Is Wyoming and Air Force really a rivalry?
LARAMIE -- Jeremy Fejedelem looked puzzled when the question came up.
Kade Waguespack was hesitant to call the game between Air Force and Wyoming a rivalry, too.
These two Falcons, who represented the Academy at Mountain West Media Day in Las Vegas in late July, agree that the annual tilt with the Cowboys is heated, but a rivalry?
"That's the second time I've heard that said that us and Wyoming have a rivalry," said Fejedelem, the Falcons senior defensive back. "I don't know if I'd call it a rivalry. I know since I've been at the Academy every year it has been a close game.
"If you consider a rivalry being close games, kind of the atmosphere and your fans chatting it up a little bit with us on the sideline ... No, every time we play Wyoming it's a good game. A lot of work and preparation goes into that week."
Waguespack, Air Force's junior tight end, isn't convinced either.
"I don't know," he said. "Last year, everyone said it's a rivalry. I think it's a great game. Obviously it's good competition against each other."
Wyoming has won the last three meetings with its Front Range "rival." Air Force leads the all-time series, 28-26. The Cowboys have never won four straight. The Falcons have won five straight just once.
Maybe Fejedelem isn't the best person to opine on this game. When asked if Fisher DeBerry ever stops by Colorado Springs, this was his response: "Who? Sorry, I'm not familiar."
When he was told DeBerry led the Falcons for 21 seasons and has more wins than any coach in program history, Fejedelem said he didn't even know there was an Air Force Academy until his senior year of high school in Lemont Township, Illinois.
DeBerry won four Western Athletic Conference Championships at Air Force. The Falcons won eight games or more 11 times. In 1985, DeBerry's Air Force team climbed as high as No. 4 in the national polls. They went to 12 bowl games.
DeBerry was 12-10 against the Cowboys during his career.
Former Wyoming defensive end Mitch Donahue is never shy about his disdain for Air Force. He said this game is more personal for the players. Sure, Donahue said he had no love for Colorado State, the Cowboys Border War rival, but added the players always "hated them."
“I hated them more than CSU,” Donahue said last winter. “They were good, fast and little. They would bite at your heels all the time.”
Donahue was part of the Cowboys 1988 squad when the visitors erased a 21-point Falcon lead in the fourth quarter to win a thriller, 48-45, on a last-second Sean Fleming field goal.
It was the kind of win that earns the "rivalry" moniker.
No. 23 Air Force topped 25th-ranked Wyoming, 10-7, in 1998 to claim the Western Athletic Conference title. Two years before that, Josh Wallwork led the Cowboys to a 22-19 win, handing the Falcons their first conference loss.
There's also the infamous 2012 meeting simply referred to as "Howdy Doody." That, of course, is when former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen went on a post-game, profanity laced tirade directed at Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun. That incident drew national attention. It also landed Christensen a one-game suspension and a $50,000 fine.
Sounding like a rivalry yet?
Let's get back to present-day opportunities.
When current Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl was asked if he was aware of the feat the Cowboys could reach by beating the Falcons and Rams this season, he wanted none of it.
"You’ll get to know me better,” Bohl joked, shaking his head. “I choose my words wisely.
"Throw a couple more baits at me."
Logan Wilson called it a rivalry. So did Cooper Rothe.
Even true freshman quarterback Levi Williams has been warned about this game.
"Yes, that's one of the first things I was told," he said. "They do not like Air Force."
Logan Harris sure wasn't shy about his feelings.
"I remember my freshman year, taking a knee to win the game and their nose guard cut me," the junior offensive tackle said. "I haven't liked them since.
"It's fun. It's a dog fight, you know? Exchanging punches is what it is."
If it isn't a rivalry yet, sophomore center, Keegan Cryder, said it's getting there.
"It's maybe a newer rival compared to CSU," he said. "These last few games have been really heated. We look forward to playing them. There's definitely a rivalry growing out of it."
Bart Miller, Wyoming's offensive line coach, has been on both sides of this game. He coached the tight ends at Air Force in 2017, including Waguespack. While he agrees the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy -- the hardware handed out to the winner between Air Force, Army and Navy -- is more coveted in Colorado Springs, he can see a case for this as one of the games you circle each season.
"The location is close, but the recruiting base is different," Miller said. "Both of these staffs are very good and close games heightened the rivalry. They are a tremendous opponent. They value structure and we share two similar teams that like to play physical defense. That harbors a natural rival."
Kickoff is scheduled for noon Saturday at Falcon Stadium.