FORT COLLINS — Colorado State defensive lineman Manny Jones, a native of Cartersville, Ga., recalls struggling to fully understand the importance of the annual border war during his freshman year in 2017.
However, once Wyoming week rolled around, it was not as if veteran contributors needed to set aside time for Jones and his fellow underclassmen to emphasize the community-wide significance of the century-old rivalry. When the state of Colorado begins preparations to fight its bitter foe, even a casual observer who strolls past the ram’s practice can feel the intensity in the air.
“I didn’t know anything about border warfare when I was young,” Jones said. “I learned as I went, and that’s what young people have to do. You can’t explain it. You just have to be there and feel it. Go through the week and feel the old people change and get into that mode.” . Because the mode of this game is different from anyone else. It’s bigger than the championship for us.”
Starting this fall, CSU made it easier for new roster members to understand the horrors of the rivalry by relentlessly blasting Wyoming’s fight songs through speakers outside Canvas Stadium during practice.
CSU won the bronze boot a year ago. And, Rams intends to keep the trophy with him when he travels to the War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s a very special game,” said tight end Trey McBride. “Having played in this border war from Colorado, it means a lot to me, this university, this city, this state. I love being a part of it. But most of all, we know that the trophy is here for Fort Collins. And we’ll do everything we can to keep it here.”
Beating the Cowboys for a second year would put head coach Steve Adazzio in the record books as the first CSU coach to defeat Wyoming in the first two seasons as Sonny Lubic did so.
“It was so different the first time because the atmosphere wasn’t there,” Addazio said, adding that no fans were allowed a year ago because of the pandemic. “I’m sure I missed a lot of what it really is. I’ve never been there. But, as I told my people, we know we’re going to a hornet’s nest.”
Wyoming is struggling with a 0-4 MW record after leading 4-0 in a non-conference game. Most of Wyoming’s issues remain on the offensive end.
“In some respects, they remind me of us,” Addazio said. “Probably disappointed where their record is too physical, too tough, too talented.”
Wyoming is last in the Mountain West, averaging 9.5 points per game in conference play.
Perhaps CSU’s biggest challenge will be to get the ball moving in its sometimes stingy defense against Wyoming. The Cowboys have the best pass defense of MW. Guided by safety ace Gandy and cornerback CJ Colden, Wyoming has surrendered less than 175 passing yards in six consecutive games.
The biggest problem of CSU on crime has come in the Red Zone. In 34 drives in the red zone, the Rams have only 14 touchdowns. Last week, CSU made four trips into the red zone against Boise State and finished with four field goals.
“We needed to run the ball better, which I think would have helped us in the red zone,” Addazio said. “You have to be able to drive it well there. We swing the ball down the field pretty well. But as the fatigue builds up, we make more mistakes. And when they’re at the point of attack, So they make big mistakes. We have to be more bread and butter out there. We’re giving too many marks.”