Brad Rock: Hate not limited to 1 in-state rivalry against BYU
LOGAN — Wild. Woolly. Noisy. Intense.
And all those rude, overbearing fans.
But we're not talking about Max Hall and the Utes.
That's so November.
Wednesday night at the Spectrum, Utah State and BYU resumed their long basketball rivalry with a 71-61 Aggie victory. No, it wasn't particularly friendly. That happens when you start playing one another 104 years ago. A century is a long time to build up a dislike. USU and BYU didn't even play one another in 2007-08 thanks to a scheduling disagreement. So they're not bosom friends.
Even Utah never took its ball and went home.
Still, for the Aggies, it may have been worth the delay.
"They broke our spirits a little," BYU coach Dave Rose said of a stretch in the second half.
No real trouble actually occurred, unless you count the fat lip BYU's Jackson Emery got for getting too close to Tai Wesley's elbow. The hate was limited to the ever-present Aggie crowd, which included a hefty, bare-chested guy who did an outstanding Chris Farley imitation.
"I actually spoke at an event last year and I asked for the guy who takes off his shirt to be there," said USU coach Stew Morrill. "We gave him a loud ovation."
Time intensifies rivalries, but the crossover between USU and BYU has fed into this one, too. When Ladell Andersen returned to Logan as coach of the Cougars, after once coaching at USU, he got garbage thrown at him. When Roger Reid rolled in, he was met by Aggie fans dressed as Reid's blond-haired sons, Robbie and Randy, who were playing for Reid's BYU team. USU students held up signs that said "Can I play, Dad?"
The razzing only gets wackier with time.
This year the fan focus was on the uproar over comments by BYU quarterback Max Hall regarding his hatred the University of Utah, and the program's lack of class. Hall later apologized.
"Max Hall, we hated U first," said one sign in the Spectrum.
"Classy enough for you?" said another.
"Hey, Max," said a third, "save some hate for us!"
Rivalries can get personal.
When BYU's Jimmer Fredette got called for traveling, the crowd chanted "Stupid! Stupid!
Another sign said, "I Refuse to Call a Grown Man Jimmer."
The trouble between BYU and USU has been augmented by the fact BYU has been destroying the Aggies in football for decades. The Cougars opted out of playing USU every year, for a time, because it did nothing for their strength of schedule. The resentment has carried over to basketball, where the Aggies are far better equipped to play on level ground. Big, strong guys in the paint? USU has that. It outscored BYU 26-16 in the paint and 13-5 on second chance scoring. Great shooters? Has that, too. Returned missionaries? Check. Clever guards? Yup.
The Aggies even have guys from Provo. Coach Morrill was born there and star forward Tai Wesley went to high school there. Similarly, the Aggies also have guard Preston Eaton from Springville and guard Tyler Newbold from Payson.
It's like a reunion with people you never really liked.
Consequently, the series has been close of late. USU won four in a row and five of six, but BYU won the two before Wednesday. After a long streak in the '80s, in which BYU won 15 straight, USU has now won eight of the last 16.
BYU hasn't won in Logan since January 8, 2000, and hasn't visited Logan since 2005.
For the Aggies, especially, these games count. Playing in the lightly regarded Western Athletic Conference, winning can mean the difference between an NCAA bid and oblivion. Often only the WAC Tournament champ gets a berth. But beating a team like 5-0 BYU?
That could be a tourney-maker …
"It means a lot," said Aggie forward Nate Bendall, a Salt Lake native who was the game's difference-maker with 14 points and 10 rebounds. "I know Utah-BYU means a lot, that rivalry is big, but ... it's big for us, too. We get our emotions going and we feel we have something to prove."
Thus the Aggies pulled off another win in Logan, their 37th straight, where the crowd brings its "A" material for games against BYU.
"The signs come out, the craziness comes out," said Morrill. "Guy takes off his shirt. Hell, it all happens."
Added Morrill, "They might go over the edge a little, but that's OK with me. That might not be OK with everyone, but it's OK with me. They might have gone over the edge, so what?"
The fat guy had sung, having shown once again that when it comes to rivalries in Utah, there's plenty of hate to go around.
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