Now nearing my one-hundredth game, I begin to reflect on all the places I have been. Many would assume that the Rose Bowl or Notre Dame Stadium would be my proudest accomplishment. However, after attending War Memorial Stadium, this venue surged to the top of the list. Clearly, Laramie, Wyoming can only dream of being in the same league as Pasadena or South Bend, but there exists a valid reasoning for my choice. As I sat inside War Memorial on a perfect October afternoon, I realized that my fervor for college football had reached a higher ground – and I mean that figuratively and literally as Wyoming’s home rests at the highest elevation of any football stadium in America (7,220 ft.).
Only the most devout would travel to remote and isolated locations in our country’s most desolate state to view a game that only 12,000 fans paid to witness. Only the most intense fans would enjoy a game between winless Louisiana-Monroe and unthought-of Wyoming – a game like this wouldn’t have a television camera near it even if Clay Aiken performed a duet with Steven Tyler at halftime. But, these types of games make college football special. Anyone can find the grandeur and passion in major bowl games or in stadium capacities reaching six figures, but the true lifeline of college football lies in the small university towns that gather for their big event.
The game hardly exuded the thrills I was hoping to find. Wyoming controlled from the onset with their strong leaders – quarterback Corey Bramlet and receiver Jason Bouknight. Both had impressive afternoons along with tailback C.R. Davis. Louisiana-Monroe could not keep up with these stars and fell to the Cowboys 31-10.
We started the game in our seats in the upper deck absorbing the views of wide-open spaces in the distance, the classic pine trees surrounding the stadium, and the infinite blue sky that looked down. By halftime, we ventured down to the fences where the team exits the field. Many fans had the same idea as a rather large group gathered to watch the action at field level. Security is not a high priority at War Memorial (my guess is that streakers don’t frequent the turf too often in Laramie), so the crowd posed limited problems. We continued to view the game from our new found location for the second half. Jason Bouknight’s only touchdown pass of the day occurred almost directly in front of us. The band played “Cowboy Joe” as a few Cowgirls toted a Shetland pony around the stadium celebrating the score.
Following the touchdown, it became obvious that much of the stadium’s amenities are rather antiquated. The kicker set up for the extra point and the net that catches the ball began to rise up behind the goal posts. However, when the kicker successfully kicked the ball through, it became clear that the net was not tall enough. The ball flew right over the net, over our heads, and hit the scoreboard breaking a light bulb in the process. We laughed hysterically, but to the Wyoming fans around us, it seemed rather commonplace. The old stadium could use a facelift in many areas including bathrooms, vending areas, and obviously equipment management. However, to the tolerant eye, it all comes off as charming. Besides, any of the setbacks that the stadium possesses is made up by the stunning natural beauty that comes with its surroundings.
Wyoming’s victory set them on a track for their first bowl game since 1993. Their season highlighted their history books with an impressive and unexpected triumph over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. I was happy to be a part of the Cowboy’s memorable 2004 season and War Memorial Stadium will always be one of my favorites.