Growing up in Draper, Utah, kicker Andy Phillips had always looked forward to the Utah-BYU football games. His grandfather was a BYU season ticket holder and he -- like any other kid who lived in the state -- knew friends, families and schools that were divided by the Holy War.
In 2012, before Phillips knew he’d be a three-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist (or even a football player), he attended the game to see his wife, the president of BYU’s dance team, lead the Cougarettes.
A year later, he was a part of the rivalry, kicking field goals and extra points for the Utes in what both teams thought would be their final chance to play one another until the 2016 season.
Now, the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl has given a rivalry on pause a chance to renew itself.
“For me, it’s exciting,” Phillips said. “It’s something I grew up with. Something I witnessed every year. ... I’m trying my hardest to make sure that those emotions don’t get too out of hand and I just focus on BYU being another opponent.”
Not only will the Las Vegas Bowl give football fans in the state of Utah be a chance to see these two teams again, it’ll be a send-off game of sorts for BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who accepted the Virginia head coaching job but will coach the Cougars in their bowl game.
In the nine meetings of Mendenhall’s Cougars and Kyle Whittingham’s Utes, Whittingham holds the advantage 6-3, with five of the nine games being decided in overtime or by a field goal or less.
And with BYU playing for Mendenhall and the Utes hoping to extend their lead in this series, there will be plenty of emotions on the field, which is exactly what Phillips and the rest of the leaders on the team will try to contain over the next few weeks.
“The added emotion, if channeled the right way, can be a positive thing,” Phillips said. “We’re not asking the team to disregard the fact that we’re playing our biggest rival outside of the Pac-12. ... A lot of times, I think guys can get caught up and easily distracted by this rivalry. Learning how to properly channel those emotions and use it as preparation and motivation in the game, I think that’s really what it comes down to.”