Wyatt Wieland looking for elusive win over hometown team, little brother
LARAMIE -- When Wyatt Wieland heads home for the holidays, that unavoidable -- and mostly unwanted -- topic always seems to surface.
The confident grins from across the table. The subtle trash talk. The ultimate leg up.
Those bragging rights belong to Luke Wieland, a junior kicker on the Air Force football team. He's afforded these luxuries and takes full advantage of any opportunity to poke and needle. After all, he's earned it.
He's never lost a game against his older brother.
"We haven't won against them since he's been there," said Wyatt, who is a junior wide receiver at Wyoming. "He reminds me of that."
Another thing that doesn't help matters that his childhood home is just 15 minutes down the road from Falcon Stadium. His father, Jon, is also a former cadet, though he didn't join the academy because of its prowess on the gridiron.
"He didn't even know they had a football team," Wieland joked.
And they're currently riding a two-game winning streak against their Front Range foes and now have built a 30-26-3 advantage in the overall series.
Tonight inside War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, the Cowboys will look to put an end to this latest skid against the Falcons. It's not exactly a long stretch of dominance, but don't tell that to Wieland, who starred at Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs and has to bear the brunt of those playful Thanksgiving dinner ribbings.
While the ultimate goal in this one is to claim a third straight victory and move to 1-0 in Mountain West play, Wieland can't deny it -- another major opportunity awaits.
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When Air Force lines up for their first kickoff on the High Plains, Luke will likely be the one putting boot to ball. On the receiving end, a motivated brother who is eager for retribution.
Wieland can't deny it, the scenario has played out in his mind a time or 10.
"All the time," he said with a grin. "There was even a play one time in high school during a scrimmage where he kicked to me and I came kind of out of the middle of every one. He was sitting right there and I lowered my shoulder into him and trucked him pretty good. But he brought me down."
His daydreams end a tad differently.
"We talk about it all the time, he's like 'if you end up coming through the pile, don't think you're getting to the end zone. He's like, 'I'm not giving you a chance to return it though,'" Wieland continued with a laugh. "We'll see, I guess."
Entering this season, Wieland had just four catches on his résumé. Those all came down the stretch of the 2021 campaign last November. The confidence has carried over. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound former walk-on has already snagged seven balls in the Cowboys last two outings.
Despite grabbing a critical 26-yard reception of his shoe tops which led to Wyoming's first touchdown of the afternoon, it's one he didn't haul in during last Saturday's 33-10 victory over Northern Colorado that served as a learning moment.
That was a six-yard slant pass from quarterback Andrew Peasley that zipped through Wieland's hands at the goal line early in the first quarter.
"You can't let these missed opportunities haunt you or upset you," he said, referring to pep talk from offensive coordinator, Tim Polasek. "He said, 'you just need to be excited for the next one.'
"... I've been thinking about that a lot over the last two days. I'm just excited for the next opportunity that I get."
It will have to come against an Air Force defense that is allowing just over 13 points per game through two weeks, including just 168.5 yards through the air in lopsided wins over Northern Iowa and in-state rival, Colorado.
Baby brother isn't offering up any advice this week.
"It's not like he's holding anything back, Air Force is a pretty open book," Wieland said. "They're going to run the ball down your throat, they play an extremely aggressive defense and they tackle well. They're very smart players that never give up. I mean, we know what we're up against, it's just whether or not we can execute."
Luke Wieland, once upon a time, thought about joining Wyatt in Laramie. Craig Bohl and Co. offered him a preferred walk-on opportunity. He stayed home instead, the lure of a secure future and not paying for school, too good to pass up.
Truth be told, Wyatt once dreamed about being a cadet.
"That was kind of my dream school growing up," Wieland said. "I grew up wanting to be an Air Force football player, but it didn't work out that way and I'm extremely grateful that now my home is here.
"I've been here for the last five years now and I wouldn't change a thing."
The ticket requests have been fast and furious this week. Wieland said the number has exceeded 30. Friends and family are making the trip here tonight, including some from as far away as Buffalo, N.Y.
For the brothers, the barbs will continue.
Wieland joked that he can grow a beard. It's patchy, he said, but not prohibited like it would be for Luke. He can also go home at night, order a pizza and hop on the Xbox -- if he chooses. Little bro is likely on hour-three of calculus homework in a cramped dorm room.
"I don't know how he does it," Wieland said with a smile and a slight shake of the head. "He's doing the right thing for his future."
Though Wieland desperately wants to get in the win column against his hometown team and shift momentum to his side of the dinner table this winter, it's all about perspective.
Two brothers. One family. Dreams on full display.
"I'm a very proud big brother," Wieland said. "But at the end of the day, he's coming up here to play us this week. So, it's time we get a win on the board."