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One way to annoy Laramie, Wyo. is to suggest that it is a naive newcomer to the world of college football. It is true, residents admit, that Walter Camp did not sit by the telegraph bug waiting for University of Wyoming results before putting together something like his 1897 All-America team, but it is also true that the University was playing football back at the turn of the century, which was not all that long after Harvard and its associates discovered the pig bladder.
In fact, it was a Harvard man who gave the Wyoming team its nickname of Cowboys. It happened in 1890 or so—the official record is somewhat inexact—when a University of Wyoming team scheduled a game against the Army's cavalry post at Cheyenne. Feeling outgunned, the team talked one Fred Bush, a 220-pound Harvard graduate turned cowpuncher, into signing up for a few courses and reporting for action. When the new recruit trotted onto the field for the game he was wearing a bright checkered shirt and a big Stetson. "Lookit the cowboy," shouted the cavalrymen, in who knows what tone of voice, and since then the Wyoming team has been the Cowboys.
Continuing its policy of judicious recruitment, Wyoming has been slowly working itself up in the football estate, until last week it had an 11th-place national ranking and enough muscle to beat dedicated Brigham Young 26-10 and remain one of the season's few major undefeated teams.
The Cowboys came into their game at Laramie against Brigham Young with victories over Arizona, Air Force and Colorado State, but in the process they had suffered some of the biggest Wyoming losses since the 11th Ohio Cavalry destroyed a whole wagon train of booze at Whiskey Gap in 1862.
"We're left with only one man in the offensive line that started against Arizona," complained worried Coach Lloyd Eaton. Surviving, however, was much of the defense that allowed only 38.5 yards rushing a game last season; a 211-pound tailback, Jim Kiick, who personally destroyed Florida State in the Sun Bowl; college football's best kicker, Jerry DePoyster, who set five NCAA records in 1966 and had won the previous week's game with a 55-yard field goal; and, most important of all, Quarterback Paul Toscano, who was a safetyman last year, but now had become the national leader in total offense with 683 yards.
Nonetheless, Coach Eaton was concerned, and for a very good reason: the BYU offense, which is run by three alternating quarterbacks and was averaging 44 points a game.
Last Thursday Eaton was discovered hidden in a small, dark storage room, running BYU films over and over to tease his nerves.
"BYU has the athletes, I'll tell you," he said. "Like Notre Dame they've got that church program going for them. Those three quarterbacks supplement each other, and they're all much better than average. It's like playing a pro team. They can put six on the scoreboard every play."
Eaton was also willing to worry about the Cougar defense. "They'll definitely come in at Toscano, figuring he's still a relatively green quarterback, which is right." But offense was his preoccupation. "They'll throw the hell out of us," he said.
"Passing entertains the people," corroborated Coach Tommy Hudspeth, who was holed up with his BYU team 50 miles away in Cheyenne. "As long as the ball has air in it, we're gonna throw."