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Utah State notebook — water bomb, Rice's Aggie days, and Morrill's milestone

Published February 14, 2014 2:58 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Some extra notes, quotes and special memories ahead of Saturday's game against UNLV:


Oh, that old water bomb

The Las Vegas Sun has a piece today recapping an infamous incident in the history of the USU-UNLV rivalry, back when Dave Rice was in gym shorts and the teams played every year.

For those who weren't all that cognizant of the rivalry in 1990 (Full disclosure: I was two years old.), the incident involved a remote-controlled, pressurized tank of blue-colored water that drenched then-coach of the Rebels, Jerry Tarkanian. The Aggies had gotten in a punching match with UNLV players earlier in the season, and apparently two fans thought it would be a good way to get payback.

That didn't mean the Rebels understood why they were drenched by a blueish-green spurt of water at the start of the second half:

"Absolutely soaked," Rice said. "We didn't know what it was. This huge amount of water just came spraying out of the water vents. A lot of food coloring and a lot of water."

The water was allegedly supposed to be Utah State's shade of blue but came out more teal. It chased the Rebels back to the locker room, where Tarkanian changed from his signature short-sleeved shirt and tie into a sweater.

"I didn't know what happened," Tarkanian said after the game. "I just know that this blue water came all over the place. It didn't really bother us. I think our starters were already on the floor. I thought Utah State did a good job controlling things."

The prank cost Utah State two tech foul shots in a game which the Aggies lost by two points.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a toddler at the time. But the Tribune's sports editor, the venerable Joe Baird, was in the building and offered his own thoughts:

All I remember was the Rebels scattering like ants at a picnic when the bomb went off. Tarkanian was soaked.

Like the story says, there were a couple of moments when nobody really knew what had happened. But the crowd went nuts when it realized it was an awesome act of payback. What I remember most was it took so long to clean up that it just crushed my deadline.

Fortunately those who weren't around to witness it can see the video on YouTube thanks to KSL.


Rice's return to the Spectrum

Last time the Aggies went to face UNLV, Stew Morrill didn't offer too many thoughts on his former assistant, Dave Rice. On Friday, it seemed winning a few games had loosened his memory banks.

Rice was only in the fold for a year, and later went on to loathed Aggie rival BYU, but apparently he made a strong impression in one season under Morrill.

"I didn't really look at him and say 'Let me see, can this guy be a head coach?' When I had guys from 13 or 15 years, I tended to do that a little bit. But I certainly knew he was bright. He had a great personality with people and he had a really good feel for the game, having been around it his whole life. I'm not surprised with how well he's done in his time at BYU and now as a head coach. I'm happy for Coach Rice. He's been great to me ever since he left. I always tease him that I make guys promise two or three years and he left after one, but that's water under the bridge."

Rice is one of two former assistants Morrill has played this year, and the only one to beat Morrill. The Aggies topped Randy Rahe-led Weber State in the non-conference schedule by a slim margin.


Morrill close to 600

Morrill didn't want to talk much about an approaching 600-win milestone for his career, a pretty high bar for anyone in the profession.

"It might not happen," he said. "We'll worry about that if it ever happens."

Although he made it sound a mile away, Morrill stands at 599 wins. The next one will cross him over the big 6-0-0.

There's little hiding this one under a rock. Only 13 active Division I coaches have 600 wins. Only 40 Division I coaches have ever reached that mark.

In his 27th season, Morrill is 19th among active Division I coaches with a 68.5 winning percentage, including a 73.5-percent mark at Utah State. Although 21 wins this season would be a bit of a stretch, Morrill has won 21 games in each of his last 14 seasons. He was the 25th fastest coach to reach 500 wins.

His 600th is just a matter of time. The Aggies hope it comes on Saturday.

Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon






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