LARAMIE – Boise State’s legendary blue field has been a house of horrors for many opponents through the years. But, as it always does, the University of Wyoming believes it has an ace up its sleeve.
When the Cowboys (6-2 overall, 3-1 Mountain West) travel to Boise (7-1, 4-1) for a matchup Saturday night that could decide the Mountain Division, they won’t be worried about the aura of The Blue. They’ll be more worried about execution and Xs and Os.
The Pokes will also know that they have their own unique advantage: playing home games at the highest elevation in college football.
Laramie sits at 7,220 feet; the Mountain West’s next closest school is Air Force (Colorado Springs), which is at just over 6,000 feet. Boise is at 2,730 feet.
When opponents come to War Memorial Stadium, it can be hard for them to catch their breath. On the flip side, when UW travels, the Cowboys feel invincible.
“You don’t even feel tired. You just have a different kind of energy. It’s so weird,” senior wide receiver Austin Conway said. “You’re supposed to get tired, because that’s what your body is supposed to do … but it’s like the air is rich. You almost want to sell it to someone.”
The Cowboys feel the difference almost immediately; it doesn’t take until the fourth quarter to realize that they have better stamina. In tough, grind-it-out games, that can be the difference between winning and losing.
“Usually, it’s like in warm-ups,” sophomore left tackle Rudy Stofer said. “You just feel a bit better.”
Feeling like they have an edge is no knock against Boise State or its legendary turf; Wyoming feels like it has an advantage everywhere it goes because of elevation. Quite conversely, head coach Craig Bohl has immense respect for Albertsons Stadium and Boise State’s program.
Boise State’s brand is well known around the country, and for good reason.
“I have a great deal of respect for (Boise State head coach) Bryan Harsin … outstanding program, and they play really hard and their record at home is good,” Bohl said. “For me to make any disparaging remarks about the blue turf, I think, is pretty counterproductive … I would rather have all our colleges be on green, but that’s me. I’m a traditionalist.”
But not every coach in the Mountain West takes The Blue in stride. San Diego State’s Rocky Long said that the field was “unfair” in 2011, saying that wearing blue jerseys on the turf created an “unfair advantage” and that the field took “a quarter or two to get used to,” per the San Diego Union-Tribune. According to the Idaho Press, Long said in 2014 that the “mystique” the field used to have was gone. He has reiterated those comments in recent years.
From 2006 through 2014, Boise State had a home record of 55-2. Since 2015, the Broncos have lost four regular-season home games and an additional one in last year’s Mountain West title game against Fresno State.
UW is by no means afraid of traveling to Boise, despite the fact the team has never won there. It’s not worth worrying about, since there’s nothing it can do to change it.
“There’s nothing you can really prepare for. You’re not going to really know what to do until you actually get there,” senior defensive end Josiah Hall said. “Once the game starts, you’re like, ‘OK, we’re just playing football.’”
Where UW always feels like it has an edge, however, is in the stamina department.
“You notice it as soon as you go into warm-ups. I mean, a slight jog in Laramie feels like a small walk in San Diego,” Conway said. “So, translate that to a football game. You’re playing the whole game, and you’re like, man, in the third quarter, fourth quarter, I’m not anywhere close as exhausted.”
Michael Katz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelLKatz.