LOGAN, Utah – Utah State University and the University of Wyoming announced Monday that both schools have adopted a rivalry series in football that will begin this weekend and be referred to as “Bridger’s Battle” in reference to celebrated Wyoming/Utah mountain man Jim Bridger.
Utah State officially joined the Mountain West Conference this past summer and as members of the Mountain Division will play Wyoming every season on the gridiron.
The winner of the annual contest will take home the traveling “Bridger Rifle,” a .50 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among mountain men and widely considered to be what Bridger carried. Each year’s game score will be notched into the maple stock.
The first official “Bridger’s Battle” game will occur on Saturday November 30, 2013 when Utah State hosts Wyoming in Logan. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
“It has been fun working with Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman and his staff on the Bridger’s Battle game,” said USU Vice President and Athletics Director Scott Barnes. “Our historic rivalry, geographic proximity and institutional commonalities make a rivalry trophy a no brainer. It’s gratifying to see a rivalry being restored when in so many cases recently, the wave of conference realignment has forced several to fall.”
“I think the concept of Bridger’s Battle and the traveling rifle trophy is a good idea by both universities,” said USU head coach Matt Wells. “The Wyoming series is one of the oldest in school history, and it will add great significance annually to the game.”
As part of 1862’s Morrill Act, both the University of Wyoming and Utah State University share the distinction of being “land-grant” institutions, providing invaluable educational and leadership opportunities in their respective states. The schools’ football teams share a colorful history as well. The Cowboys and Aggies have met on the gridiron a total of 63 times, which is USU’s fourth-most played series, with the first meeting occurring on November 21, 1903 in Logan. USU leads the all-time series, 35-24-4.
The states of Wyoming and Utah share much more in common than just a border. Both states are considered part of the American West, conjuring up images of cowboys, sodbusters, trappers and trailblazers. Much of the United States’ western nostalgia can be attributed to the pioneering spirit that was embodied in the settlers who adventured into this wild frontier.
Born in 1804, Bridger is widely recognized as the foremost mountain man in the history of the American West. Bridger was one of the first Americans to set foot in Yellowstone Park, documenting the natural wonders of what would become the nation’s first national park and establishing the first fur trading post in the area.
While leading the Stansbury Expedition in 1849, Bridger discovered the Great Salt Lake but also helped construct a route that would one day become part of the Transcontinental Railroad. Bridger spent a majority of his life in the Rocky Mountain region, primarily in the areas now known as Wyoming and Utah, trapping, guiding and exploring. Bridger’s impact on western U.S. history is immense, providing much of the folklore the general public now identifies as the early west.
Along with Bridger’s Battle, Utah State shares a rivalry series with in-state foe BYU as both teams have played for the “Old Wagon Wheel” since 1948. Overall, the series dates back to 1922 as the two teams have played one another 81 times, which is USU’s second-most played rivalry game.
Utah State’s old rivalry is with the University of Utah as the two schools have met 111 times in what is often referred to as the “Battle of the Brothers”.
Utah State, Utah and BYU have competed for the “Beehive Boot” since 1971, a traveling trophy that signifies instate football supremacy among Division I universities from the state of Utah.