Wyoming Cowboys Have One Advantage over Texas: Laramie's Altitude

Mark SchaferContributor ISeptember 3, 2009

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 11:  Corey Bramlet #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys looks to pass during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies on September 11, 2004 at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Laramie, Wyoming is home to the only four-year university in the least populated state in the Union. Therefore, it is also home to the only collegiate football team.

The Wyoming Cowboys call War Memorial Stadium home. There is nothing too special about War Memorial Stadium; it has a field like all other football stadiums, and it also has bleachers on three of the four sides of the field.

However, there are two special things about War Memorial Stadium. First, if the stadium were to sell out, then the stadium actually becomes the third largest city in the state of Wyoming.

Secondly, the stadium and the city of Laramie are located in the foothills of the Sherman Mountains which lay to the east. This gives a unique quality to the University of Wyoming Cowboys.  With a stadium that is located at 7,200 feet above sea level, it is the highest of any in the country.

That is more than 1,920 feet above the mile high city of Denver. So the oxygen in Laramie is not the thickest, and running at full speed, in pads seems to become a challenge in Laramie.

Therefore, when the University of Texas comes to town on September 12, it may not be as easy as some may think for the Longhorns to escape the Cowboy’s lassos.

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While the Texas Longhorns are a legitimate contender to play in a BCS bowl game or even the National Championship under the leadership of Colt McCoy, when they come to play the Wyoming Cowboys, they could meet a tougher opponent than the media and others may think, as well as one that some may have overlooked.

Things have definitely changed in Laramie. Last year, coach Joe Glenn—who was supposed to be a savior to the Cowboys when he was hired in December of 2002—was fired.

After six seasons, the Glenn era came to a close after just two winning seasons, and one of those the Cowboys finished with a 6-6 season.

So after losing the annual border war against rival Colorado State, Wyoming made the decision to fire Joe Glenn.

A new coach had to be brought in and that coach was former Missouri assistant coach and offensive coordinator, Dave Christensen.

Christensen is another reason why the Wyoming Cowboys may have a fighting chance at beating the Longhorns.

Being the assistant coach and former offensive coordinator at Missouri, Christensen is familiar with the Longhorns style of football. After all, the Missouri Tigers are a part of the Big 12 (albeit the north division instead of the south division).

The Tigers and Longhorns played last year and Missouri was beat with a final score of 31-56. While this doesn’t give a lot of hope to Wyoming Cowboy fans, it can bring a small glimmer of hope to the Wyoming faithful.

Christensen’s offense (as he was the offensive coordinator for the Tigers) did put up some points to the Texas defense, a defense that could be grasping for air come the 12th of September.

Looking at history, Wyoming has hosted a few big-name teams at the high-altitude of War Memorial Stadium.

In 2004, the year in which the Cowboys would win the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys hosted the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels, in their first season without quarterback Eli Manning, would lose a heartbreaker 37-32.

The altitude did affect the Rebels in that game, but perhaps not as much as others would like.

In 2007, the Virginia Cavaliers had a horrible time trying to find any offense and therefore, points. Virginia had just five first downs, 103 passing yards, and -3 rushing yards for a total offensive effort of just 100 yards. Time of possession was dominated by the Cowboys with Wyoming having 40:19 worth of ball time compared to the 20 minutes that the Cavaliers had.

The only things that the Cavaliers matched the Cowboys with were turnovers. Both teams had two turnovers in the game.

Virginia would go on to a 9-4 record overall. Wyoming, on the other hand, would slip to a 5-7 record. Obviously the altitude played a part in that game.

Last year the Ohio Bobcats came to the high altitude of War Memorial stadium. While Ohio is certainly no Texas or Virginia, Ohio would lose to the Cowboys 21-20.

It is true that a 21-20 game does not necessarily mean that altitude played a big part in the game, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t. The very next week Ohio played Ohio State who was ranked No. 3 at the time.

Until one minute into the fourth quarter, the Ohio Bobcats were leading the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State would score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game 26-14. Despite the loss, Ohio played Ohio State very close.

So when the Texas Longhorns come to play the Wyoming Cowboys, it might not be a brutal one-sided game with Texas running up the score to Wyoming.

Since Wyoming has a high altitude and a coach who is familiar with Texas, this could be an interesting game.

As a student at the University of Wyoming, the buzz around campus is focused more on the Texas game than this Saturday’s home game against Weber State. So Texas, despite playing at 7,200 feet above sea level, will also most likely be playing in what will be Wyoming’s third largest city (War Memorial Stadium at full capacity.)

One thing is for sure, if Wyoming is going to win they are going to want to play a very solid game. They could come out with a major upset, especially if the air on September 12th is especially thin.

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