Is Utah State really considered a rivalry game?
LARAMIE -- Admittedly, Blake Anderson doesn't know much about Jim Bridger's rifle, the traveling trophy awarded to the winner of the Wyoming-Utah State game.
The Aggies' second-year head coach might not have a clue about the mountain man's weaponry, but he does know he wants to put his hands on it Saturday night in Laramie.
"I know I watched those guys carry it off the field last year and that was enough to piss me off," Anderson said Monday during his weekly press conference. "I just want to play good ball. It's a conference game and it matters."
Anderson, who said the rivalry and the trophy will not be part of the discussion with his team this week, is referring to the Cowboys surprising 44-17 rout of his team last November inside Maverik Stadium. The visitors rolled up 604 yards of total offense, including team-high 169 rushing yards, courtesy of running back Titus Swen.
The then-sophomore tied a school record with a 98-yard sprint to the end zone late in the third quarter. Swen also added a 43-yard scoring jaunt in the win.
Wyoming played a spoiler role that night, but Anderson's bunch eventually got the last laugh, winning the conference title and playing in the inaugural LA Bowl where they knocked off Oregon State, 24-13.
Andrew Peasley was on that Utah State roster a year ago, In fact, in that loss to the Pokes, the sophomore, playing in relief of starting signal caller Logan Bonner, attempted just two passes. Technically he didn't complete one, though he did throw an interception into the arms of UW safety Isaac White.
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Peasley entered the NCAA Transfer Portal in the offseason and will start his eighth game under center for the Cowboys Saturday night against his former team.
So, who better to ask than Peasley: Is this game really considered a rivalry?
"I think it's a rivalry, but really, at the end of the day, it's for the rifle," he said. "I think there's a lot of respect between each team. Every coach that I had was like, 'Hey, this is Wyoming week.' So there's always been a lot of respect on both sides of the ball."
What was it like to be on the wrong end of last season's lopsided affair?
"That was a long game," he said with a grin. "I hope Wyoming does it again this year."
These two programs have met 71 times on the football field. The Aggies hold a 40-27-4 advantage in the series. Between 1976 and 2001, this game wasn't played one time. In 2013, Utah State joined the Mountain West Conference. Aside from the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign, these teams have met every year since with the Aggies holding a 5-3 lead.
Wyoming linebacker Easton Gibbs was recruited by Utah State out of Temecula Valley High School in California. Gibbs, who was actually born in Utah, said Laramie and the coaching staff at UW eventually solidified his ultimate decision.
The sophomore said he considers the Aggies a rival, but not quite at the same level as Colorado State or even Air Force.
"It's almost like every Mountain West game you play feels damn near like a rivalry game, which is weird," he said. "... I think Utah State is climbing up that ladder for us. I mean, they are always competitive games and they are always a good team."
Swen has a bit of a different take on the meeting.
"I don't really like anyone we play," he said. "People say it's a rivalry, but I don't even feel like it's a rivalry to me. I feel like it's just another game."
Swen said growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, maybe he just doesn't feel the hate. The Border War, on the other hand.
"I look on social media (and fans) are back and forth," he continued with a laugh. "I'm like, it's not even game week or football season and ya'll are going back and forth. It's great."
While Peasley made his way to Laramie this offseason, former UW quarterback Levi Williams signed on the dotted line to join the Aggies after Wyoming's bowl victory last December.
That unofficial QB swap has added some luster to this one.
"He's in different colors, so he's the enemy," Swen said of Williams, whose status for Saturday is unknown after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Utah State's 17-13 win over the Rams in Fort Collins.
Will there be any pregame pleasantries exchanged between the former teammates?
"Nah," Swen said. "Maybe after the game, but not before. I mean, before the season I chatted it up with him, but when the season started all communication stopped. It was game time."
Craig Bohl said Monday he understands the importance of this game, especially when it comes to the fans on the western side of the state. While he won't stray from his typical "1-0" mantra, Wyoming's head coach did say he loves getting his mitts on that .50 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken firearm.
"I know they enjoyed holding that rifle up last year. I did as well," Bohl said. "... When we won it one year, one of the general managers in the NFL texted me the picture and said, 'What are you doing running around a stadium with a rifle?' It was unloaded, but it's a big sucker and we have it in a really nice, fancy case."
Will it stay there?
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be televised on FS2.