Texas Tech Arriving Early in Hopes of Adapting to Altitude
LARAMIE -- Joey McGuire has never been to Wyoming before, but he's fully aware that War Memorial Stadium sits 7,220 feet above sea level.
That's one of the reasons he is bringing his Texas Tech squad to the Rocky Mountains a day early ahead of Saturday's season opener in Laramie.
"We're playing at the highest altitude there is in college football," the Red Raiders' second-year head coach said Monday during his weekly press conference. "You cant hide from it. It's going to feel a little bit different at first, so why not talk about it? Because when they ask me about it at least I can tell them, 'I told you to get your mind right.'"
How long does it take to get used to playing football at high elevation? Opinions vary.
Some experts say 3-to-5 days. Others, a month-plus. Craig Bohl said Monday doctors have told him "about six weeks."
A little gamesmanship on the part of Wyoming's veteran head coach? It's possible. Remember, though, Bohl once found himself in McGuire's shoes.
North Dakota State paid a visit to the high plains back in 2008. Bohl's Bison didn't have the luxury of coming to Wyoming in advance. Budget restraints prevented that. Lack of oxygen, Bohl added, also aided in his team's first loss of the season despite carrying a 13-0 lead into the third quarter.
"In all the years that I have been a head coach, there was one time I felt like we ran out of gas," he said. "I think we might have been up by 10 in the fourth quarter, and we had guys that were (huffing and puffing) on the sideline."
Jake Scott booted through a game-winning 29-yard field goal with just four seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys to a 16-13 victory that sunny afternoon in Laramie.
Wyoming's middle linebacker Easton Gibbs said Wyoming's elevation had him questioning if football was really for him. The Temecula, Calif., product said those were his thoughts after his first team workout.
"Shoot, for at least a month," Gibbs said when asked how long it took to get used to the altitude. "I got the little finger thing but on and the oxygen mask."
Incoming transfer wide receivers Ayir Asante (Holy Cross) and Devin Boddie Jr. (Vanderbilt) also talked this offseason about the burning lungs and gasping for air. So have 2024 verbal commits from Minnesota, Brycen Lotz and Adrian Onyiego.
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Lubbock, Texas isn't exactly hovering around sea level. The Hub City sits at 3,202 feet. Fargo, just 902.
Bohl said he wasn't aware of Tech's travel logistics, and even joked that he's happy to have the visitors from west Texas.
"I hope they stay in Wyoming so they can pay more sales tax," he said. "I doubt they are."
The Red Raiders will reportedly stay in Fort Collins and hold a practice Friday at a local high school. That workout was supposed to take place at Cheyenne East, according to sources. Plans changed.
McGuire certainly wants to get his players used to the thin air, but that's not the lone purpose of this early arrival.
"I want them to know how important this game is," he told reporters. "This is an extremely important game to us. Whoever we have after this, we don't care. We know who we have this week. Anytime you can do something a little bit different, I think it gets the guys' attention. This is a really good football team that is used to winning and used to playing in bowl games."
There might be another ace up the sleeve, too.
Texas Tech's head strength coach, Lance Barilow, considers his Wyoming counterpart, Eric Donoval, to be his mentor, going back to their days together at LSU, McGuire said. Aaron Hall, Barilow's assistant, also spent time in Laramie. So did intern Josh Haverfield.
"They are dialed into some of the things that can help us," McGuire added.
The visitors will also travel with 80 players this week, 10 more than they are allowed to have dressed during a Big XII contest.
McGuire isn't shying away from the elevation. He's also telling his team the tale of another heavily-favored Texas Tech team that traveled to Laramie in the fall of 1991. Wyoming quarterback Tom Corontzos connected on 18-of-35 throws for 247 yards and tossed two touchdowns to Robert Rivers in a 22-17 victory over the Red Raiders. Running back Terry Hendricks also added 100 yards and a score on 22 carries.
Wyoming leads the all-time series, 3-2.
"We're going to talk about that," Said McGuire, adding Tech was a 17-point favorite. "I don't think that team thought they were going to go in and get beat."
Washington State tried slugging beet juice before its trip in 2018. Missouri did the same the following season. McGuire said his squad will embrace the challenge.
That's good news for Bohl and Co.
"Everybody has a different philosophy," Bohl said. "It's kind of like us going to Hawaii. But, I do think altitude makes a difference. It's 7,220 feet for a reason. What's also going to be important is for us to stay on the field offensively and to get off the field defensively."
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. MST and the game will be televised on CBS.