Looking out from the press box at Utah State’s packed student section an hour before kickoff, Utah athletic director Chris Hill said he understands what the rivalry means to fans and that many would like to see it continue, especially after the buildup Friday’s game enjoyed.
Unfortunately for the traditionalists out there, he insists he just can’t see how rivalries with Utah State and BYU can continue uninterrupted, regardless of their popularity.
Just as important, he said, is building Utah’s national brand.
“A recruit might see Oregon playing Tennessee, then see us playing Michigan and go, ‘Oh, OK. Utah is there.’ ”
Hill said he knows some observers might think Utah is “getting too big for its britches” by failing to schedule Utah State and BYU, but that the nine-game Pac-12 schedule continues to tie his hands.
“An eight-game schedule would give us more freedom to do some things,” he said.
The Utes are in the midst of scheduling both Weber State and Southern Utah for future games, but Hill understands those future meetings won’t appease fans from the other in-state schools. “I know we have longtime rivalries and we’d like an answer, but I can’t come up with one,” he said.
In the first half of Utah State’s battle with Utah, Aggies safety Clayton Christensen made the biggest play of his young career.
Christensen accounted for the Aggies’ first touchdown at Romney Stadium, recovering a Zach Vigil blocked punt in the end zone, and setting the tone for what was a dominant first half by Utah State.
The Utes were bragging about their special teams play in the season opener. On Friday, it was subpar play that was earning the group attention. Besides the blocked punt in the first quarter that was returned for the touchdown, a botched kickoff return in the second quarter left the Utes on their own 4-yard line.
Meanwhile, the Aggies had three fumbles in the first half but were lucky to not lose any of them.