The Keg of Nails. The Golden Boot. The Governor’s Trophy. The Paul Bunyan Trophy. The Beehive Boot.
And now, the Musket.
Head coach John L. Smith has coached for all of them in his stops at Louisville, Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan State and Utah State, respectively, and he’ll try and lead his Fort Lewis College football team to a win in the 48th annual Musket Game against rival Adams State on Saturday at Ray Dennison Memorial Field.
While some coaches downplay trophy games as just another game on the schedule, Smith carries an entirely different mindset. He thinks traveling trophy games are one of the quirky deals that add to the fabric of college football, and he encourages his players to embrace them.
“No. 1, I think they’re extremely important. Whenever you have those types of traveling trophies, that creates a rivalry that makes the game bigger, not only to the players, the participants, the coaches, but the people in the state,” Smith said.
Of those trophies, Smith’s teams captured the Keg of Nails (Louisville-Cincinnati) four times, the Beehive Boot (Utah State-Utah-BYU) once, and the Governor’s Trophy (Idaho-Boise State) five times. The Paul Bunyan Trophy (Michigan State-Michigan) and the Golden Boot (Arkansas-LSU) proved more elusive.
He’s now getting to know the Musket a bit better, even working on ensuring shells are ready for a potential home win Saturday over the Grizzlies.
To recap, the Musket is a Springfield .45-70 rifle donated by Mahlon White, whose family ran the First National Bank branches in both Alamosa and Durango, to stoke the school spirit of the rivalry.
Using the weapon, the only traveling trophy FLC plays for, to build a bit of good-natured competitiveness on the field is a tradition Smith said he’s hoping to engrain in his players going forward, particularly the younger players who are new to games of this nature.
“That’s a big deal, and I think making it a big deal is what you should do,” Smith said. “And so I’ve tried to relate to these guys that this is huge. This is our rival.”
It’s a rivalry the Skyhawks hope to make more competitive on the scoreboard, as well. Adams State holds a 33-13-1 edge in the series, and the Grizzlies currently hold a two-year winning streak in the rivalry. Getting that number closer to even is one of Smith’s priorities.
“Rivalries are not rivalries unless you make them a rivalry,” Smith said. “And for us to make it a rivalry, we have to go to the field and win, because it’s not a rivalry when one team wins all the time. That’s my belief. So, doggone it, guys, we’ve got to lay it all on the line and make this a rival and win the darn thing.”
And aside from all the hubub about trophies, it’s a chance for FLC to get some of its mojo back at home after falling 42-0 to Colorado Mesa two weeks ago at Ray Dennison Memorial Field. And it’s an opportunity to make a bit of a statement against a team in the top half of the league standings.
FLC’s two Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference wins have come against Western New Mexico and Western State, who boast a combined overall record of 3-11. A victory over 6-2 Adams State surely would turn some more heads.
“This is an upper echelon – which is a good way to put it – football team in this league that we have to step up and play with to show that we’re tired of the lower echelon,” Smith said.