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Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes football: 109th edition of old rivalry set to kickoff

Series takes a break until 2012 season after Thursday

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 5 2015 2:30 a.m. MDT

University of Utah fan Cory Gillies dressed like a pirate and cheered on the Utes against UNLV in 2008. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) University of Utah fan Cory Gillies dressed like a pirate and cheered on the Utes against UNLV in 2008. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

This is it.

After yearly meetings since 1944, Utah and Utah State will give their football rivalry a rest after tonight's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The 109th edition of the nation's 12th most-played rivalry will be the last until things start up again in 2012.

"It's a good series, a healthy series," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Fortunately we are going to restart it. ... I think it's good for the state of Utah. It's good for both schools."

It's a game, he added, that should be played every year.

The "Battle of the Brothers," however, has been more of a beatdown as of late.

Utah State fans are ready to have something to cheer about with a new coach, Gary Andersen.  (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah State fans are ready to have something to cheer about with a new coach, Gary Andersen. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

The Utes have won the last 11 games against the Aggies, prevailing by an average of more than three touchdowns and a field goal.

"Should the rivalry take place every year? Yeah, it would be great. But right now, for us, I think it's a good thing and positive move for our program to be able to take a step back," said Utah State coach Gary Andersen. "As far as it being a rivalry game, it is a rivalry game — but it's a one-sided rivalry."

And that, he explained, is something those at Utah State need to understand. There's work to do in order to turn things around.

Andersen said that in a true rivalry game there's give and there's take on both sides.

After record-breaking season ticket sales, Utah fans are ready to pack Rice-Eccles Stadium for the season opening game against Utah State. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) After record-breaking season ticket sales, Utah fans are ready to pack Rice-Eccles Stadium for the season opening game against Utah State. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"This has been a one-sided affair for quite some time within the state," he continued. "We're looking at someday, as we continue to grow, develop and move this program in the right direction, to make it a back-and-forth rivalry. The sooner, the better. But we're looking forward to that day."

With significant ties to the Utes' program as a player and coach, Andersen is in a bit of an awkward situation in his first game at the helm of Utah State. He didn't know his coaching career with the Aggies would begin against the Utes until his interview for the USU post.

Andersen, who was focused on Utah's impending trip to the Bowl Championship Series at the time, recalled that a lot of things went through his mind upon hearing the news.

"Great. Holy cow. Why? Wow," he said. "There's a lot of things come to your mind on that one."

Andersen is seeking to become the first USU head coach to win in his debut since Phil Krueger in 1973. He'll attempt to do so against Whittingham, his longtime friend and associate.

"It's going to be a very interesting day in our lives," Andersen said.

The coaching matchup has taken center stage before the rivalry takes a rest.

Both coaches, though, are quick to agree that the coaching is overrated and it's all about the players.

Utah safeties coach Morgan Scalley, who had the opportunity to play for and coach with both guys, notes there are plenty of similarities between them.

"Those two are definitely in it for the right reason. They care about the kids, they care about the players and it's all about them," Scalley said.

"Both are class individuals that do things the right way ... Both are very competitive and detail oriented in what they're doing — very professional."

And, for at least one night until 2012, they'll be rivals — well, sort of.

EXTRA POINTS: A sellout crowd is expected at Rice-Eccles Stadium. ... The last USU coach to make his debut against Utah was Dave Arslanian in 1998. The Utes won 20-12 at Logan. ... Utah opens a season ranked in both major polls for the first time. ... "Salute America" festivities at the game include a giant American flag that will be held by fire department, military and police personnel. ... A record 5,000 MUSS members are expected to be in attendance.

Utes/Aggies on the air

Utah State at No. 19 Utah

Tonight, 7 p.m.

At Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: The mtn. Radio: 700 AM, 610 AM, 1320 AM

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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