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BYU football: For cousins, game takes on extra life

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Michael Reed</I>

Michael Reed

PROVO — They're both from Baytown, Texas, they were high school teammates, they're cousins, and they started their collegiate careers in 2004 — one at BYU and the other at Utah.

Now, Cougar senior receiver Michael Reed and Ute senior quarterback Brian Johnson will face each other one last time on the field Saturday.

Since 2004, when Reed and Johnson joined their respective programs, BYU and Utah have met four times, with the Utes winning the first two games and the Cougars winning the last two. For Reed and Johnson, this year's outcome will mean bragging rights forever in this ultimate rubber match.

But Reed isn't thinking about that this week.

"It's a big game, not only for bragging rights," he said. "It's a big game for BYU as a football team."

Reed didn't play in the '04 game because he redshirted that year while Johnson was sidelined for the contests in '05 and '06 due to a knee injury. In fact, last year marked the first time Johnson played against the Cougars. Reed, on the other hand, was injured on the final play of the BYU-Utah game in 2005.

The Utes led, 41-34, in overtime when, on fourth down, quarterback John Beck lofted a pass high into the back of the end zone in hopes of tying the game and forcing a second overtime. The pass landed just out of reach for Reed, who dove for the ball and landed on his thumb, breaking it. He underwent surgery, and doctors put screws and a plate in his thumb.

Still, he said the loss to Utah hurt much worse than his broken thumb. He said the play still haunts him.

"It's still in the back of my head, how close I was to getting that ball," Reed said. "But that's in the past. We've just got to look forward to going out this weekend and playing a tough game against a great team."

Reed and Johnson text message each other frequently, but they haven't talked much about Saturday's showdown. Reed is proud of his cousin's accomplishments.

"He's a winner. He's proven that this year. He hasn't been putting up the big numbers like other quarterbacks," Reed said. "But he's putting up something even bigger — wins. He knows how to win. He's a competitor. That guy, I'd take him on my team any day of the week. He's going to find a way to try to get his team a win. He's been through so much with injuries and setbacks. It's a great thing to see him carry his team this year.

"It would be even better for me if I could see my team excel over his this weekend."

Calm and collected

BYU quarterback Max Hall admitted this week that while playing in his first Cougar-Ute rivalry game last year that "the emotion got the best of me."

Hall struggled for most of the contest. The Cougars had to rally in the final minute for the game-winning touchdown drive, which included converting on a fourth-and-18 play deep in their own territory.

"I did some things that were kind of out of what we had practiced or prepared for, trying to make plays that I don't need to make," Hall said. "If I can just take a deep breath and manage that a little bit and keep our guys consistent and not get outside of ourselves ... I think that's when we'll move the ball and get the ball in the end zone."

Hostile environment

The Cougars know what kind of atmospheres await them Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"It's hostile. Their fans don't like us much," George said. "That's fine. That's what a rivalry is all about. We've seen hostile crowds before."

BYU has won four of the last six meetings in Salt Lake City, dating back to 1996.

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com