PROVO — Each of the three BYU football captains grew up with different perspectives on the BYU-Utah rivalry game. Now that they've each seen the rivalry game up close and personal, however, those perspectives are largely the same.
The game is a very big deal for the players and coaches, but most of all, the fans of both programs.
As a born-and-raised Texan, Brandon Ogletree caught a glimpse of the insatiable appetite fans had for the game following the 2009 game. That matchup ended with Max Hall hitting Andrew George with a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.
"It was awesome and when the fans rushed the field I was like, ‘(whoa), this is important to a lot of people,' " said BYU‘s defensive captain, who was a freshman at the time. "It was an eye-opener, but it was definitely a cool thing."
Ogletree grew up keenly aware of the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry and the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry and assumed the rivalry BYU had with Utah was largely the same. It wasn't until seeing up close that he became aware the rivalry's unique aspects.
"I'd say the (Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M) fan bases are a lot more civil toward each other, if that's okay to say," Ogletree said. "I think here it's gotten a bit nasty which makes it kind of fun for the players — obviously we're not going to back down from anyone, but it's a lot of fun. I think the religion aspect adds an interesting dynamic to it, but it is what it is and it's a lot of fun."
Special teams captain David Foote grew up with a different perspective of the rivalry than Ogletree. Foote was born and raised in Southern Utah, but didn't become aware of the rivalry until his teenage years due simply to not being able to see the game.
"My parents didn't have a TV when I was young, so I didn't see too many football games," Foote said. "It wasn't until later in middle school and then in high school that my parents got cable and I was able to watch the games and see what the rivalry was all about. I loved it and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Foote grew up a BYU fan and always cheered for BYU to win the game, but that is quite the opposite of starting quarterback Riley Nelson. Nelson grew up in Logan and was a die-hard Aggies fan.
"I think the Aggies hate BYU more than any other team, so I always cheered for the Utes by default," said Nelson about who he cheered for when BYU and Utah matched up. "I always cheered for Utah because I wanted BYU to lose every game growing up, but it was a fun rivalry to watch. I don't remember a lot of the games because I was always at the Utah State games."
All three captains are now keenly aware of what the rivalry game means to the fans and to the program as a whole.
"It's a big game and it's a game we look forward to playing every year," Ogletree said. "You always want to beat your rival. We try to approach it like any other game, but we're all very aware of how big of a game this is for everyone. It's a lot of fun playing at Utah. I love the atmosphere of the place and their fans. They create a really intense environment that I love."
There is a bitter taste in most players' mouths regarding what has taken place over the past two years in the rivalry game. In 2010, many felt they outplayed Utah only to have the game taken away from them in the final seconds with Brandon Burton's blocked field goal.
2011 was just plain embarrassing for everyone according to Ogletree.
"We don't feel that it was BYU football," Ogletree said about the game. "You want to have it back, but you only have those opportunities once a year, so you want to make the most of it. You definitely think about it, but you try not to dwell on it, but it's there and you have to use it as fuel."
Ogletree and his teammates feel that the team prepared well for last year's game, but were out-executed in almost every facet before the mistakes sort of snowballed — leading to a 54-10 loss.
For Nelson, it was an excruciating experience to watch from the sidelines as the humiliation of last year's game unfolded.
"It was frustrating from the standpoint that we kind of lost our fight toward the end," noted Nelson. "Now that I'm a senior and in a position to influence our guys that is one thing that will not happen. We will fight, scratch and claw until the very end no matter what the score is. If we do that I think we'll be in a position to win the ball game."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
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