LARAMIE — Wyoming is learning that there is a fine line between winning and losing.
There’s also a fine line between losing your cool and being competitive.
After Wyoming’s disappointing 28-27 loss to Air Force on Saturday night, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen had some heated words with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after the game.
He questioned whether Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz was really injured before the Falcons scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On Sunday, Christensen issued an apology for his comments and actions after the game.
“I want to apologize to Wyoming fans, the Mountain West Conference and the game of college football for my actions and for the comments that I made after our game against Air Force,” Christensen said. “I let my emotions, my passion for our football program and the frustrations of the first half of the season get the best of me, and my actions reflected negatively on our program.
“I have always tried to teach the young men in our program the importance of sportsmanship in our game, and with that said, I believe it is important to let them know that when you do make a mistake you need to stand up and take responsibility for your actions. That is what I am doing with this apology.”
Four of Wyoming’s six games so far this season have been decided by no more than three points. The Cowboys have won just one of those games.
On Saturday night, Wyoming fell to Air Force 28-27 after leading 27-21 going into the fourth quarter. The Falcons scored midway through the final quarter after a 16-play, 67-yard drive while the Cowboys managed just two first downs and 32 total yards.
“We didn’t execute well enough to win the football game in the second half,” Christensen said after the game.
Against Air Force, Wyoming (1-5, 0-2 Mountain West) played without starting quarterback Brett Smith, who was scratched just before the game because of an undisclosed injury. Entering the weekend, Smith was ranked ninth in the nation in total offense, averaging 336 yards a game.
Smith was replaced by freshman Jason Thompson, who passed for 195 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 75 yards.
“You never know what you’re going to get when you put a true freshman in at quarterback,” Christensen said. “I’m real proud of Jason, he ran the offense extremely well.”
For the second straight week, Wyoming faced and held in check the nation’s leading rusher.
When Dietz was shaken up after being tackled on Wyoming’s 5-yard line on a short run, backup Kale Pearson came in on third and goal, faked a handoff and sprinted around the right end, diving for the pylon at the front corner of the end zone. He was initially ruled out of bounds, but a review of the play revealed that he got the ball over the pylon for a touchdown.
Dietz returned on Air Force’s next possession and finished the game.
Christensen was visibly upset with Falcons coach Troy Calhoun after the game.
Christensen later questioned whether Dietz was injured, noting the quarterback walked about 20 yards before taking a knee near the Falcons sideline. He said the several minutes that trainers attended to Dietz gave Air Force time to strategize the next play.
“There was nothing wrong with that player except that his helmet came off,” Christensen said. “And I have a real problem with that.”
About eight minutes remained in the game, and the Falcons had all three timeouts remaining.
Before Pearson entered, the referee announced that Dietz, by rule, had to leave the game because his helmet came off.
“In this game we’re supposed to be ethical and that’s not ethical,” Christensen said. “I don’t know what they teach at Air Force, but I’m not going to teach that to my kids. I want my guys to get off the field when they’re hurt, and we don’t want to stop the game.”
Calhoun declined to discuss incident in detail with media.
However, he characterized the conversation with Christensen as “probably not a conversation that I’d have with my mom. Not that kind of dialogue.”
University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman said, “the postgame actions and comments made by Coach Christensen do not represent Wyoming Cowboy Football in the manner we expect, but I respect Dave (Christensen) for issuing this apology. I know he wants to express to his team and to Cowboy fans everywhere his sincere regret in what happened on Saturday night and how proud he is to be their head coach.”