Not Just Another Game

As the Cougars prep to take the field this weekend against Utah at Rice Eccles Stadium, they're well aware that it won't just be another game on the schedule; this game is against the Utes and it's for a conference championship with BCS bowl implications attached. Indeed, this week's game against Utah is not just another game.

"No, it's not another game, to be sure," affirmed wide receiver Michael Reed regarding this weekend's matchup. "It's always a big game when you go against Utah no matter what, but with both teams being on top like they usually are, it makes the game that much bigger."

This weekend's game has the added intrigue of being played at the hostile environs of Rice Eccles Stadium. It will be a stadium full of loud and antagonistic fans. Regardless of the BCS implications, Utah fans have no problem getting up for their annual matchup against the Cougars.

"They seem to really hate us for whatever reason," said linebacker David Nixon about Utah fans. "I understand that it's our rival, but it's crazy how much they don't like us. It makes for a better rivalry I guess, and it really does add to the intensity, especially when we play there."

When the Cougars walk through the tunnel and onto the field at Utah, a lot of players know what to expect.

"They're loud, they're real loud," said Reed about Utah fans. "They yell at you, sometimes throw things at you and you just have to tune it out. It's hard and you want to use it, you want to use the emotion that they give you, but you have to keep it inside. You have to or you're going to let them get into your head."

While Utah's boisterous fan base would be a challenge and an unwelcome thing for most people, it's quite the opposite for most players on the BYU football team.

"This is what college football is all about," said Nixon about the annual matchup with Utah. "If you can't get up for a game like this then you shouldn't be playing. Loud crowds, mean crowds and a heated rivalry, this is what it's all about. This is what makes college football great."

Indeed, there is at least one former BYU player who likens the specter of the BYU/Utah game as being something bigger than even the Super Bowl for BYU players.

"It's like no other game," explained running back Harvey Unga. "I remember one time Rob Morris telling us that it's more exciting than even the Super Bowl for him. So a guy like Rob Morris saying something like that really puts it in perspective. So with a guy saying that this game is bigger than the Super Bowl is really something."

This weekend's matchup will include a lot of emotion on both sides of the ball. Most fans would argue that Utah has been able to use the emotion of the game to their advantage more so than BYU over the years, giving the Utes a bit of an edge.

"Yeah, they get up for the game, that's for sure," noted Reed. "They want to beat us real bad, but we want to beat them real bad even if we don't show it. It's just important to not let the emotion get the best of you. You have it, but you keep it inside you and use it between the whistles."

The team readily admits to being emotionally flat coming out against TCU, which played a part in them being blown out by the Horned Frogs. As recently as this past game against Air Force, it took an impassioned halftime speech by Austin Collie for the team to get emotionally charged on their way to romping over the Falcons in the second half.

While emotion can be a good thing used to a team's advantage, too much emotion can be detrimental. It's up to the team and coaches to find the perfect balance so as to get the most out of their play.

"It's tricky," said running back Fui Vakapuna about using emotion in games. "I'm an emotional guy, but you have to keep it in check for the most part. At the same time you don't want to be a robot just going through the motions like we have been in some games this year."

For most players, the mere fact that they're playing Utah will solve any concerns over being emotionally flat.

"How can you not get up for a game against Utah any year, especially this year with so much riding on it?" asked Nixon rhetorically. "If anyone is not up for this game then I'll be shocked. I know these guys and I know with what we've learned this year that we'll be better prepared to go against Utah this year. We'll be ready."

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