Let The Chants of Holy War Begin

Rivalry week has come to the state of Utah as fans begin to square off for bragging rights. Both BYU and the U of U prepare themselves to face one another, as local media begins fueling the fires in this latest round of what has become known as "The Holy War."

Whether in the workplace, on message boards, among divided families, internet chat rooms or on local radio shows, BYU and Utah fans will be engaged in full discussion about who is going to do what to the other this weekend. However, for those BYU athletes that will actually have to fight the battle on the field, this is just another game on the schedule that needs to be played.

"For the fans and the media it's a big rivalry," said Dennis Pitta. "For us it is just another game, and you know that's what we're always going to say because that's what it is for us. We're going to prepare for Utah like we've done for every other team this year. We're going to work hard and focus on this game no differently than we did for anyone else."

"Preparation week hasn't changed at all," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said during his weekly press conference. "If there was a better way to prepare for a team, then we'd prepare that way every week. And so, we do our normal practice model. Our meeting times and everything stay the same. If there was a better way to do it, we wouldn't save it for just this week. It's business as usual."

However, last year Whittingham and his staff not only pointed out the BYU countdown clock located in their weight room to potential recruits, but apparently charted out former BYU quarterback John Beck's throws all season long in preparation for the season-ending game. It would appear the U of U takes the rivalry more seriously - even shedding tears on the field following last year's loss - than BYU does, but that simply isn't true.

"We obviously don't want to downplay the rivalry and the importance of this game," said Pitta. "We're just not going to downplay the competitiveness of these two teams, but we're not looking at this game as a make-or-break game for us either. We've played hard all season and we've had some great successes, and to us this is another game. We're not going to overlook other teams to prepare for Utah."

"I don't really get into the whole rivalry thing," said BYU wide receiver Austin Collie. "To me this is just another game that's on our schedule and another game that stands in the way of us winning another conference championship."

Right now campus security and groundskeepers have begun unrolling the cellophane to wrap up campus statues and monuments to keep Utah fans from defacing them. There are a myriad of reasons why this rivalry is so heated. BYU middle linebacker Kelly Poppinga is of the opinion that it's due to the proximity of both schools.

"I think the proximity of the two schools really helps with the rivalry," said Poppinga. "Everybody knows someone who plays on their team. I had an old roommate who is playing on the U of U football team. He's a linebacker there and also plays on special teams, Ryan Taylor. We probably talk twice every week. I spoke to him on the phone and told him that they were going to beat UCLA. I said, ‘Ryan, you guys are going to beat UCLA.' I knew after coming out of that game we had with them that UCLA was a bad team. We should have beaten them but we just made too many mistakes."

The intensity of the rivalry between both programs can also be due to the fact that many current and former players have family members that have attended both universities at one point in time. One of the many examples of this is Utah linebacker Joe Jiannoni. Jiannoni is the son of former BYU defensive lineman Pulusila Filiaga, who played for the Cougars from 1979-1981. Even Coach Whittingham said, "On family that may be Cougar fans, zero. There are zero Cougar holdovers in my family. You can go and ask them all."

However, U of U quarterback Brian Johnson, who will be playing his first game against BYU due to having been injured the past two year, has plenty of family who happen to be big BYU fans. Johnson happens to be a first-cousin of BYU wide receiver Michael Reed, and both have been in contact this week to talk about the rivalry and playing against one another.

Now you can listen to Reed talk about facing his cousin's team on the field this weekend.

BYU quarterback Max Hall is the nation's leading sophomore quarterback. Although he's been in rivalry games before while he was a gunslinger in high school, this is his first ever college rivalry game against Utah. Hall talks about the status of his recent shoulder injury and how he got a firsthand view of the intensity of the BYU-Utah rivalry.


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