PROVO — Let's just begin with the 62-yard interception return by BYU.

And the dual 61-yard kick returns by Utah State's Roger Fernandez.

Don't forget the 51-yard punt return by BYU's Mike Riggell.

The 50-yard pass from Brandon Doman to Reno Mahe wasn't too shabby, either.

There was a missed 35-yard PAT by USU and two successful 35-yard PAT's by BYU — all brought on by penalties.

Toss in the onside kick, the unsportsmanlike and excessive celebration penalties, and there you have it.

Did we mention both teams going for it on fourth down?

So much wacky football, so little newspaper space.

BYU's Luke Staley lined up in the shotgun formation as the quarterback — and that was just his side job. As a halfback, he scored five touchdowns and 30 points all by his lonesome, tying school records.

Friday's Utah State-BYU game was a 3 1/2-hour tour of the rulebook, the playbook and the statistics book. A night that looked a lot like sandlot football.

BYU came back from a 34-21 deficit in the third quarter with 33 unanswered points, to take a 54-34 win. The outcome moved BYU to 5-0 and Utah State to 0-5. That brings the Aggies' exercise in futility to one win in the last 17 meetings and 13 straight losses in Provo.

What the score didn't tell is that it was the sort of game that brings to mind one question: Why aren't these guys playing each other every year?

If nothing else, it gives the officials a chance to brush up on their rulebook.

In some ways, calling this a "rivalry" is stretching things. In terms of wins and losses, there hasn't really been much doubt since the early 1980s. But it has usually been colorful. For example, there were the times Aggie students declared the BYU game "Tequila Day" in Logan. Enough said. And the time the BYU lineman became so incensed that he attacked an official.

In the final toll, though, there hasn't been much to argue about. Even though USU played BYU close several times, as it did through three quarters on Friday, the Cougars always managed to win. Not surprisingly, the lack of suspense has dampened enthusiasm for an annual game. In 1995, BYU put an end to what was pretty much an annual affair. The teams also didn't play in 1998. They meet next year in Logan, but aren't scheduled to play in 2003 or 2004.

This, of course, hasn't set well with Aggie alumni, players and fans.

All of which didn't faze the Cougars a bit. They're off to their best start since 1984, which, if you're paying attention, was the year they won the national championship.

Just exactly what the parallels are between 2001 and 1984 is debatable. On one hand, being 5-0 against the hard-luck opponents BYU has played so far seems suspect. The Cougars' opponents are now 2-18. By comparison, Utah State played a gut-wrenching schedule of teams that are 17-4. But BYU's 1984 opponents weren't exactly fearsome, either; they went an unimpressive 61-85-3 that year.

The Cougars took 'em where they could get 'em, and left the experts to sort things out.

That said, the Aggies didn't look like chopped liver on Friday. They looked like a team with an attitude. A team that doesn't wear the label "winless" easily. A team that doesn't like being told it isn't good enough to play the Cougars every year.

BYU officials are now saying they expect to play every year after 2004.

Which is good news for everyone.

Except those in charge of keeping the stats.


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