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All elements in place for Air Force, Wyoming to turn into a legitimate rivalry

September 20, 2013 Updated: September 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm
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Wyoming's Mike Purcell (50) can't keep Air Force fullback Mike DeWitt (25) from reaching the end zone during the first half of a college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, at Air Force Academy in Colorado. Wyoming downed the Falcons 25-17. Mike Christy, The Gazette

All of the elements have long been in place for Air Force and Wyoming to become full-fledged rivals.

It seems one incident was needed to put it fully into that category, and Cowboys' coach Dave Christensen's profanity-laced tirade at the Falcons' Troy Calhoun may have provided that tipping point.

"I look at Wyoming like I look at Army or Navy," Air Force fullback Broam Hart said. "Just a rivalry."

Asked why he felt this way, Hart responded: "Just because of the past games. Looking at the film, the way we've played each other. It's definitely a tension-filled game."

The coach vs. coach incident was the headliner, but it seems this rivalry was inevitable.

Want history? Wyoming is Air Force's oldest opponent. The series dates back to 1957.

Want proximity? Laramie, Wyo., is just a 3?-hour drive from Colorado Springs.

That proximity leads to recruiting battles. Air Force quarterback Jaleel Awini and cornerback Gavin McHenry were among the Falcons sought by the Cowboys. Awini lost interest after a coaching change in Wyoming and McHenry opted out in favor of the postgraduate opportunities offered by Air Force.

"The whole town is involved with the team," McHenry recalled of his time as a Wyoming recruit. "There's a lot of support. That's nice to have."

On Wyoming's side, receiver Dominic Rufran was recruited by Air Force after he graduated from Palmer.

Want legit competition? This series is close, with Air Force holding a 27-21-3 advantage. Eight of the past 11 games have been decided by single digits, including last year's 28-27 victory for the Falcons. The road team has won the past two meetings.

So this was a combustible situation long before Christensen took issue with Air Force's handling of an alleged injury.

The coaches both tried this week to bury the past.

"I'm not playing one snap," Christensen said. "And I'm pretty sure Troy isn't either. . My behavior's going to be much better and I'll watch my Ps and Qs."

The incident didn't necessarily spark any animosity among the players, though several said they had at least given it some thought.

"It was kind of interesting to see," Air Force running back Jon Lee said. "I mean, I think it just showed the poise of coach Calhoun, which rubs off on us. You can expect it to be a physical game but a respectable game. There won't be any more of that."

Calhoun offered praise to the Cowboys and noted that any time "you're able to play schools that are in the area it's healthy."

"It's a tremendous school," Calhoun added. "Just ask Amanda."

The Amanda he is referring to is his wife, Amanda Calhoun. Yes, these places are so intertwined that Calhoun is married to a native of Laramie.

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