Dave Walsh: The Old Rivalry Is Back As Wyoming Will Play BYU This Year

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By Dave Walsh, columnist

Athletic competition is so interesting.  Sports, and the games people play, draws a great deal of interest from folks that just get a kick out of watching others compete. 

There is a distinct passion for the “game” that those people play.  But any and all sports, team or individual sports, have become a natural curiosity for so many. 

The true fan relishes every game that their favorite team plays. The real sports fan enjoys every moment that their favorite athlete competes. Every game on the schedule is special, and every game will provide its own unique experience. 

Wyoming fans show these traits every time the Cowboys and Cowgirls play.  Every gameday is important. You only get so many. College football teams, for example, are only “guaranteed” a dozen games a season, at the most. 

Other sports play more games, but any player will tell you that they are all important. They’ll also tell you that some games are more important than others. They’ll say conference match-ups carry a bit more weight, and they’ll admit that “rivalry” games are even more intense.  And from what I’ve seen over the years, Wyoming fans feel the same way.

Cowboy football is just a little over twelve weeks away from its season opener. The Pokes will begin the 2022 season at Illinois for a first-ever meeting with the Illini. 

The Pokes will play two more non-conference games before taking on the Air Force Falcons in their first Mountain West Conference game of the year. And then, on September 24th, the Cowboys will play Game 5 on the schedule, their final non-conference game of the year. 

And it will be a game that most certainly will have a “rivalry” feel for Cowboy Football fans. I’m not sure that Wyoming players will have that same intensity that a game against a rival brings, but any veteran Cowboy football fan will absolutely feel it when the Pokes take on the BYU Cougars in Provo.

This year’s Wyoming-Brigham Young football game doesn’t have all the traits that most rivalry games have, but it has the history. 

These two don’t play in the same conference, like most rivals do. These two don’t play each other on a regular basis, and haven’t since the 2010 season.  The Cowboys and Cougars haven’t met on a football field in six years, not since the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. 

But for nearly a century, from the time they played one another for the first time in 1922, until that last meeting as conference foes in 2010, Wyoming played BYU 77 times.   

They first met as league foes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 1922, continued as conference rivals in the Skyline/Mountain States Conference, the Western Athletic Conference, and the Mountain West Conference until 2010 when BYU left the Mountain West.   

This season’s Wyoming – BYU game will be a rivalry “re-kindling” of sorts. 

For so many years, particularly for fans in the western half of Wyoming, this game was the biggest game of the year. 

There was just a natural extra bit of intensity that the match-up generated each year. And it didn’t matter where the game was played, it could have been played on the moon. The fan fervor followed. 

Now, BYU fans would always say that Wyoming wasn’t really a major rival, they would claim the Utah Utes were their main rival. But for many Cowboy football fans, the Cougars were the enemy, and the Cowboys number one rival.

A Wyoming victory over BYU was a bit more fulfilling than other wins. And that held true in all sports.   These two could have been playing a tiddlywinks match and it would draw a crowd, and it would be intense. 

Cowboy football fans will long remember the win in a Laramie snowstorm over Jim McMahon and the 13th-ranked Cougars in 1981, the Cowboy victory in Provo in ’87, and of course, the Wyoming win over the Cougars the next season in Laramie. 

It was the ’88 season opener and Wyoming’s first-ever night game played in Laramie and War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys have had many rivals over the years. There are front-range rivals like the Air Force Falcons. 

There are bordering state, long-running rivals like the Utah State Aggies.  There seems to be a newly-developing rival in Boise State.  

And then there’s Wyoming’s longest-running rival, their most intense rival, the Colorado State Rams. And again, this is a rivalry that involves all sports. The Border War is as intense for the Cowgirl Swimming and Diving team, as it is for the Cowboy Football team.

This year’s Border War will be staged in Ft. Collins, Colorado, on November 12th. And it will be as wildly intense as ever. The Wyoming-CSU football game will be the 114th in a series that has covered three different centuries, and started in 1899.  Now that’s history, and that’s rivalry.            

So, this season Cowboy Football will play two games against a pair of old rivals.  Every game is special.  But those played against a rival, even more so.    

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