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Travis Burkhalter and Alvester Alexander
Wyoming wide reciever Travis Burkhalter celebrates with Alvester Alexander in the endzone after the Cowboys score their first touchdown against Weber State in Laramie. (Courtesy photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The fight song was playing before they even took off.

And a different kind of music greeted the Wyoming Cowboys when they touched down.

UW arrived in New Mexico on Wednesday, three days before its date with Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl, and if any of the excitement of the Pokes’ first bowl game in five years had worn off in the practices leading up to their trip, it was quickly restored on the first day.

“The comment made by the bowl people was that they’d never seen so many happy faces getting off an airplane,” UW coach Dave Christensen said before the team boarded a bus to Wednesday’s welcome dinner. “My point to them was that nobody in this program has been to a bowl game. And I can promise them that everyone on that airplane is excited to be here.”

While the New Mexico Bowl is the first of 34 bowl games this season, that didn’t stop the Cowboys from getting a taste of the royal treatment that comes with the postseason.

The Cowboys flew in on an airplane from the fleet of Sun Country Airlines, and the company fired the team up before it even left the ground, blasting the fight song on the plane’s speakers before departing and again upon arrival in Albuquerque.

Once the team left the plane, a traditional mariachi band greeted them at the airport.

And the team hotel might as well be in Laramie. The brown-and-gold-clad staff greeted the Pokes in a lobby covered with streamers, balloons and posters proclaiming Poke Pride.

“The entire thing is first class,” Christensen said. “(The hotel) is pretty excited about it, and the entire thing is Wyoming Cowboys from wall to wall.”

It’s Christensen’s fifth bowl in five years, so he’s learned a thing or two about the fanfare and hospitality that comes with the postseason.

And as far as he’s concerned, the New Mexico Bowl greeting lived up to those he was a part of as Missouri’s offensive coordinator at the Cotton Bowl and Alamo Bowl, among others.

“They did a great job,” Christensen said. “They met us at the plane and had a mariachi band playing right there. A number of people from the bowl greeted us right as we got of the plane. They’ve been very welcoming.”

Among the fun, there is obviously still plenty of work to be done.

The Cowboys will participate in their final full bowl practice today and will have a walk-through Friday ahead of Saturday’s big game.

But there’s more to a bowl than just the game itself, and the Cowboys quickly got the opportunity to see and feel the allure that comes with making the postseason.