LARAMIE — Wyoming facilities employees ran shovels across Jonah Field during timeouts Saturday night to demarcate yard lines while the onslaught of snow, which began the game as rain, continued to accumulate. The shovels began on the 10-yard intervals. Then they got to the 5s.
Yards were not easy to come by in the 109th Border War — 108th if you follow Colorado State's interpretation — for the Wyoming rushing attack. Throwing the ball through the snow-spotted air became a questionable means of attack, and the Rams adjusted adequately. Reducing the Mountain West's leading passer to a merely secondary role, the Rams leaned on Dalyn Dawkins, who dashed through the snow to the tune of 154 yards.
But Wyoming was getting just 1.6 yards per carry from its starting running back, Trey Woods, and quarterback Josh Allen had fumbled his last carry when the Wyoming offense took the field with 7:09 to play, needing 69 yards to take its first lead all night.
Second-string running back Kellen Overstreet took his first carry of the game on that drive, and he had no need for 1-yard intervals. His first run went for 16 yards, the longest by a Cowboy tailback all night, and he averaged 6.1 yards per carry on Wyoming's final two drives. One run was a 3-yard touchdown, Wyoming's only of the game. Another picked up the first down that, two kneels later, sent Wyoming sprinting to the Bronze Boot in the southeast corner of the stadium.
Some players chose to make snow angels as time ran out on Wyoming's 16-13 win. They'll have plenty of time to enjoy the traveling trophy at their own convenience.
It's staying in Laramie.
"It's great being a Cowboy," said linebacker Logan Wilson, a Natrona County graduate. "I'm going to remember this game for the rest of my life."
It was the teams' 50th battle for the boot. With the win, Wyoming's second straight over Colorado State, the Cowboys (6-3, 4-1 Mountain West) are bowl eligible in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1987-88. In a credit to the Cowboys' defense, it was the fewest points scored in a Wyoming win since 2008.
The Cowboys still need help from first-place Boise State if they hope to return to the Mountain West Football Championship Game, but they would have needed far more without Saturday's comeback win.
"It was one of the most emotional games I've ever been a part of," fullback Drew Van Maanen said. "... The whole thing was just so emotional to me. I was just soaking everything in. And then when we finally got into that victory formation, we had talked all week that that's how we were going to end the game. Every one of us had confidence in that, and that's how the game was going to go, and then we did it. It was so surreal for me."
Cooper Rothe's three field goals set a career high for the sophomore. In a three-point win that included a botched snap by Colorado State's kicking crew, Rothe, a Colorado native, was perfect from 25, 43 and 32 yards.
His two first-half kicks couldn't have come in more different circumstances. The first was a let-down. Wyoming had first-and-goal at the 2, but Tyree Mayfield dropped a would-be touchdown pass on second down, and on third, Allen's pitch to Woods resulted in a 7-yard loss.
The mere existence of Rothe's second attempt was a testament to Wyoming's two-minute offense. A touchback on a Colorado State punt gave Wyoming the ball at its own 20-yard line with 1 minute to play in the first half. Allen found C.J. Johnson for gains of 15 and 20 yards to get the Cowboys in field goal range with 3 seconds left in the half. Despite the fact that rain had recently transitioned to snow, Rothe sent Wyoming into the half trailing by four instead of seven.
Colorado State (6-4, 4-2) took the initial lead on the game's opening drive. A 36-yard Dawkins run was about the only highlight of that 52-yard march, but it was enough to set up a 41-yard Wyatt Bryan field goal. The first half's only touchdown came on the drive following Rothe's first field goal. Dawkins ran seven times for 35 yards on the drive, but it was Izzy Matthews that finished it off, running in from 1 yard out after a keeper by Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens put the Rams in first-and-goal.
During halftime, the snow decided to up its intensity, and Wyoming took advantage of Colorado State's reduced visibility. Sophomore receiver Austin Conway hid behind his offensive line and took the ball for a 40-yard run on the half's opening drive. The Cowboys stalled again in the red zone, but Rothe hit his third field goal to pull Wyoming within one point.
Colorado State's kicking unit lost its battle against the elements on its next trip to the red zone, but the Rams were more successful on a 27-yarder two drives later, pushing the gap to four once more. Wyoming's offense then appeared to have found a new gear, beginning its possession with an 11-yard pass from Allen to Van Maanen. But Allen's 11-yard run on the second play ended in his fumble.
The Rams' next drive produced another fourth-down attempt, but unlike earlier in the game, when Stevens found Warren Jackson for 13 yards, the Wyoming defense held. Allen and Overstreet began the Pokes' touchdown drive after a Rashaad Boddie run that came up 2 yards short.
Like the last one, this drive began with a Van Maanen first down. It was a diving effort that earned 16 yards, but left Van Maanen without feeling in either of his arms. He didn't get to snap on Wyoming's only point-after attempt of the game, which followed four Overstreet runs, two Allen runs and a facemask penalty. Van Maanen did return for the final drive, when Wyoming's offense ran out the clock to reward its defense for the three-and-out it had just forced.
Wyoming has now won five of its last six games after beginning the year 1-2. The Cowboys have consecutive wins over Colorado State for the first time since winning four straight from 2009-12. Wyoming won all three of its trophy games this season, beating Hawaii, Utah State and the Rams.
The game was Wyoming's second without a takeaway this season. Strangely enough, both came on nights with wet conditions, the other being Wyoming's 24-14 loss at Boise State.
Next week, Wyoming ends its stretch of five consecutive Mountain Division games at Air Force. Then, the Cowboys finish their home schedule against Fresno State and end the regular season at San Jose State.
Wyoming hopes to be playing the week after that, too, in the conference title game. It will need help. But after Saturday's snowy win, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Either way, there will be a bowl. There's already a boot.