John Zsiray, AP
LOGAN — Utah State and Wyoming have announced the formation of a football rivalry series called Bridger’s Battle.
Starting Saturday the two football teams will play for a .50 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle like the one mountain man Jim Bridger carried when he discovered much of the Wyoming and Utah areas in the early 1800s.
“I think the concept of Bridger’s Battle and the traveling rifle trophy is a good idea by both universities,” said USU coach Matt Wells in a released statement. “The Wyoming series is one of the oldest in school history, and it will add great significance annually to the game.”
There will be plenty of significance to Saturday's game without playing for a new rivalry trophy. Wyoming (5-6, 3-4 MWC) needs a win to clinch bowl eligibility and avoid back-to-back losing seasons. Utah State (7-4, 6-1), thanks to a Boise State loss last weekend, can win the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference with a victory and earn a bid the first Mountain West Conference title game next week.
“In the big picture, we know what we're playing for," Wells said. "We've been talking about it since the Boise State game. I've got no problem talking big picture, but we'll narrow the focus down really quick. We want to finish the drill and be 1-0 against Wyoming. We'll look up Saturday and figure out what we're doing next week. I'm very proud of our guys for really being in the position to even talk about this.”
Much like last week, the biggest challenge will befacing a dynamic Wyoming offense. Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith is 11th in the nation with 3,213 passing yards. He has also run for another 577 yards.
Last week against Hawaii, Smith accounted for 640 yards of total offense and tied the MWC record with eight touchdowns in a 59-56 overtime victory over the Warriors to keep the Cowboys' bowl hopes alive.
“Todd Orlando (defensive coordinator) and our staff find a way to step up every week,” Wells said. “They're going to have another huge challenge with Brett Smith and the wide receivers and them playing the four wideouts. They're very well-coached and they play with pace.”
Saturday also marks the final game in Romney Stadium for Utah State’s 22 seniors. The class has already broken the school record for most wins in a four-year period, but is still looking to add to that total and achieve the preseason goal of making the conference title game where a BCS hopeful Fresno State team awaits.
“This group of guys I’m with right now is pretty amazing,” senior running back Joey DeMartino said about his fellow seniors. “I feel that when we leave it for the younger guys they know how much we’ve sacrificed. They see the new buildings and stuff that previous classes and us have helped get to this school. I think we set a good precedent for them to keep fighting and working hard.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.
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