LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – BYU has pretty much dominated the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel over the years.
But more recently, the series has been pretty even. The Aggies and Cougars, who didn’t play last year because of Covid, have split the last six meetings.
So, is this game a true rivalry? Well, it depends on which team you ask.
“I’ve never seen Utah State as a rival,” said BYU wide receiver Neil Pau’u. “I know there’s the Wagon Wheel and stuff, but I’ve only played them once. I didn’t play them the last time that we’ve won it. I just see them as another team.”
“I do consider them a rival,” said BYU offensive lineman Gabe Summers. “But I feel like often times there’s people who really dislike us, and to us, they’re just another team.”
For Aggies first year head coach Blake Anderson, he’s learning about the rivalry quickly.
“Everybody that I’ve met since I moved to town has made it really clear to me how much this rivalry means to them,” Anderson said. “This is one we’ve got to win and need to win. I get all that. I love college ball for rivalry sake.”
“This one means a lot to me,” added Aggies wide receiver Derek Wright. I know quite a few guys on their team. I was recruited by them. So this one does mean a lot.”
Ever since they started playing for the Wagon Wheel trophy in 1948, it’s traveled to both campuses, as tough as it may be to move it.
“That Wagon Wheel is heavy,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “But at least you can roll it.”
“You’re not lifting it up by yourself, that’s for sure,” added BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney. “It’s pretty stocky. But I’m hopefully looking forward to lifting it up again with a couple of my teammates this weekend.”
The last time BYU (4-0) and Utah State (3-1) had a combined record as good as 7-1, you have to go back to 1978.
Ranked 13th in the country, this will be BYU’s first true road game of the season, and they’re expecting a raucous crowd at Maverick Stadium.
“We’re excited just for the challenge to play away and to kind of hear the boos,” Pau’u said. “I know a lot of athletes get up for that when they hear boos and when they hear taunting. Utah State definitely is hostile.”
“I feel like negative energy, positive energy, regardless of what it is, it’s all energy,” said Summers. “When we hear those boos and when we hear that negativity, I feel like that gives us a little more fire.”
“The more hostile environment, the better for me,” said BYU linebacker Chaz Ah You. “That just brings out a different competitive side in me in my opinion. Especially up at Utah State, their fans like to talk a lot. Their players like to talk a lot, so it’s going to be a really high intensity game.”
Utah State is hoping the crowd is as loud as it ever has been.
“We need them bigger than ever on Friday night,” Anderson said. “We need a packed house, electric, loud. We need to make BYU uncomfortable. This is an opportunity to beat a top-20 team, an in-state opponent, and a rival.”
This will be a short week for both teams, but the Cougars have more momentum going into the game.
“We’ll see how our prep goes this week,” Sitake said. “We’re shot a day just like they are, so its a new one for this season, but everyone has to make adjustments, we’ll have to get ready with a day less prep.”
“A short week doesn’t help, but they have to play on a short week too,” Anderson said. “We played earlier on Saturday than they did so we get a little more time, The physical side of maybe guys not quite ready to play that had got dinged up that’s always a concern.”
BYU and Utah State will kick off at 7:00 p.m. Friday night in Logan.