By Ryan Hope
For the 78th time, BYU and Utah face off Saturday Nov. 23 in what has become a fierce in-state rivalry.
“It”s age old. It has been going on since the beginning of the schools,” senior offensive lineman Isaac Herring said. “It”s an in-state thing. You have people that you played with on the other team. It”s a hatred or a desire to go out and win in-state always.”
Utah holds a 45-28-4 lead in the series, which dates back to 1922.
From 1922 to 1971- Utah won 38 of 47 games played: most of them lopsided victories.
In 1972, BYU promoted assistant LaVell Edwards to head coach, and the Cougars suddenly took control of the rivalry.
From 1972 to 1992 the Cougars dominated the Utes, winning 19 of 21 games played as BYU rose to national prominence.
The rivalry has been more competitive since 1993, with Utah holding a five- games to four lead over the Cougars.
“The Utah game is a big game in many ways,” head coach Gary Crowton said.
The Cougars must win against Utah to be eligible for a postseason bowl berth.
The game is also a big one for Utah head coach Ron McBride, who has been under a lot of fire for the team”s 4-6 record this season. Many believe McBride will be fired sometime after Saturday”s game.
The game, which has come to be known as the “holy war”, has been characterized as a hard-hitting, trash- talking affair.
“In an in-state rivalry you”re fighting for your territory,” junior defensive tackle Ifo Pili said. “If a player is going to cheap shot or talk trash, this is going to be the game to do it.”
The last five meetings between the teams have been decided by seven points or less.
Last season, BYU scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to come from behind to win 24-21.
The win snapped the Cougars four-game home losing streak to Utah.
“This is our biggest game of the year,” senior tight end Spencer Nead said. “In the back of your mind when you go into the season you”re eyeballing this game. This is the game that”s circled on your calendar. They”ve been talking, and we have some guys that have done some talking. The beauty of football is eventually you”re going to have to play.”
While BYU has the chance to advance to a postseason bowl, the Utes season will end on Saturday.
“We”re still playing for a bowl game, but this is going to be a battle,” Nead said. “They don”t have anything to play for, and we”re playing for 6-6, which isn”t real great. It”s just pride. Its blue against red.”
PAYNE WINS AWARD
Sophomore kicker/punter Matt Payne was awarded Mountain West Conference special teams player of the week for his performance against New Mexico Saturday. Payne won the same award two weeks ago, in the Cougars 34-10 victory over San Diego State.
Against New Mexico, Payne connected on three field goal attempts from 52, 37 and 32 yards out. Payne also ran 28 yards on a fake punt to extend a Cougar scoring drive in the second quarter.
Payne punted eight times, averaging 44.4 yards against New Mexico.
The only major injury Saturday was to sophomore defensive end Brady Poppinga who suffered an “isolated tear” in his knee. Poppinga will to play Saturday against Utah wearing a knee brace.
Sophomore running back Marcus Whalen, senior tight end Gabe Reid and junior linebacker Mike Tanner all suffered minor shoulder injuries which shouldn”t keep them out of Saturday”s game.