It’s all about the boot.
Colorado State holds a 58-49 advantage in the all-time series against Wyoming. After losing five of the last six games to their rival from the north though, each time having to watch the Cowboys celebrate with the Bronze Boot, the Rams are eager for an opportunity at redemption.
In a game where there is so much passion on both sides, where bragging rights for the next year are on the line for the respective communities, there is absolutely nothing sweeter than victory. Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, losing the annual rivalry game feels like the lowest of the lows, especially if you don’t perform particularly well.
In the 2021 edition of the Border War, CSU lost 31-17 up in Laramie, WY, which on the surface is not exactly a blowout loss. However, considering the Rams allowed the Cowboys to run wild for 385 yards on 57 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt, the game was not nearly as competitive as the final score may indicate either.
After beating the Rams in Wyoming for the third consecutive time, as the winning side always does, the Cowboys sprinted across the field to CSU’s sideline, grabbed the Bronze Boot and celebrated in the faces of their visiting rivals.
In an interview with DNVR earlier this week, Henry Blackburn talked about how he can still see the whole thing clearly in his head, having to stand there and watch the Pokes take back the boot after the Rams had finally got it back to Fort Collins the season before.
“That’s something that’s stuck with me,” the junior safety said. “ And that’s gonna stick with me forever.”
Blackburn continued and explained that while all losses are difficult to take as a competitor, falling short in the Border War stings so much more due to everything that goes into the matchup.
“Losing that game was worse than anything else,” Blackburn said. “There’s so much pride behind it. And we just care so much. That boot means everything to us, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring it back to where it belongs.”
Fifth-year linebacker Dequan Jackson, one of CSU’s most experienced players, also talked about how much it means to him, saying that the 2020 win over Wyoming was the most special moment of his collegiate career.
Jackson reminisced about getting to boast with the trophy and dance in celebration with his teammates. “Going into the locker room and singing the fight song after winning that game, of all games, is probably the top moment for me,” Jackson said. “I can say the same for the guys that have been here.”
Even for the newer players on the team, the guys that have never experienced the intensity of the rivalry firsthand, Jackson said that he feels strongly that they will be feeling the same types of emotions as the returning veterans.
“You want to remember it,” Jackson said. “When you win that game and you run over there to get that trophy, that’s what you’re going to remember.”
As far as what it feels like to lose, Jackson said it’s a feeling that makes you sick. Like Blackburn, he emphasized that it’s something you hold onto. That it just eats at you.
“I think you remember the times that you’ve lost more than you want to just because of that pain,” Jackson said. “You don’t want to feel it again. The goal is to not feel that pain this week.”
The Rams may not be able to qualify for the postseason this fall, for the fifth consecutive season CSU failed to win enough games to be eligible for a bowl bid. Even if the postseason is off the table though, if the Rams are able to pull off the upset over Wyoming it would mean everything to the Fort Collins community.
A young Rams team will have to be able to lock in and not get swept up in the emotion of the moment — something that Blackburn emphasized a couple of times. There is going to be bad blood and there should be, but that also means that it’s easier to become undisciplined. At the end of the day though, these are the games that players grow up dreaming of playing in. And that’s something that everyone is trying to keep perspective of as well.
“These are the fun ones,” Blackburn said. “You know the atmosphere is going to be great. And we want that boot back. This game means so much to us and our community. We’re going to do everything that we can to come out on top.”