PROVO — In its 24-19 victory over then-winless New Mexico on Nov. 14, BYU played as if it were going through the motions.
In the 38-21 triumph over Air Force last Saturday, it was a much different story, as the Cougars played with a lot of emotion.
Quarterback Max Hall expects the same type of intensity from his team for Saturday's showdown against Utah.
"We were all anxious to play and play well for each other," he said of the Air Force game. "I feel like we have a lot of momentum and I think we'll keep it up. It will be the same (this week). We're mature enough to show the excitement, and still execute and be assignment-sound. That's what makes this team special. When we bring the enthusiasm, we're tough to stop."
When it comes to the rivalry, emotions always run high. The key, according to coach Bronco Mendenhall, is how to control those feelings.
"Really what you do in terms of the emotion prior to the game isn't necessarily what's going to help you," he said. "It's, can you manage it in the game setting? It really comes down to execution, as it always does. The emotion of it, after the first couple of plays, I don't notice it so much and I'm not sure our team does."
The danger of playing with emotion, said linebacker Matt Bauman, is sometimes that it results in penalties.
"We saw some penalties against Air Force. There's been, in the past, stupid penalties — guys getting into fights after plays, or late hits and personal fouls. Those are at higher risk when there's a lot of emotion."
Overall, being emotional when playing is a good thing, Bauman said.
"Emotion is an added benefit. We play better when we play with emotion. We've seen that this year," he said. "Emotion is naturally embedded in this whole week and in the game. That will be a benefit for us."
ANOTHER RECORD?: BYU tight end Dennis Pitta, with 214 career catches, needs only two receptions to pass Austin Collie as the Cougars' all-time leader. Collie, now a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts, set the record of 215 career catches last season.
Pitta is just happy to be able to play this week after being limited a year ago against Utah due to a knee injury.
"I'm grateful to be healthy, certainly," he said. "Last year is wasn't fun having to sit out all of practice and not be a huge factor in the game. Now, hopefully, I can stay healthy this week and be able to contribute on Saturday."
ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA HONORS: BYU seniors Scott Johnson and Matt Bauman were honored Tuesday for their academic achievements. Johnson was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America first team, while Bauman was picked to the second team after being a first-team selection a year ago. Selections are made by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
"Matt and Scott are very worthy of consideration for Academic All-America honors," said BYU football academic coach Jim Hamblin. "Their work on the field and in the classroom is exactly the type you would want from true student-athletes."
"This is a great honor," said Johnson. "I feel like there are other people on my team, much less around the country, who also deserve an award like this."