Rivalry? What rivalry? On Saturday Utah State and Brigham Young met in Logan to play a friendly little football game, and this is what happens: The Aggies, like the good hosts they are, tried to mug the Cougar quarterback, which of course led to a bench-clearing brawl. Our ringside judges scored even - actually, there was more pushing and bravado than punching - but you get the idea. There's still no love lost here - only a good competitive game.
The Cougars, who used reserves freely throughout the game, beat the winless Aggies 37-10 on Ty Detmer's three touchdown passes. It was not a clean knockout - a TKO? - but for the record, it marked the 10th time in the last 11 games BYU has beaten USU. Of the last six games, the closest has been 21 points.All of which caused halfback Matt Bellini to wonder, as the final seconds of the game ticked off, "Is this a rivalry? It doesn't seem like one. These guys are a joke. Why do we play them? We have four nonconference games. We should use them to play people who are going to help us be better."
"Just because it's an instate game doesn't make it a rivalry," said linebacker Bob Davis. "This is no rivalry for us."
Indeed, as a rivalry, this game has seen better days; as a rivalry, this game is dying.
The only thing that saved Saturday's game - the 65th meeting between these teams - from falling off the boredom meter was the, uh, disagreement in the second quarter. BYU was holding a 14-7 lead, when Ty Detmer unloaded a pass a split second before he was leveled cleanly by linebacker Del Lyles. After the play, Lyles walked by Detmer, and, pointing in his face, said, "You ain't nothing. You don't have anything." Detmer, feisty despite his 170 pounds, bounced to his feet and returned the compliment.
"I can't remember what I said," Detmer would say later, with a grin. "You better not print it."
The officials might have diffused the situation right there if they had properly whistled Lyles for a clear taunting violation, but they ignored it. On the next play, Detmer again threw a pass under heavy pressure (the pass was intercepted), and again he was taken down by Lyles and Damon Smith.
Said Detmer, "I waited for them to get up, but they kept laying on me, so after a while I tried to get up. Then they held me down." Lyles and Smith also began to pummel Detmer, although, when told this later, Detmer said, "Did they punch me?" So much for punching power. "I remember one guy had his hand under my facemask."
What followed next was only to be expected. "They've got to realize that if they mess with the quarterback, they mess with us all," said Bellini.
Both benches poured onto the field, and minor skirmishes broke out at several places in the middle of the field, like tag-team wrestling gone mad. Linemen Neal Fortand Bryan May arrived first at the scene of the crime to rescue Detmer. Wideout Brent Nyberg tried to pull a couple of Aggies off teammate Tim Adams and wound up in fisticuffs. Davis, the team enforcer, raced onto the field from the sidelines to aid Detmer. "I was trying to pull people off Ty and the next thing I know is they're pulling my helmet off," said Davis. At one point, even BYU assistant coaches Claude Bassett and Roger French had to be separated - and they're on the same side.
When order was finally restored after 10 minutes, Nyberg, Lyles and Smith were all ejected from the game. "I can't comment on it," Lyles said, but he did. "It was emotional. For an instate game the whole team was intense."
After the game, USU Coach Chuck Shelton apologized to BYU Coach LaVell Edwards and later told the media, "I was so disappointed in the entire bench-clearing incident. That's an incident (Lyles) shouldn't have been involved in. He paid the price."
For his part, Edwards said, "A couple of their guys were pounding on our quarterback; that's what sparked it." He also added, "I was upset that our guys ran onto the field. The officials were there to take care of it."
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes, the game. When play resumed, the Cougars quickly snuffed the Aggie possession and, on second down, Detmer threw a 40-yard TD pass to tight end Chris Smith. That made it 21-7, but the Aggies weren't finished yet.
The Cougars moved in for the kill on their next possession, but penalties, their season-long nemesis, struck again. A clipping penalty turned a 53-yard pass play from Detmer to Matt Odle into a 38-yard gain, and a holding penalty moments later nullified a Detmer touchdown pass to Odle. The Cougars came away empty-handed when Jason Chaffetz missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.
That seemed to awaken USU's sleepy offense, which had scored only its third touchdown of the season in the second quarter on a 24-yard pass from Kirk Johnson to Pat Newman. This time it was Johnson and Newman again. Johnson lobbed a soft high pass, which Newman managed to grab between two BYU defenders. The Ags let the Cougars do the rest. An offsides penalty against noseguard Tim Adams moved the them to the 13. A pass interference call against cornerback Brian Mitchell moved them to the 2.
It says something about the Aggies' strength in the trenches that they never tried to push the ball up the middle. Johnson's first pass missed an open Keith Roberson in the end zone. Another pass and an end-around failed, and the Ags settled for a 19-yard field goal by Russ Moody and a 21-10 halftime deficit.
That was the game. The Cougars took their opening possession of the second half and methodically moved 87 yards for a touchdown - a 6-yard pass from Detmer to Odle. Score: 28-10.
The Cougars spent much of the rest of the afternoon pounding the running game, and scored on a 34-yard Chaffetz field goal and a 6-yard run by Stacey Corley.
"In the first half we didn't do that terribly," said Shelton. Huh? Well, the Aggies are 0-4 and counting. They were outgained 629 yards to 206, but there were scant signs of life. Johnson completed 13 of 34 passes for 157 yards, with Newman grabbing five of them for 98 yards.
As for the 3-1 Cougars, they are about to start the heavy part of their conference schedule (Wyoming is next), and with that in mind they played their second unit much of the day (see sidebar). If the Cougars were pleased with the performances of freshmen Nati Valdez and Micah Matusazaki and sophomore Peter Tuipulotu, they were almost forgotten in the wake of their continued problems with penalties. This week's tally: 14 for 125 yards.
The Penalty of the Week: holding (six of them). Edwards was so baffled by the holding calls that at halftime he asked the officials - all from the Big West Conference - for their interpretation of that penalty.
During their bye last week, the Cougars, who have now committed a mind-boggling 47 penalties worth 459 yards this season, said they stressed penalty prevention, but apparently it didn't work. Asked what he will do about it now, Edwards said, "I don't know. I'm trying to figure that out."
Opponents are still trying to figure out a way to stop Detmer. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 330 yards, three TDs and two interceptions - and lost two more TDs, one to a penalty and another after the ball bounced off Odle's hands to be intercepted by safety Toby Tyler. Detmer was never sharper than on BYU's first two possessions of the day. He completed passes of 30 and 40 yards to set up a 3-yard TD run by Corley, then threw a 7-yard TD pass to Tuipulotu.
"Detmer is playing as well as any quarterback I've seen this year," said Shelton. Playing well enough to protect.