoming touchdown came on a 60-yard pick-six, courtesy of linebacker Tyler Gottschalk. Brandon Casavan sacked Matt Berry twice and the Pokes forced three turnovers. The yellow pipes, you guessed it, were headed down Grand Avenue.
Can Craig Bohl's young team pull off the upset? Hey, no one gave them a chance last Friday night against Air Force.
Here is all you need to know -- and the links -- for Saturday's tilt in Provo:
WHO: Wyoming (3-1, 1-0) vs. No. 19 BYU (2-1)
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8:15 p.m. MST
WEATHER: High of 76, low of 46, mostly clear skies, wind at 5-10 mph
WHERE: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah (63,725 capacity)
RADIO: Cowboy Sports Network
TICKETS: Wyoming Ticket office
BOX SCORE: ESPN
ROSTERS: Wyoming / BYU
BETMGM ODDS: BYU -22.5, O/U 50 (Subject to change)
HISTORY: BYU leads 45-30-3 (Cougars have won eight straight in the series)
HEAD COACHES: Craig Bohl / Kalani Sitake
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