Gear up for gameday: Air Force
LARAMIE -- Losers of 14 of their last 15 games, including the previous 17 Mountain West contests over a four-year span, no one gave Wyoming much of a chance on that sunny October day in 2002 inside War Memorial Stadium.
No. 22 Air Force was in town.
Motivated after Notre Dame wrecked its perfect 6-0 record the previous week in Colorado Springs, surely the lowly Pokes were about to be on the receiving end of an epic beating.
Casey Bramlet torched the Falcons' secondary to the tune of 387 yards and connected on a pair of long touchdown passes to Malcom Floyd and Scottie Vines in the stunning 34-26 upset.
"It feels great right now,'' Bramlet told the Associated Press. "I don't even know
what to say to explain it. We finally came around and everything
kind of came together today, all sides of the ball.''
Wyoming's other victory that season came in a 34-30 nail biter over The Citadel. The win over Air Force was the biggest since the Cowboys knocked off 15th-ranked BYU in 1999.
There was another common denominator in both of those.
"I'm glad I was a part of these goal posts coming down,'' said Floyd, who hauled in a 58-yard scoring strike. "I remember when I was a freshman when we played BYU, and we beat BYU and those goal posts came down.''
That was a typical Falcons squad. They led the nation in rushing, averaging 306 yards per game, courtesy of that infamous triple-option attack. The visitors ranked third in the country in turnover margin.
That day in Laramie, the Cowboys didn't give the ball away once. Led by linebacker Tyler Gottschalk and his 12 tackles, including two for loss, they allowed just 255 yards on the ground.
"I'm not sure how ready we were to play, but that's my fault,'' Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry told the AP.
That victory to this day remains one of my greatest sports memories. It was truly improbable. Almost certainly an impossible task. It seems silly now that the goal posts took a ride down Grand Avenue, but you had to be present during that era of Cowboy football.
Things were brutal. Never worse in my lifetime.
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That forgettable campaign began with a 40-point "neutral-site" loss to No. 4 Tennessee in Nashville. What followed was three more lopsided setbacks, including beatdown courtesy of the 11th-ranked Washington Huskies.
Despite all of that, including coming off just three victories over the last three seasons, this group continued to fight. The blowouts were over. Losing, unfortunately, wasn't. Aside from a season-ending dud in Albuquerque, Wyoming didn't lose a game by double digits the rest of the season. That included a heartbreaking 49-48 overtime loss at UNLV and falling four points short the following week in Provo.
Believers in this current Wyoming team are few and far between when you take the temperature of fans on social media. Once again, the mighty Falcons will pay a visit to the High Plains. They lead the FBS in rushing, averaging 508 yards per game. The Cowboys are double-digit underdogs.
Does a fun memory of an unthinkable win from two decades ago mean anything? Of course not. But it does prove anything is possible.
Will this young Wyoming squad make you a believer again after this Friday night meeting? We're all about to find out together.
Here is all you need to know -- and the links -- for Friday's tilt in Laramie:
WHO: Air Force (2-0) at Wyoming (2-1)
WHEN: Friday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. MST
WEATHER: High of 67, low of 41, partly cloudy, chance of showers, wind at 19 mph
WHERE: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyo. (29,181 capacity)
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Cowboy Sports Network
TICKETS: Wyoming Ticket office
BOX SCORE: ESPN
ROSTERS: Wyoming / Air Force
BETMGM ODDS: Air Force -16, O/U 47.5 (Subject to change)
HISTORY: Air Force leads 30-26-3 (Falcons have won two straight in the series)
HEAD COACHES: Craig Bohl / Troy Calhoun
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- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players