With the BYU-Utah rivalry game ending after next season, questions arise as to who will take over as the Cougar’s rival in football. Utah State is a good nominee, keeping the rivalry in-state. Notre Dame is a possibility, renewing the religious rivalry of the ’80s between the Catholic school and the LDS school. However, another nominee reaches the forefront: Boise State.
The Broncos and the Cougars are scheduled to play each other for the next twelve seasons, switching off the home venue year by year. With so many games to be played and the relative proximity of the two schools, the rivalry is a definite possibility.
[media-credit name=”Associated Press” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]”It depends how the teams play against one another,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “The regional part is helpful. If you can ever get it at the end of the year, that will help a lot. There’s a lot of intrigue as long as both sides can play at a level that makes it competitive.”
The first game of the 12-game series took place on Thursday in Boise, and the level of intrigue was at center stage. The game went down to the final possession in a defensive matchup of the year for the two teams, which the Broncos edged out 7-6.
BYU scored their only touchdown of the night with just over three minutes to go, and instead of tying it with an extra point to send the game into overtime, the Cougars attempted a 2-point conversion to win it outright. The attempt failed, however, and Boise State was able to run out the clock. Although the decision to go for it may be debated, the drive to win the game can’t be overstated.
“I wanted to win,” Mendenhall said. “We had momentum for the first time in the game, moving the ball offensively. We wanted to capitalize on it. I’d do it again.”
Both defenses played great, with Boise State forcing five turnovers, one returned for a touchdown, while BYU held the Bronco offense scoreless, including a goal line stand of four plays inside the one.
“When you come up with a stand like that, I’ll never forget the guys who were on the field during those four plays,” junior linebacker Spencer Hadley said. “Something like that sticks with you forever.”
Boise State who is 76-3 at home since 2000, saw almost an equal number of BYU fans fill their stadium on Thursday, making quite a bit of noise themselves in favor of their team. It will likely be the same when Boise State visits Provo next season.
The Boise State players and staff were equally impressed with BYU’s tenacity and play on defense.
“BYU is darn good,” Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said. “They really are. Bronco (Mendenhall) does an unbelievable job with that defense. I think they’re an elite defense. They’re coached really well. They play physical. They’ve got a difficult scheme to contend with to make it difficult on the quarterback.”
Whether it’s this kind of a defensive game that defines this rivalry, or the lights out points-in-bunches kind of game everyone was expecting, it doesn’t matter. The only relevant point is the fact these two teams will be playing for twelve straight years, and a new rivalry could develop from that. Keep that in mind when the Broncos come to town next September.