Utah football: Ute coach downplays renewal of rivalry with Aggies
SALT LAKE CITY — Despite the intangibles, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn't putting any extra importance on Friday's game at Utah State.
"It's been awhile since we've played them, so it's good to rekindle that — but it's just another ballgame," Whittingham said. "You've got to get ready for it. There's really nothing that sets this game apart. We've just to approach it like we do every other week."
Apparently, it takes more than the renewal of the Utes' oldest football rivalry after a two-year hiatus and a reunion of sorts with longtime coaching colleague Gary Andersen to bring additional significance to the 110th "Battle of the Brothers" — the 12th-most-played series in major college football history.
Whittingham downplays the coaching matchup as a "non-factor," noting that he and Andersen have been apart for three years now and both have "kind of gravitated in our own directions."
Even so, the Utes have plenty of respect for the Aggies as they prepare for their first trip to Logan since 2008.
Tight end Jake Murphy, who led Utah with six receptions and two touchdowns in last Thursday's 41-0 season-opening win over Northern Colorado, noted that Utah State has a real good team and that Romney Stadium is a tough place to play.
"So we've got to bring our 'A' game. We're not taking anything lightly so we're preparing real hard for them," said Murphy, who attended games up there when his brother Shawn played for USU. "(They have a) good coach up there and just a good program overall."
Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn agrees. "Coach Andersen has those guys doing good things up there and it definitely won't be an easy task going in there," he said.
Junior linebacker/defensive end Trevor Reilly acknowledged it'll be "a whole other ballgame" for the Utes after opening the season against a struggling Big Sky Conference program in Northern Colorado.
Besides the in-state rivalry, Reilly noted that USU is a well-coached and talented Division I program that went to a bowl game last season and had three players drafted by the NFL in April.
Reilly compared them to the Fresno State teams under Pat Hill that no one wanted to play. Reilly pointed out that last year's USU squad should have won nine or 10 games and is on the cusp of getting to that level.
"So they're one of those teams that if you don't prepare right and play the right way, we could lose," he said.
It could be a bit of a chess match. Whittingham made the first move after Thursday's game when he joked that Utah showed all of its offense in the opener.
"You saw every play we had. So we don't have anything left," he said. "Tell Utah State that. That's it."
On a serious note, Whittingham doesn't think Utah's win over Northern Colorado or Utah State's 34-3 decision over Southern Utah revealed a lot about either team.
"I think it takes four or five weeks before you get a completely accurate picture of where everybody is," Whittingham said. "So I don't think that one game — regardless of who you play — is going to give you all the evaluation you need. It's a process and so the answer is no. I don't think anybody in the country knows where you are after one game."
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