57 years passed since New Mexico State made a bowl game. Last year, that streak was broken as the Aggies won the Arizona Bowl over Utah State. That successful season has reignited fan fever in Las Cruces, and with Wyoming coming to town in the season opener, the atmosphere was buzzing.
Security in Athens, Ohio today seemed to be as penetrable as prosciutto. In anticipation of the contest between Wyoming and Ohio, we executed our usual pregame walk around the stadium. Upon realizing that we had arrived on the side opposite of our seat assignment, I asked an usher if we could reach the other side of the stadium by going around the back way. With a blank look on her face, she pointed toward a rather desolate fenced in alleyway and replied, “I’m not sure, give it a try!” Confused, we followed her instruction, and as we passed the back doors to a concession stand, we realized that we had been led into the security/service entrance. Shortly after, we stumbled upon the entrance to the Wyoming locker room. Additionally, we were already inside the stadium and no one had taken our ticket! To make matters even more unexpected, Wyoming head coach, Joe Glenn, appeared from around the corner, came up to me, and asked, “Do you know which way is east?” Poor guy didn’t realize that he just asked directions from the most directionally challenged person on the planet. Mildly stunned from these events, I stuttered, “I’m not sure, but can I get a picture with you?”…
To my pleasant surprise, my one-hundredth game turned out to be a blast. Never would I have imagined this milestone to take place on a Friday night in Fort Collins, Colorado. However, I learned a bit more about the intensity of small town rivalries. The trail blazed from Laramie down I-80 and I-25 is just close enough to spawn a deep loathing between these two opponents. They play for the coveted Bronze Boot and whether you are wearing a cowboy hat or ram horns, the trophy means intense bragging rights and often a bowl placement.
In a place where the dorms are the most densely populated area of the entire state, Wyoming football would hardly seem like much of an attraction. However, the Cowboys are all that the state has in the way of sports. The most interesting fact about War Memorial Stadium is that it has the highest altitude of any Division I-A football field at 7,220 feet. Driving from Denver to Laramie is a bit of an adventure. Civilization begins to get diluted in the wide-open ranges and mountain peaks. Soon, the mountains are gone and all that remains are rock formations and open spaces. You have reached Wyoming. With the mountains gone, it is natural to think that you have descended. However, the roads rise to meet the mountains and it is evidenced by the ear popping that occurs along I-25. It is wide-open, sparse land that suddenly opens up to a cute college community. The stadium is a beautiful venue lined with pine trees and horizon lines meeting the blue sky. Gameday in Laramie can be a pretty big deal since choices on what to do in Wyoming are quite limited. Football season is counted down on many Cowboy calendars across the state.
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.).