Rivalry Reaches New Heights

Curtis Brown

Fans can only comprehend so much of what happens on the field. They can sense the intensity, but they are not privy to the banter between the two teams, nor do they see all of the "extracurricular" activities. In the case of last weekend's BYU-Utah game, fans missed a lot. By player reports, this year's match-up set a new standard for dirty play.

"We played them last year and the years before and it's always been nasty and dirty, but this year's game it seemed like it was even more," said Curtis Brown who endured numerous shots after the whistle during Saturday's contest. "It's a rivalry, and things happen in rivalries. That's just the way it is."

The 2006 version of the "Holy War" was rife with cheap shots and late hits. There were cheap shots in the pile, cheap shots away from the play, and cheap shots taken on just about every occasion in the game.

"By far [Utah] was the cheapest team we've played all year," added true freshman McKay Jacobson who got his first taste of the rivalry. "They're a good team, and I'm not saying that to take away from how good of a team they are, but they'd hit you after the play, there was a lot of holding and they did a lot of things that would normally be called that weren't called, but that's the way the game is. It's a rivalry game and that is what you have to deal with."

Jacobson received one of the more blatant cheap shots of the game when on his first reception the normally well-composed Jacobson was clearly upset and got right in the face of o Utah player to let him know it. The replay showed Ute safety Casey Evans holding on to Jacobson after the whistle and twisting Jacobson's ankle.

"That was just one example of what was going on," said Jacobson. "On that one I had a guy that I felt was trying to hurt me, which is something I haven't really experienced before. Players are going to try to do that and you just have to move on. On that play the ref is trying to get me off and telling me to calm down and the guy was just hanging on and not letting go. I was just like it's not like I can get up, he's got my leg. Stuff like that went on all game."

Of course football is a contact sport borne of raw emotion. It is not a game where contact is avoided. Distinguishing between a clean hit and a dirty hit has always been a fine line. During rivalry games, those lines become more and more blurred. Recognizing the blurring of the lines and dealing with it is what has to be done and is what BYU's team did throughout the game.

"If that's how they want to play, then that's how they'll play, and if they're allowed to play that way then you just deal with it," said Brown regarding Utah's behavior during the game. "It's been that way every year, we knew what they were and what they do going in."

Dealing with what Utah does during and after plays is very difficult, and in past years, it may have gotten the better of the Cougars. There were times throughout the game when it appeared that the top was going to blow off, but the players remained composed and collected for the most part, which played a big part in the victory.

"Teams are going to do what they need to win, and that doesn't bother me," said Jacobson. "If they're going to be cheap, then they're going to be cheap, but you still have to respect your opponent during the game. Refs not calling stuff, players getting away with stuff, that's just part of the game sometimes, and you can't do anything about it. You just have to play and keep focused, and that's what we did. We won the game."

"It's tough to keep your composure, really tough," added Brown. "All you want to do is play the game and play it right. When guys are getting into your face after every play and throwing cheap shots, the natural reaction is to retaliate, and you can't do that. We held our cool for the most part, and we won the game as a result of it."

During the game Brown took a steady stream of cheap shots from Utah safeties Casey Evans and Steve Tate. The jawing went on all game. Cougar players mentioned they had never seen two guys talk as much as those two. In the end, however, it was action – not talk – that won the game.

"After the game I went up to Tate and apologized for the things I did on the field and for things I said to the press," said Brown. "I have a lot of respect for him and for the team he plays for. Stuff happens and it stays on the field. I respect him and I'll leave it at that. He's a competitor as is the rest of the team and we'll leave it on the field."

"We won the game. There's no bigger statement you can make than that."


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