PROVO — Jan Jorgensen flipped sides in the BYU-Utah rivalry.
The Cougar defensive lineman grew up as a Ute fan, and his older brother, J.D., played for Utah. With that background, Jorgensen can put the heated rivalry in perspective.
"The one thing I realize is, it's a game. It's just a big football game," he said. "Everything else that fans and people try to pull into it when it comes to religion is ridiculous. We're all going out there, playing our hearts out, to be the best in the state and win a conference championship. It's a football game. That's the biggest thing I've learned."
Jorgensen said it wasn't hard for his brother, a former Utah tight end, to switch allegiances. "He's definitely blue, through and through."
Years ago, Jorgensen was a die-hard Ute. The junior from Helper played both quarterback and linebacker at Carbon High School and also won a 3A state wrestling championship as a senior. He was recruited by both BYU and Utah and orally committed to then-Ute coach Ron McBride. When the school fired McBride, Jorgensen signed with Kentucky.
Then he left on a mission to Boise, Idaho. It was during that time that he started to warm up to the idea of becoming a Cougar.
"While I was on my mission, I realized the best place for me was BYU," he said. "I had narrowed my decision down to BYU, Utah and Boise State. I made a list of pros and cons for each team. The only bad thing at the time I could write about BYU was, I had a personal dislike for them. I could write multiple cons about playing for Utah or for Boise State. When I did that, I just realized that wasn't enough to keep me from coming here. I was able to quickly overcome that personal dislike, especially when they offered me a scholarship.
"It's all been good since then."
Because of his decision to play at BYU, his friends have given him "a little bit of grief," Jorgensen said.
"When I was in high school, I got a recruiting letter from BYU that came to the school," he recalled. "All of my friends came running up to me and said, 'What does it say? What does it say?' Before I even opened it, I tore it up. I didn't even look at it."
He said now his friends, both BYU and Utah fans, support him in playing for the Cougars.
In general, BYU tight end Andrew George finds himself overshadowed by Dennis Pitta, an All-America candidate who is among the nation's leaders in catches.
That doesn't bother George.
But this week, with Pitta being held out of practice due to an MCL sprain in his knee, George's role has changed.
"Hopefully, we can get Dennis back. He should play on Saturday. That's the plan," George said. "But I'm preparing to contribute in any way I can. I'm going to work extra hard this week and make sure I'm ready. I've got confidence in myself, and I think my teammates have confidence in me as well. So I'm going to be ready to make plays."
In 10 games, George has caught 21 passes for 204 yards. Five of those receptions have gone for touchdowns.
Getting to Johnson
Linebacker David Nixon said it's vital for BYU to apply pressure on Utah quarterback Brian Johnson on Saturday.
"It's huge. If you let him have all day, he's kind of like (BYU quarterback) Max (Hall). He'll pick you apart. We've got to make sure we get after him and limit the amount of time he has to sit in the pocket because he has a great arm and he's got receivers who can make plays."
Nixon said Utah's offense poses a stiff challenge.
"They're definitely not one-dimensional. They've got great backs, great receivers and a great quarterback. We're going to have to bring our 'A' game in order to stop them. At the same time, we're happy with our coaches. They've come up with a great scheme this week. If we're assignment sound, it will be a great day."