PROVO, UTAH – At least 11 members of the BYU football coaching staff spent their college days playing for the Cougars, including Head Coach Kalani Sitake and Offensive Coordinator Ty Detmer.
The rivalry originated in 1896. Detmer, part of the team from 1987-1991, says the rivalry has magnified in recent years thanks to technology.
“Anything with social media, it fuels the fire sometimes with people," Detmer said. "It’s definitely more intense, probably, than when I was here because you didn’t hear that part of it and see some of those things, so that adds to it a little bit.”
Sitake said he feels the rivalry is more friendly than anything else.
“I grew up cheering for BYU, but I remember cheering for some of the guys on the Utah squad back in the day," Sitake said. "I don’t see it as a big time rivalry hatred as a lot of others see it.”
During his time taking snaps at BYU, Detmer won the Heisman Trophy in 1990. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, later spending 14 years in the NFL playing for five different teams. Reminiscing on his glory days, Detmer says some of the plays he used back in the late 80s and early 90s are incorporated into this season's playbook.
“There’s some similarities, formationally, and conceptually there’s a lot of things that are similar," he said. "Obviously you add a lot to it from the things you pick up along the way, and the game has changed.”
He also says he’s got some trick plays up his sleeve, but adds his team is focused on fundamentals. The Cougars have spent the week scouting Utah, which poses some difficulty with a new quarterback and only one game for reference. But Detmer says, because of the Utes' depth, they aren’t a team that will easily tire.
“They’re really good, they’re aggressive, play fast, play hard, have 2/3 deep at positions," Detmer said. "They bring a lot to the table, they’re not a team you’re just going to go in there and wear down.”
Fred Warner, a junior linebacker, also spoke about the upcoming challenge.
“Defense has a lot of guys returning, they’re very physical," he said. "One of the best D-lines in the nation. Offensively, they have a lot of new players, new quarterback, so they’re still figuring that out.”
Defensive Coordinator Ilaisa Tuikai, responding to a question about limited video footage of Troy Williams, said they hope to keep Utah's quarterback off-balance.
“He’s a lot like the last guys we faced, very mobile, good athlete, very similar," Tuikai said. "But if we can keep him guessing a little bit we can give ourselves some time to at least get to the quarterback."