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Home's in Wyoming but heart's in Provo

PROVO — When he was in high school, BYU linebacker Brady Poppinga took a recruiting trip to Wyoming. But he never seriously considered becoming a Cowboy.

At the time, Poppinga's older brother, Casey, was a member of the Wyoming program.

"I wanted to check it out. I did it for him," said Poppinga, who hails from Evanston, Wyo. "But in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to come (to BYU) no matter what. I really had my mind set on BYU. I went to one of the (Wyoming) games that year. I put on a Wyoming hat for my brother and faked like I was cheering for them."

Of course, Poppinga grew up a diehard Cougar fan. His father, Dennis, was a BYU tight end from 1968-71. Casey Poppinga ended up transferring to Utah State.

The other Wyoming native on the Cougar roster is reserve defensive lineman Kyle Tew, who hails from Gillette, located in the northeastern part of the state.

"It's a town where everybody works for the coal mines or as ranchers," Tew said. "My dad works for the coal mines. It's cold up there, so there's not a lot to do. It's a big sports town."

Tew moved to Gillette with his family when he was 14 and he, like Poppinga, was a BYU fan. "My parents used to wake me up in the mornings with the BYU fight song," he said.

Poppinga's Evanston High School won the state title when Poppinga was a senior. The following year, Tew's Campbell High School team won state title when Tew was a senior.

Poppinga says that there is a sense of pride being from Wyoming.

"The Wyoming pride thing is that you're tough," he said. "You've got to be tough, man. Heck, you have nine months of snow and wind and cold weather. We do a lot of outdoorsy things. I wasn't a farm guy, but those farm guys are the toughest guys I've ever known. They were growing up getting kicked and bitten by animals. Bailing hay. I guess that's the Wyoming pride — toughness. They've shown it up there."

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE?: Going into Saturday's game against Wyoming, BYU had posted a 1-7 record in its last eight home games. It's the worst stretch at home for the Cougars in three decades. During the 1968 season, BYU posted a 0-5 mark in Provo.

NOTES: Announced attendance was 58,737 . . . Former BYU standout defensive lineman Jason Buck, who won the 1986 Outland Trophy, was honored by the school during Saturday's game . . . BYU's captains Saturday were quarterback John Beck, tight end Daniel Coats, safety Aaron Francisco and placekicker Matt Payne . . . In the first half, Payne booted a 46-yard field goal, marking the 11th consecutive field goal between 40-49 yards Payne has converted, dating back to last season . . . Cougar cornerback Brandon Heaney left the game early in the first quarter with a broken bone in his right forearm. He did not return to the game. . . . Safety Jon Burbidge, who sustained an elbow injury last week against UNLV, was back in the lineup Saturday. He picked off Wyoming quarterback Corey Bramlet in the first half.


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com