Dick Harmon: Y.'s Tidwell knows USU rivalry well

Published: Thursday, Oct. 1 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Paul Tidwell knows the passion that Utah State brings into a football game against BYU.

But now he's BYU's recruiting coordinator and coaches the Cougars' inside linebackers. He's been a member of BYU's coaching staff for nine years. Still, his roots, like those of LaVell Edwards, are at Utah State and Logan.

So, what gives? How does Tidwell weigh the anti-BYU passion some would call hatred, resentment or just simple animosity when it comes to the Cougars?

Tidwell enrolled at Utah State in the early '70s before Edwards became BYU's head coach. He played as an Aggie fullback from 1973 through 1976. His teams defeated the Cougars twice, and also won three of four games against Utah.

It was in the day when USU football won a lot of games. The snub by the WAC, of which Utah and BYU had duplicity and guilt, hadn't fully sunk in, although it festered. It was years before BYU adopted a similar USU school color in the late '90s. It was a time long before QB Riley Nelson was born and transferred from USU to BYU after an LDS mission in 2009.

"When I was at Utah State as a freshman, I didn't know much about BYU. LaVell was just getting BYU started and the rivalry (as he knew it) hadn't grown into much of anything," said Tidwell.

As a freshman and sophomore, Tidwell's Aggies beat the Cougars both times. In the BYU game his sophomore year, neither team scored a touchdown. USU kicked a field goal to win the game 9-6, and there was a brawl at the end of the game.

"After then, it was such a big game for everybody. As long as I can remember, going back and talking to Aggie players who played there, it became a big game. To Utah State, it is a huge game. They will be up for it, they will play hard and they would love nothing better than to beat BYU.

"When I was in an Aggie uniform, it was no different. My junior and senior years, they kicked our fannies. Gifford Nielsen came on the scene and BYU took off and did some wonderful things."

Tidwell said the wars and battles that go on between instate teams has carried over.

"I'm sure they (Utah State players) will show up emotional, fired up and try to prove something," he said. "They will be playing hard and we'd better be ready."

Tidwell said that, personally, he never hated BYU.

"Not at all. I know there were some on our team that did. I heard those words, hate and kill, and those kind of things, but I personally didn't have any problems," he recalled. "I always enjoyed beating Utah and BYU."

Tidwell's Aggies were 5-3 against the instate schools.

Observing this game over the years, it has been intense. BYU has generally won, but in the course of competition, Cougar players have been frustrated, played in spurts, have lost their tempers — Junior Filiaga punching an official in the '80s — and some have suffered freak injuries.

In general, this has been an intense battle, a fight on grass, in which the scoreboard hasn't reflected the entire story.

A great example is last year in Logan. Austin Collie may have had a 70-yard TD catch and the Cougars won 34-14, but the atmosphere, to some, was that a feisty USU squad out-played the Cougars.

Such is the saga of this long, sometimes strange series.

Here are the predictions of Week 5:

Texas Tech 34, New Mexico 10: First-year New Mexico coach Mike Locksley is a few days from an official reprimand for punching one of his assistant coaches. Back in August, I predicted the Lobos would win one game this year — and that was last week with New Mexico State at home. I was wrong. Now what? Who will UNM defeat?

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