Oct. 13, 2012 is a memorable day in Wyoming’s recent football history. Even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.
The Cowboys renewed their rivalry with Air Force at War Memorial Stadium for the teams’ 51st all-time meeting, which is still remembered more for what happened once it was over. The Falcons’ 28-27 win didn’t sit well with the Cowboys, particularly fourth-year coach Dave Christensen, who let Air Force coach Troy Calhoun know about it during a heated postgame exchange.
“I have an issue with the ethics,” Christensen said afterward. “That’s not ethical. I let him know what I felt about it.”
The game started innocently enough -- and positively enough for UW -- as the Cowboys built a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter with the help of touchdowns runs from Shaun Wick and D.J. May. Air Force chipped away and cut UW’s lead to 27-21 on Jon Lee’s 2-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the third quarter.
The Falcons got the ball back at their own 33-yard line after forcing a three-and-out, which is when the real drama began.
Air Force used 15 plays to set up second-and-goal at UW’s 7. After being tackled by Siaosi Hala’api’api and Miraldo Michel at the end of a 2-yard run, quarterback Connor Dietz slowly made his way toward the Falcons’ sideline before trainers tended to him on the field, making Christensen believe Calhoun had Dietz fake an injury as a way to buy the Falcons more time to draw up a play with backup quarterback Kale Pearson.
Pearson scored on a bootleg on the next play. The Falcons tacked on the extra point to take the one-point lead with 7 minutes, 45 seconds left in the game.
“I had an issue with a player not being injured, jogging all the way across the field and -- 5 yards from the sideline -- falling on the ground,” Christensen said. “And they stand around for 4 minutes.”
UW turned the ball over on downs on what proved to be its final possession. Air Force ran out the final 5:29, and Christensen met Calhoun with a slew of profanities as the teams walked off the field. Christensen’s verbal tirade went viral after a video of the outburst, which has since been deleted, was posted to YouTube and picked up by numerous national media outlets.
“Probably not a conversation I’d have with my mom,” Calhoun told reporters afterward in describing the nature of the conversation. “Not that kind of dialogue.”
Christensen publicly apologized for his comments the next day, but the damage had been done. He was reprimanded by the Mountain West and UW athletic director Tom Burman, who suspended Christensen for a week and fined him $50,000.
“After a long and difficult week of consideration, I believed it was in the best interest of the university and our athletics department to take this action,” Burman said then. “The reputation of our university and our athletics program is of the utmost importance.”
To top it all off, Christensen’s comments came on UW’s Military Appreciation Night. The Cowboys finished the season 4-8 -- the first of back-to-back losing seasons that ultimately got Christensen fired.
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.
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