October 02, 2014

Make room, Steve Young. Scoot over, Ty Detmer. Another BYU quarterback legend is about to be honored.

Jim McMahon will have his number retired and displayed inside the stadium in a halftime ceremony during the game between No. 18 BYU (4-0) and Utah State (2-2) on Friday night in Provo, Utah.

For a change, the quirky character dubbed the ''Punky QB'' will be on the receiving end when he takes the field one more time for the Cougars.

Of praise. Of applause. Of appreciation.

This night is all about honoring No. 9.

Well, that and capturing the ''Old Wagon Wheel,'' a traveling trophy that's been part of Utah State-BYU rivalry since 1948.

McMahon becomes the sixth player to have his jersey retired by the school. He joins Eldon ''The Phantom'' Fortie (No. 40), Marion Probert (No. 81), Young (No. 8) and Gifford Nielsen and Detmer (who both wore No. 14).

While at BYU, McMahon turned in one of the finest college careers of all-time as he threw for 9,536 yards and 84 touchdowns. He was drafted in the first round by Chicago and went on the lead the Bears to a Super Bowl title following the 1985 season.

The sunglass-wearing McMahon did things his way, too, with a brashness that made him an instant fan favorite everywhere he went.

Lately, McMahon has been helping raise awareness about the long-term impact of repeated blows to the head after opening up about his struggles with early onset dementia.

This is certainly a big weekend for McMahon - he's also being inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame.

''A guy like (McMahon), who helped pave the way, that helped give BYU a name, that's really cool,'' defensive back Skye PoVey said. ''That's really special.''

Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall couldn't agree more.

''A lot of times what you hear and what you see, just from afar, is one thing, then what you experience up close is something different,'' Mendenhall said. ''I would have loved him to be our quarterback.''

Then again, Mendenhall's already got a talented dual-threat QB in Taysom Hill, who's thrown six TD passes and run for seven more. He's averaging 107 rushing yards, which is third-most in the country among QBs.

''He runs like a tailback and throws like a quarterback,'' Utah State coach Matt Wells said. ''It takes a small army to bring him down. That's a major challenge.''

Here's another major challenge for the Aggies: Finding a way to replace senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who may be out for the rest of the season after injuring his surgically repaired left knee.

Keeton was hurt in a win over Wake Forest on Sept. 13 and missed the Aggies' loss to Arkansas State a week later. Darell Garretson, a sophomore, started against Arkansas State and threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns.

The explosive Keeton missed most of last season after tearing two knee ligaments in a game against BYU.

Here are some things to know when Utah State plays BYU:

HISTORY LESSON: A long, long time ago, the Aggies and Cougars were conference rivals. They were members of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference from 1922-37 and the Mountain States/Skyline Conference from 1938-61. Utah State was 21-13-3 against BYU as conference adversaries.

RANK PERFORMANCE: Utah State is 3-51 all-time against teams ranked in The Associated Press poll. It's the 12th time the Aggies have faced a BYU team that's nationally ranked.

STREAK SNAPPED: A bye week interrupted Hill's streak of four straight independent offensive player of the week honors. With the Cougars idle, Notre Dame QB Everett Golson captured the weekly award. Golson tossed a career-high four TD passes in a win over Syracuse.

IN-STATE REVELRY: This game will be for bragging rights of Utah, since neither team faces the Utah Utes this season. ''It's a huge game for us,'' Aggies senior offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey said. ''We're excited to play them. They're finally admitting that they're excited to play us, so that's cool.''

ROYALTY: The Cougars will wear their royal blue alternate jerseys for this game.

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