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The magic moments have been few and far between for these brothers, but there has been a rush of them recently.
In 2012 in Logan, Aggie fans were sick with nerves as Utah and Utah State went to overtime. Fifteen years of losing had taught them a hard lesson: They weren't going to pull out a win.
Except … when the Utes fired a pass to DeVonte Christopher that was deflected by cornerback Will Davis, they had. And a human wave came pouring out of the Romney Stadium stands.
"It was the funniest thing to watch, to see people just spill," said Jeff Browning, a former Utah State marketing employee who was feet away from the game-winning play of the 27-20 Aggie victory. "Some people were even jumping out of the bleachers anything they could do to get on the field."
Utah State fans had been waiting anxiously to field a team that could stand up to the Utes. By 2012, they had one. They scraped for the OT win in 2012, and the next year Utah had to grit out a 30-26 win. It was finally a rivalry.
"That was a great day to be an Aggie," USU Coach Matt Wells said. "Those are the kinds of games you remember for a long time."
And now it's going away.
After Friday's game between Utah and Utah State at Rice-Eccles Stadium, there are no set plans to resume the Battle of the Brothers, the oldest football rivalry in the state, dating back to 1892. They played through most of two world wars, 22 different presidents and kept playing despite Utah's defection to the WAC in 1961, leaving the in-state rivals in different conferences.
Now the future is cloudy thanks to Utah's scheduling constraints, which includes nine Pac-12 games and future dates with BYU that make scheduling the scrappy Aggies harder, according to Utes athletic director Chris Hill.
"Utah State, it's just hard," Hill said. "When you think about it, it makes no sense to say we're not going to play Utah State again. But also we have a very tight situation, and we're committed to getting bowl games and non-conference [matchups]. There's no other team in the country that has two very competitive FBS rivals that it is expected to play every year."
The hiatus comes at precisely the time Utah State has emerged as a legitimate, contending FBS program. For years, the Aggies were nearly a guaranteed win on Utah's schedule: Since 1988, the Utes are 21-3 in the series. In the first decade of the 2000s, double-digit drubbings were not just common they were expected.
Utah's "Holy War" rivalry with BYU has been the bigger game in recent decades, but it was not always that way. Bill Hooper, a Taylorsville resident who graduated from the U. in 1980, said as a student, duels with the Aggies were always an anticipated event. The fraternities from both schools often came to the game loaded on tequila and ready to be rowdy, Hooper recalled.
He's a long way from his wild tailgating days, he said, but he's always enjoyed when the rivalry has been close.
"My wife and I are both football grads, and we're happy for Utah State when they do well," Hooper said. "BYU could fall off the face of the earth, but I think we like having the Utah State game. I think it's a healthier rivalry."
The competitiveness of the last two games seemed to enhance the stakes. The Aggies have won 37 games over the past four seasons, despite previously not having even a .500 record since 1997. Former Utah assistant Gary Andersen helped build the program and Wells sustained it as a Mountain West champion contender. And they did it by building in Utah's likeness.
Many of the Utah State calling cards the so-called "Polynesian pipeline," the missionary program, its in-state recruiting priorities should be very familiar to Utah fans.
"What makes it sad is these teams are, in a lot of ways, mirror images of one another," said Browning, who helps host a USU fan podcast The Front Row Show. "[Andersen] did a lot of the things Utah was doing when it was building its team."
Utah State's progress has a Catch-22, though. The Utes now see the Aggies as a tougher opponent.
Hill's scheduling philosophy is to have an "A" game against a high-caliber opponent, a "B" game against a non-Power 5-level opponent, and a "C" game against a low FBS or FCS opponent.
Hill rates both USU and BYU as "A" games, and the Utes are therefore unlikely to schedule them in the same year. That makes Utah State's prospects of getting on Utah's schedule seem more remote, since BYU is already scheduled through 2018, is expected to be extended into 2020 and perhaps through 2022.
Trying to fight a tough battle in the Pac-12 South and get to a bowl every year, Utah's is hesitant to overfill its plate with difficult non-conference games. While the Utes' future home-and-home series with San Jose State and Northern Illinois may seem to some like roughly equivalent opponents, Hill says that's not the case.
"Utah State is more of an 'A' team," he said. "They're in-state, and those games are emotional. And given the fact they're playing well, we consider them very formidable one of the top opponents we play."
There's also an issue with stakes: The Aggies have more to gain by beating a Power-5 opponent and recruiting competitor. When the Utes win, they were usually the favorite anyway. It's worth noting that Utah and Utah State also have no set plans to resume playing their men's basketball series. Still the Utah-Utah State rivalry, it seems, is more benevolent than the Utes' duel with BYU. Many respondents to a Tribune survey, both Utes and Aggies, said they follow and even cheer for the other rival when they aren't playing each other.
The mutual respect extends to the field.
"It's been a heck of a rivalry," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It's been very competitive, I can tell you that, especially as of late. Our guys look forward to it."
As with all in-state games, many of the players know each other well, breeding more emotion and more competition. Many of them are former teammates or high school rivals. Receiver Britain Covey will line up against two of his former Timpview teammates, Dax Raymond and Zach Van Leeuwen. Ute defensive end Jason Fanaika used to play for USU, and Aggies linebacker LT Filiaga suited up for the U. in both 2012 and 2013.
"In-state rivalries, you can't match that intensity," Hunter Dimick said. "I personally enjoy playing one a year, if not two, but at the same time it's emotionally taxing."
Utah State AD John Hartwell, who was hired in June, has yet to meet with Hill about continuing the series, and therefore declined to comment. Hill said he's likely to pop into Hartwell's suite on Friday and introduce himself, but where the series goes from here is mostly up to Utah.
Ute fans seem to be on board with the administration's logic in de-emphasizing the series. Utah's home-and-home with Michigan was a hit, setting a stadium attendance record. The BYU series, which is the marquee in-state rivalry, will return in 2016.
But it is at least a bit "disappointing" to fans like Hooper, who has made an annual habit out of talking trash to his brother, Aggie grad Bob Hooper. It has only been in the last few years the brothers had much to talk about.
"Being in the Pac-12 creates a whole different situation, and I understand that you have to take your pick between Utah State and BYU," he said. "But it's a shame to have this much of a gap. I think it would be really nice to have it [played regularly]."
Reporter Matthew Piper contributed to this report
Utah vs. Utah State
P at Rice-Eccles Stadium
Kickoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 1-0, Utah State 1-0
Series history • Utah leads 78-29-4
Last meeting • Utah won 30-26 (Aug. 29, 2013)
About the Utes • Utah reinstated cornerback Dominique Hatfield to the team after the junior was suspended for offseason legal issues. It's unclear if he will play Friday. … After leading FBS in sacks with 55 last year, the Utes are hoping to recover from a sack-less week against Michigan in the season opener. … The Utes played four freshmen last week including receiver Britain Covey, who caught five passes for 58 yards and was Utah's second-leading receiver.
About the Aggies • Utah State is expected to start senior Chuckie Keeton, who played the last two games against Utah and has 701 total yards of offense and five total touchdowns against the Utes in his career. … Aggies linebacker LT Filiaga is a former Ute, playing in 20 games and recording 38 tackles before transferring to Utah State in 2014. … Along with Utah, the Aggies are one of just seven FBS programs to have new offensive (Josh Heupel) and defensive (Kevin Clune) coordinators this season.