Utah State and BYU have played for the Old Wagon Wheel 65 times. In all, the Cougars and Aggies have met on the football field 90 times dating back to 1922.
Winning meeting No. 91, though? That would be special.
“Everyone will remember that last one,” Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said this week.
A century after their first game, BYU and Utah State will meet at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday night. And after the Big-12-bound Cougars’ decision to cancel the final three games of the in-state series, there is currently no concrete plan for the two teams to meet again.
USU Athletic Director John Hartwell has previously said he was “disappointed” by the suspension of the series. This week, Anderson and BYU coach Kalani Sitake both said they hope the two schools will find a way to revive the rivalry at some point in the future.
“I love the in-state games,” Sitake said. “I mean we went up to Logan last year and that is a cool environment man. You can see how much the fans love this game. I’m not the guy who does the scheduling, that is on our administration. But personally, I played in this and remember being a fan and cheering for BYU in these rival games, especially games against Utah State. It has been a lot of fun. I don’t have control of it [though].”
Said Anderson: “It’s a great rivalry. I understand what’s going on. I think we all saw this potentially coming with their move to the Big 12. But rivalry football is what college football is all about in my opinion. I absolutely love it. Some of my most enjoyable experiences are these types of games. I hate to see it go.”
Players from both schools also expressed disappointment that the series had been suspended.
“I was always surrounded by BYU fans growing up,” said Aggie offensive lineman Chandler Dolphin. “… It’s a full-blown rivalry here. It’s an exciting game.”
BYU defensive lineman Tyler Batty had mixed emotions on the matter.
“It is something we may miss for a couple years,” he said. “Honestly a little bit conflicted. You are bummed because you may not play them for a couple of years. But at the same time, you are going into a new era where we get to play a lot of new teams in the Big 12.”
BYU leads the all-time series 50–37–3 and will be heavy favorites going up against a Utah State team that has struggled early this season.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Anderson said. “They’re a phenomenal football team. It would be huge for us and it would obviously give us a tremendous amount of momentum going forward. Everyone will remember the last one. That’s great motivation for our guys to play their very best.”
Defending Jaren Hall
The Cougars’ quarterback has been the leader of the team’s offense, completing 103 of 144 attempts, good for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns.
Anderson called the BYU quarterback “the total package”.
“I would say he’s been somewhat flawless,” Anderson said. “I know they’ve got a loss on their record and he may be frustrated about his play, but what he’s done in terms of accuracy, the ability to move the pocket and extend plays, and then really to reach the wide side of the field so effectively is not something everybody can do.”
Emotions in check
“To all the fans out there, you have a right to be embarrassed with our composure levels last Saturday,” Utah State safety Hunter Reynolds said. “As a leader on this team, that falls directly on my shoulders, not reinforcing that in [training camp] and making that a bigger point of emphasis. … But I promise you going forward that will not be an issue.”
— Tribune reporter Kevin Reynolds contributed to this story.