Same game, different sides.

Adam Pilapil may be in his first year as Colorado State’s linebackers coach but he knows more than most what it’s like to participate in one of college football’s most special rivalries. 

A Wyoming linebacker from 2015-18 and a defensive quality control assistant for the Cowboys in 2019, Pilapil has a half decade’s worth of experience in this heated matchup between local foes. For the first time in his career though, when Wyoming comes to town on Saturday, he’ll be donning Green & Gold and representing the other side.

Colorado State football linebackers coach Adam Pilapil during practice inside Canvas Stadium on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Photo: Fort Collins Coloradoan (USA TODAY Images)

In a post-practice interview earlier this week, Pilapil reflected on his experiences up north and just how much the annual game matters to the people in Laramie, WY.

“I can tell you it means a lot,” Pilapil said of the Border War. “When I was playing, when we got started up there with coach Bohl, it was a major emphasis of what we did, and it was a major source of pride.”

Pilapil explained that for the Colorado kids who end up at Wyoming, guys that were potentially passed over by CSU, the matchup is as big as it gets. “They take it like it’s the Super Bowl,” Pilapil said. “It’s a big ballgame.” 

While it may technically count the same as any of the other eight conference games that the Rams play in a traditional season, obviously the Border War is going to carry a little bit more weight than say a game against Utah State. It means more to the fans in the stands, and it means more to the guys in the locker room too. The key in these types of intense games, according to Pilapil, is recognizing what’s at stake without changing too much about your approach. 

As the first-year linebacker coach sees it, the biggest reason that Craig Bohl has done so well in the Border War is that his approach is consistent.

“There’s big games, sure. And there’s big moments, sure. But the only way to execute in those moments is to do your job,” Pilapil said. “And you start doing your job with your preparation and your training. I think that’s how we were able to do some good things there. And I think that’s what we’re trying to build here.” 

According to Pilapil, typically rivalry games are tight, so a lot of the time it comes down to which team is able to execute better in a couple of the critical moments. If you get too swept up in the emotion, it can be easy to lose focus and make mistakes. And in a game like the Border War, it doesn’t take too many mistakes to bury you.  

“You just gotta focus on doing your job,” Pilapil said. “You know, you can’t overreact. You can’t be too hyped.”

While staying focused and playing with composure are massively important factors — you do not want to give the other side anything for free with dumb penalties or turnovers — Pilapil made a point to say that the most important thing is to remember to have fun. Playing in this type of rivalry is a really unique situation and it’s something that should be enjoyed by the players.

“You’ve gotta enjoy it and have fun,” Pilapil said. 

For Pilapil, the opportunity to participate in the Border War again as a coach is also going to be fun, though he did admit it will be a bit weird as well. He obviously knew it would be part of the deal. By coming to CSU he would have to coach against his alma mater, and that was something that he discussed with his wife, Kayla, prior to taking the job. 

“When my wife and I started talking about the possibility of it happening, we certainly knew it was gonna be different,” Pilapil said. “But you know, I think we always had a real respect for the school down here and for the program. There’ve been a lot of great players, and a lot of great people in this town and in this program.”

Fortunately for Pilapil, as odd as it may be to go up against the school where he played and and got his start in coaching, it’s something that he’s already been through once with Montana State. Last season the Bobcats went into Laramie and gave the Pokes everything they could handle before Wyoming ended up pulling out a 19-16 comeback victory. So as Pilapil said, he kind of already got the first one out of the way. 

Naturally there is going to be some trash talking going on from his former Wyoming teammates. Pilapil said there will be a lot of them in the stands on Saturday, along with his family and friends. 

 “I think there’s gonna be some split jerseys up in the stands and stuff like that,” Pilapil said. “I know my mom is coming out. For a lot of people it certainly is different. So there’s going to be a lot of chirping and a lot of fun stuff like that. Hopefully for us, it goes our way and we get to do the chirping at the end of the day.”

It’s been a tough stretch for CSU in this rivalry having lost five of the last six games against Wyoming. We’ll see if the Rams can win one in front of the home fans on Saturday for the first time since 2014.


Justin is a Colorado State alumnus and has covered the Rams for DNVR since 2019. Prior to coming to DNVR, Justin was the founder of and the Sports Director for the Rocky Mountain Collegian. From 2013-15 he was an intern for CSU Football.