PROVO — BYU sophomore JD Falslev grew up in Utah State country. That's why, for him, playing the Aggies is something special.
The Cougar wide receiver and kick return specialist hails from Cache Valley, and he remembers well the disappointing 31-16 loss to USU last fall.
"I've only had one experience playing Utah State. It was bittersweet, going home and losing the way we lost, but it's a fun game and it has a lot of emotion behind it," said Falslev. "I know people up there, I know some of the coaching staff (at USU), and I grew up watching their team play. I have some hometown roots, but I'm a Cougar through and through and I will be for the rest of my life."
BYU and USU renew their rivalry Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
During the second quarter last year at Romney Stadium, Falslev, then a freshman, returned a kickoff 34 yards. Just as he was going out of bounds, the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder delivered a big hit on a member of the Aggies' coverage unit.
That return was one of the few highlights of the game for the Cougars and it provided a much-needed spark for a BYU team that was being manhandled by USU. Falslev's return set up the Cougars' first score of the game, a field goal.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall was so impressed with Falslev's return that he showed it to the entire team the following week.
"I just remember wanting to get onto the field so bad," Falslev said. "I was just returning kicks and punts. Once I got that shot, I tried to take it and run with it. I felt like I did a good job. Coach Mendenhall talked about (the return) in the next team meeting, which was kind of cool. Last year, the whole year, I just wanted to get onto the field so bad."
Mendenhall said Falslev "is kind of the epitome of the type of player I'd like at BYU. Nothing's been given easily to him. He's worked his way onto the team. He has good grades, he returns punt with guys flying in his face. He's returning kicks and then trying to knock guys down when he's getting tackled. He's just a fierce competitor. He's very coachable and a great kid. I would like as many of those type of players here as we can get."
Coming out of Sky View High School, Falslev didn't have any scholarship offers, though he was recruited by BYU, Utah and Utah State.
Gary Andersen, who previously served as the Utes' defensive coordinator, was trying to recruit Falslev to Utah before taking the head coaching job at USU.
"When Coach Andersen went to Utah State, our family thought he would pursue me there, but actually didn't. He did a little," Falslev said. "They offered me walk-on status as well. I chose BYU because of the atmosphere and the chance they give walk-ons."
Falslev has since earned a scholarship and a role as a kick-return specialist and as a wide receiver. This season, Falslev has had six punt returns for 41 yards and one kickoff return, which he fumbled, against Utah. He's also caught six passes for 53 yards.
Falslev isn't the only Logan native on the Cougars' roster. Backup quarterback Riley Nelson played at Utah State as a freshman in 2006 before transferring to BYU after his LDS Church mission.
While Falslev would like nothing more than to beat the Aggies on Friday, he said he has no ill feelings toward Utah State. He's simply glad to be a Cougar.
"I'm ecstatic to be here," Falslev said, "and have the chances that I've had to play."
Cougars, Aggies on the air
Utah State (1-2) at BYU (2-2)
Friday, 6 p.m.
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM