Aggies battle Cougars in Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel

In-state rivalries provide some of the most memorable moments in college sports.

Coaches and players within the Utah State football program don’t expect anything different on Friday when the Aggies host Brigham Young at 6 p.m. at Romney Stadium.

“As far as this coming week with BYU, It’s an exciting week for everyone here at Utah State. Everyone gets amped for this game and I do too,” USU senior offensive lineman Eric Shultz said. “Even being from Washington, I grew up in a fairly Mormon community and everyone seemed to like BYU, I never have liked BYU, so it’s big for me. They look good and they’re a good defensive team.”

On paper the Cougars and Aggies are all but a stalemate.

BYU boasts the nation’s fourth-best rushing attack with an average of 307.3 yards per game, led by quarterback Taysom HIll who has averaged 141.3 yards on the ground and has six rushing touchdowns this season.

It’s a facet Utah State hopes to deny come Friday.

“As I look at them, it’s stop the run and run the ball,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “We’re going to have to find ways to run the ball on offense and stop the QB run game. Taysom (Hill) is an extremely talented young man, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a very good athlete, very tough-minded kid who has a lot of intangibles you like to coach. He’s the key to that offense; he makes it go.”

The Aggies are ranked No. 38 nationally against the run game, having allowed 126.6 yards per game on the ground to their opponents. Offensively the Aggies have churned out 203.2 yards per game, and USU will be tested against a BYU defense that is ranked No. 30 against the run.

The Cougars have allowed an average of 119.3 yards per game in their four games.

When the teams met last season in Provo, defense told the tale in a 6-3 BYU victory. Both defenses are strong again this season, ranked 22nd and 23rd overall.

“They’re very good on defense. There are differences in a few of the positions, but there are better players in certain positions on BYU’s defense. BYU’s defense presents a really good challenge, I’ve said that too many times,” Wells said.

USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton and the Aggie offense has put up at least 40 points three times in five games this season, and is averaging 491.2 yards per game. Even more significantly, Utah State is out for redemption after last season’s loss to the Cougars.

“Honestly, we obviously want some redemption for last year. That was a very big disappointment for our offense. We pride ourselves, especially the offensive line, on scoring points and getting touchdowns,” Shultz said. “I can’t really say what it was last year, something wasn’t right with us. I think from the top-down we just didn’t perform to our best and this year we want to come out and show what we really can do.”

This season marks the 93rd time the teams have met, with BYU holding a 45-34-3 all-time series lead. But with so much history between the teams, it’s more than just a game for players and coaches.

“I’ve got good memories as a backup and bad memories as a player. The 1993 game here in Logan, I was holding the clipboard for Anthony Calvillo while watching him throw the ball up and down the field. He and John Walsh had great days,” Wells said. “The thing that stands out to me in that game, maybe the only time I’ve ever seen it, was back-to-back-to-back touchdowns. We threw one then kicked it off and they ran it all the way back 100 yards. They kicked it and Anthony threw an 80-yard touchdown pass. There was a lot of offense that day, not very much defense. There was a lot of writing for me on the clipboard that day. We won 58-56 and that was a big win for the Aggies that day.”

Both teams will sport pink accessories as part of the “Tackle Breast Cancer” theme. Fans can purchase custom pink apparel at Locker 42 on Main Street in Logan.

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