BYU looks to defeat Utah State in annual conference weekend rivalry

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BYU is set to play in-state rival Utah State University this Friday night, as the Old Wagon Wheel competition continues.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is pursued by Utah State defenders Brian Suite (21) and Will Davis (17). (Luke Hansen)
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is pursued by Utah State defenders Brian Suite (21) and Will Davis (17). (Luke Hansen)

The matchup will be BYU’s fifth nationally televised game this season but the first for the Aggies, something their coach feels the players will be up for.

“This is our only in-state rivalry game this year,” said Matt Wells, Utah State head coach. “It will be an emotional game, especially for our in-state kids. … It’s on a national television stage that I think we’ll all be excited to play on.”

Both teams are coming out of a bye week that has provided time for players to rest and recover and the respective coaching staff’s additional time to prepare.

Before the bye week, the Cougars beat the University of Virginia in an intense matchup in which the two teams stayed neck and neck throughout the game. Adam Hine’s 99-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter ultimately helped the Cougars get ahead and win, 41-33.

Taysom Hill had a less impressive showing with only 187 total yards and 13 of 23 completed passes.

“We had a really good bye week,” Skye PoVey, BYU’s defensive back, said Monday. “We’re focused on trying to get better, not losing momentum. I think we were able to heal up a little bit and get better, so I think we had a good Monday practice.”

There is speculation surrounding Utah State starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who left the Wake Forest game in the second half after reinjuring his knee. USU Coach Matt Wells was unsure at first but later said Keeton will most likely not play Friday night against BYU.

“(The decision) will happen in the next few days,” Wells said. “We’ll get him out practicing and see what’s going on. I’ll talk to our medical staff; those guys are experts in what they do. I’ll lean on them really heavily … If he can’t go, then he can’t go. We’ll see where he’s at.”

In the meantime, Darrell Garretson has proven himself an adequate relief quarterback. He finished the Wake Forest game with 121 total yards and a passing touchdown to win the game 36-24.

The following week against Arkansas State, despite a disappointing 14-21 loss, Garretson had an impressive 268 total yards and 59 percent passing rate.

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall expects USU to provide a competitive challenge, not unlike that of the U of U in seasons past.

“Matt’s done a really nice job,” Mendenhall said. “We already know it’s going to be a difficult game and volatile game. Utah State is super aggressive defensively, and they play hard. So, yeah, it’ll be a good test for us.”

“As I look ahead at BYU, I see an extremely talented team,” Wells said. “Quite frankly, it’s maybe the best BYU team I’ve seen since I’ve been back at Utah State, and in the last eight or nine years of playing them at New Mexico and Tulsa. It’s a typical Bronco Mendenhall defense. They’re very sound and smart. I think they do a good job in the back end of covering up all their pressures and covering guys. They’re extremely well-coached.”

Looking forward to this week’s meeting with the in-state rival, Mendenhall and the Cougars anticipate a game that matters to fans and players alike.

“Considering only one in-state team will play us this year, it’s a huge game,” Mendenhall said. “It’s probably the featured game in-state. It means a lot. The two teams honor tradition, and this particular game matters a lot to both teams, and again, Friday night before conference is a great venue.”

The Cougars’ kickoff against the Aggies this Friday, Oct. 3, at 8:15 p.m. BYU will go into the game looking to maintain its undefeated status and keep its name in the national spotlight.

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