“It’s just not the same anymore.” is a phrase I have heard in abundance in the last year. The Holy War has seemed to have lost much of its luster since the PAC-12 and Independence have entered the thin atmosphere of northern Utah.
Ten years ago, would the thought of this game never being played again, and being unimportant have crossed your mind? I would have laughed in your face. Now, it is a legitimate concern.
The first awkward element to the game is the time of the season in which it takes place. Usually, families across the state are participating in tainted and oxymoronic Thanksgiving festivities, but all they can think about is the animosity that is the Holy War. Second, there is nearly an entire season to be played afterwards now. That has been difficult for everyone, including the players and coaches, to get used to. It changed the way the rivalry felt in 2011.
The biggest change is the lack of anticipation. Every year, the smack talk is constant throughout the season. The tension is built and finally the outcome comes to pass on a cold afternoon the last Saturday of the regular season. The winner of the game was likely the conference champion as well. What is there to get excited about now? Strictly bragging rights. Rights that Cougar fans are desperate for and Ute fans are seemingly unenthused to own. It’s dying.
Both Chris Hill, Tom Holmoe, and even BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall have said they would like for the rivalry to continue, but there are constraints in the scheduling abilities. Until an announcement of extension is made, it’s safe to say that 2012 could be the final Duel In The Desert for an indefinite amount of time.
So what does that mean to the fans? Are they excited? Jake, a BYU fan says,
“Revenge is sweet.”
Looks like he is solely focused on the Cougars avenging the debacle that took place in Provo last year.
That was the ultimate embarrassment, and losing the final three games of an epic rivalry before an indefinite hiatus would not sit well with Cougar fans across the world. But one thing BYU fans can be confident about, is having a senior quarterback. When the starting field general for the Cougs is boasting his senior year, he beats the Utes. In fact, winning games as the starting quarterback at Rice Eccles Stadium is not foreign territory for Riley Nelson. The former 2005 Mr. Football from the state of Utah had a very successful High School Career, which was the last time he set foot at Rice Eccles as the starter.
Nelson also didn’t get much of a chance to save the Cougars from the embarrassment last season. He came in the game before it was already out of reach. Expect him to be ready to play … if he’s not already sidelined by an injury by then.
The Utes reflect some similarities to the Cougars from last season. They boast a brand new offensive coordinator, and looking at Utah’s 2012 schedule that may very well be the first true test for new coordinator Brian Johnson (sorry Aggies … kind of). Brandon Doman had quite the learning curve in Provo last year. It took him til about halfway through the season to get things rolling in his first year as the offensive coordinator. But who’s comparing the two?
What level of excitement do Ute fans have? I asked Tijs (t-ice),
“I’m not that stoked about it because we are not in the same conference anymore. I don’t mind playing in September much, but if it is going to be in September I would rather have it be the first game of the season. That would make it much more interesting … I also see the USC game as a bigger deal this year due to the way the game ended last year and the fact that they are in our division”