After his mission Travis Uale transferred from Utah to BYU following an answer to prayer, though he didn’t know why exactly at the time. In the first game playing against the team he left, Uale received a wakeup call of a different kind and ended up on an unknown Ute’s highlight reel.
“My first game that I played against Utah was up in Salt Lake City,” recalled Uale. “I was on the kickoff team and we were kicking off. I was running downfield as fast as I could and running past guys scot-free. This was the first college game that I ever played in, and so here I was running downfield towards the ball carrier.
“Then all of a sudden I was blindsided from the left side. I just had to laugh about it because he caught me pretty good. It didn’t really hurt because I was so excited to be playing and my emotions were high. That was something I’ll always remember.”
For Bryan Kariya, who grew up a Utah fan, his most memorable moment of the BYU vs. Utah rivalry came at a time in which he wasn’t even suited up. In fact, he was thousands of miles away from the state of Utah wearing a black missionary nametag.
“Well, I don’t think there’s been any real funny type of experiences for me,” Kariya said with a smile. “Well, actually there is one, but it was when I was on my mission in Melbourne, Australia. I was in the mission office one day and my mission president was like, ‘Elder Kariya, come here and check this out!’ He showed me the highlights of the 2007 BYU vs. Utah game. As soon as I saw that I knew I was going to come back and play and just love it.”
The excitement and intensity of the 2007 rivalry game caused Kariya to forget about missionary work for just a small moment.
“For just a minute, that game really started to shift my focus,” Kariya admitted with a smile. “But it was just for a moment! You know, I went right back to focusing on missionary work as soon as I stepped out of his office, but it was a nice little break to see my friends and my teammates out here battling and come away with a win that game. That was a memorable experience for me about the rivalry game and it happened when I was on my mission.”
The Reynolds family has a tradition in which they get together and review their games and their individual performances. Doing so and seeing some of their mistakes have led to them adopting the saying “Crap happens.” For Matt Reynolds, some of his memories involving the rivalry are of reviewing his performances against Utah and reflecting on whether or not his play would be on a personal highlight tape or if he would be on someone else’s.
“Most of my funny moments are just stuff you would see on a highlight reels,” Reynolds said. “We’ve had some good games and we’ve had some not so good games. Hopefully this year we can make it one of the good ones.”
There is a lot of excitement and good-natured ribbing – for the most part – among the residents of Utah and fans outside the state. Much will be missed about playing in the rivalry game when it’s all said and done for a few of these Cougar team captains.
“I think I’ll miss the competitive nature of the rivalry most,” Uale said. “You know, it’s always a close game and there are always two good teams playing. It doesn’t matter if Utah is having a bad season, or if BYU is having a bad season – both teams show up to play the game. I'm going to miss that competitiveness because of how intense it is and how much the fans are so into it.”
The outcome of the annual rivalry game not only has an emotional effect on the two fan bases, but there are also bragging rights as the fan base of the winning team stands just a little taller. Reynolds will miss giving BYU fans those bragging rights for an entire year.
“That’s hard to say,” said Reynolds when asked what he will miss most about the rivalry. “Probably just the excitement of the game and what it means to win for everyone in the community and for the state. It’s a really big game and it’s a fun one to play in. It’s just a really exciting game. I think I’ll miss those things the most.”
For Kariya, when he finally hangs up his cleats the one thing he’ll miss the most are the feelings of gratification and satisfaction of beating Utah, even though it’s supposed to be just another game.
“It’s really nice to win!” Kariya said while laughing. “Out of everything, coming away with a win against these guys is probably the sweetest thing. I mean, there’s a lot of excitement and whatever, but I really try to approach it as another game. But at the end of the game when it’s all over, it’s nice to come away with a win.”