PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – There is nothing quite like the Utah-BYU rivalry.
“It’s intense, it’s exciting,” said BYU defensive end Tyler Batty. “I think it’s pretty much everything you can want in a football game.”
Well, except for BYU fans, a victory. Not since Max Hall hit Andrew George in overtime 12 years ago has BYU celebrated a win in the rivalry game. But the Cougars are trying not to worry about the 9-game losing streak to the Utes.
“Just have a short memory,” said quarterback Jaren Hall. “Anything in the past is in the past, and we look forward. So, for us now, it’s looking forward to this next game. That’s what we can control. We can’t change the outcome of the past.”
“I don’t think you can sit there and hide things from the players,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “They obviously know that there’s a streak going on. So you address it, and you give them the challenge of going out there and trying to find a way to break it.”
There are so many ties between the two schools, Kalani Sitake, Eliasa Tuiaki and Aaron Roderick all coached at Utah, while offensive lineman James Empey committed to the Utes before switching to BYU. But he says there are no hard feelings.
“They handled it with class,” Empey said. “They were awesome at letting me transfer without any penalties and releasing me. I have only good things to say about their staff and their people.”
Because Sitake and Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham are such good friends, the rivalry has taken a friendlier tone the last few years — at least on the teams.
“I think it’s really good for the soul to wish good things on people,” Sitake said. “I want to beat Utah, I really do. But afterwards, I wish them success.”
But Sitake is well aware how much this game means to BYU fans.
“My job as a coach isn’t to tell the fans how to behave,” he said. “My job as a coach is just to be thankful that we have fans that care and are passionate about our team and then try to meet their expectations. We have fans with high expectations, and we want to make them all happy.”
While former Utes wide receiver Samson Nacua and his brother Puka are hoping to play after missing the Arizona game, receiver Gunner Romney is doubtful with a leg injury. But there is good news on defensive back Keenan Ellis, who had to be carted off the field after a scary collision Saturday night.
“Keenan is actually doing pretty good right now,” Sitake said. “We ran all the tests and did everything we could, and it seems like he’s going to be good. We’re just glad to get him back and get him healthy.”