Utah Utes, Utah State football: Tradition or rivalry?
Opinion may depend on whether you root for USU or U. of U.
With each lopsided Ute win, the annual in-state football game between Utah and Utah State becomes less of a rivalry.
Or so it seems.
Utah has won 10 straight games, the longest streak in the 107-year history of the series, and the average score during that time is 34-12. Since 1980 the series stands 24-4 in Utah's favor and in the last three trips to Logan, Utah has won by an average of 37 points.
The Utes and Aggies meet again Saturday in a 6 p.m. contest at Romney Stadium in Logan.
If you ask Utah fans, many say it isn't much of a rivalry any more.
"It's more of a tradition than a competitive rivalry," said Todd Fuller, a Ute fan for more than 40 years. "But I still enjoy it. I'm all for keeping the in-state tradition alive."
"We have other things to worry about," said Geoff Gough, a MUSS member and longtime Ute fan. "We have BYU as our main rival. Utah State is more of a friendly in-state game."
On the other side, Utah State fans still see it as a rivalry, where hope springs eternal.
"Up here, we see it slightly more of a rivalry than down in Salt Lake," said Jay Wamsley, who has worked at Utah State for 26 years and been a fan even longer. "In the back of everybody's mind, they can remember when John L. Smith beat Utah twice 10 years ago and that five years ago we almost beat BYU here. So there's always hope that on any given Saturday we could win."
Of course, the coaches and players on both sides insist that the rivalry means something.
"We've had some tough battles up there with the Aggies," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham. "We seem to get their best shot and their best effort each time. As history usually proves, it's a tough place to play."
Actually, coach, history shows Logan is not a tough place to play for Utah, at least not lately. The average score of the last three games is 40-3 with Utah winning 48-0 in 2006, 48-6 in 2004 and 23-3 in 2002.
But Whittingham still sees the game as a rivalry because of the proximity and the "recruiting wars" between the two schools.
"We do consider it a rivalry even though of late it hasn't been very competitive as far as the win-loss," he said. "But it is a rivalry nonetheless in our eyes."
Utah State receiver Otis Nelson grew up in Salt Lake, where he attended Hunter High, so he is aware of the rivalry.
"I can't wait for this game every year," said Nelson. "My whole family will be there and a lot of friends will be there. I have a very good friend who plays for them. It's always a fun game to play."
Utah State coach Brent Guy believes his team will be ready this week because it's Utah.
"We get to play at home against a rival, which I think will help a little bit," he said
Ute starting middle linebacker Mike Wright, who played for Bountiful High, actually grew up as a Utah State fan and used to attend USU games in Romney Stadium.
"I'm definitely aware of the rivalry," he said. "My dad went to Utah State and tried to raise me as an Aggie fan. I used to go up there all the time and definitely always saw the Utah-Utah State game, so this is definitely a big game for me. It's a good time, a good atmosphere up there to watch a football game in Logan."
Although he is from Las Vegas, linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is more cognizant of the rivalry because his cousin, Geno Odong, is a sophomore cornerback for the Aggies and they talk all the time.
"In-state rivalries are big and people talk about rivalries all year," Sylvester said. "Rivalries are always big because you never know what's going to happen. We can't take them lightly because anything can happen."
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