Rebs head West to Cowboy Country

Looks like good weather for the game Saturday. From cold and snow earlier in the week to high 60s and mostly sunny by kickoff.

I've heard the folks out there are awfully excited a Southeastern Conference team is finally coming to their place to play football.

By the looks of things on the Spirit message board and from others I've heard from who are going, it appears the 2,500 to 3,000 Ole Miss fans making the trip are excited as well.

I wonder if that bus trip leaving at midnight Thursday from New Albany and traveling West, returning Sunday, is still on. Good luck to those on that if it's still set to roll. That will be one long haul for a 3-hour football game.

There was a roll call for those going to Wyoming posted on the Spirit message board. Looks like Ole Miss folks from Oxford to New York, Baton Rouge to Atlanta, Memphis and Jackson and a lot of other locales will be gathering in Laramie's 33,000-seat War Memorial Stadium for this one.

You'll join somewhere around 17,000 – give or take – UW Cowboy fans and students in attendance. Wyoming athletic officials told ours this week that with the Ole Miss crowd that's coming, they hope to top 20,000 for this one.

Most of our fans who are going, as we'd heard for months, seem to have decided this long trip for a Rebel football game to a remote part of the country (Wyoming only has about 700,000 population) is worth it to get to extend their stay a while in the Rocky Mountain region. Some here left earlier in the week. That will be a good thing for those who can do that sort of trip based on money and work schedules.

Lots of schools over the years have gone to distant places to play games. Many of them play in Hawaii. That would be nice. Alabama just got through with a two-year deal out there if you recall.

Others make some trips like State has done lately to BYU (another beautiful region) and Oregon (ditto).

Don't know if many of you remember this, but back in the mid to late 80s, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt almost played their game one year in Ireland. There were some preliminary talks about it, but it never materialized. Any of remember that?

Our return game to UNLV was set for next year (or 2006, can't totally remember). But that trip was cancelled. That would have been a fun place to watch the Rebs play. And play yourselves, as the case would have been, although with so many casinos around Mississippi and parts of the country, maybe the lure of Vegas isn't what it once was for some.

So it's Wyoming for the Rebels. We've been hearing about this one for a while. I remember going to campus to do a story about eight years ago and talking with then associate athletic director Eddie Crawford, who was doing the football scheduling at the time, about games and series for the future. It was then, long about 1996, I first heard a Wyoming series home and away – or in this case away and home.

And here it is.

Our fans have mixed feelings about it, it seems. Some are excited about the trip. Some are just ready for another Rebel football game.

Some think it is a waste of time to be playing in a place that the team will have a problem getting in and out of. ‘Course we've heard that some about how other teams feel about Oxford, too, with no large airport for teams to get here easily.

Bottom line, it's on the schedule, has been for years, and now it's time to tee it up. There are the concerns about injuries now. There have always been concerns about the altitude and the potential problems it could cause our players. And the travel – from 1 p.m. Friday until long about 1 a.m. Sunday; some 36 hours – will be quite the adventure for coaches, players, and staff.

They'll bus to Memphis, fly to Laramie, bus to Cheyenne for the night, bus back to Laramie for the game, bus to Denver for the flight back to Memphis, and then bus home to Oxford.

Whew. Road trip.

That beautiful new 18-wheeler with Ole Miss Rebels and pictures all over it as well as markings proclaiming our six SEC titles and three national championships is somewhere between Oxford and Laramie right now.

The road trip is on for those who are hauling the Rebels' gear. It's on for those fans who've already left their respective homes, headed for a 1 p.m. MT kickoff on Saturday between the Rebels and the Cowboys.

Wyoming has good football tradition. Pat Dye left Wyoming as head coach for the same job at Auburn. Fred Akers was head coach there before he went to Texas. Bob Devaney was successful as head coach at Wyoming before becoming the head coach at Nebraska and turning the Big Red into a national powerhouse. Current Purdue head coach Joe Tiller, successful with the Boilermakers, was also a success as head coach with the Cowboys before that. Dennis Erickson was head coach there before making a name for himself at Miami (Fla.) and in the pros.

If Miami (Ohio) is known as the cradle of coaches in the Midwest, certainly Wyoming is the same in the Far West.

Wyoming has played in Sun Bowls and the Sugar Bowl; the Fiesta Bowl and the Gator Bowl; Holiday Bowls and Copper Bowls.

The Cowboys are 1-1 with a win over Appalachian State and a loss to Texas A&M. The Aggies actually played in Laramie in 2001. So at least one other big-time program than Ole Miss has been to War Memorial Stadium. Perhaps there is a bit of a trend toward that happening more. Virginia is headed to Laramie for a game in a year or two.

Wyoming has never beaten an SEC team in football. The Cowboys are thrilled an SEC team is finally playing in Laramie.

"Our kids are excited and fired up about playing an SEC team and the reigning Cotton Bowl champs," said current UW head coach Joe Glenn, who hasn't left Wyoming for anywhere else yet. "They have so much tradition. If you can't get your heart beating to play an SEC team, then something is wrong with you."

We can debate whether the Rebels should be playing at Colorado or BYU or some other western location rather than Wyoming for days on end. But as of now, the only things that matter are for those traveling west to be safe, have a good time, and for the Rebels to move to 2-2 on the season.

Next year the Cowboys will return the game to Oxford. And the series with Wyoming we've heard about for so long will be complete.

Here's hoping for a rousing Rebel victory and for those who attend to have a memorable time as the SEC meets the Mountain West in America's highest college football stadium.

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