by Daniel Olsen
Image via Zimbio, 2014 | Texas Tech and Virginia faced off in the NCAA Basketball National Championship game, which brought two familiar faces from the state of Utah into the spotlight. Former Utah State football coach Matt Wells was sporting Red Raiders gear with his family, and legendary Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Bronco was there cheering on his Virginia Cavaliers.
For a couple years, these two head coaches faced each other on the gridiron to battle for the Old Wagon Wheel. Bronco Mendenhall was ending his time as coach of BYU football and Matt Wells was just starting at Utah State in 2013.
Matt had big shoes to fill after Gary Andersen departed for Wisconsin after a stellar 11-2 season. He did pretty well in his first year in the Mountain West as his team played in the championship game. Bronco still got the best of him as the Cougars prevailed 31-14 in Logan. Star USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton had a season ending injury in that game. Who knows what would have happened if he had been healthy.
It has almost become a tradition for a quarterback to get injured in this game each year. The following year, undefeated and ranked BYU hosted the Aggies in Provo where they were 25 point favorites. Chuckie Keeton, again, was injured, so USU would have to rely on their backup again. The teams matched score for score until star BYU quarterback Taysom Hill went down and USU ran away with it, winning 35-20.
BYU responded the following year in Bronco’s final regular season game and soundly beat USU in Logan 51-28. It was a small sample size but Bronco somehow got the better of Matt in those matchups.
The two aren’t scheduled to play each other anytime soon in football as Bronco coaches in the ACC and Matt Wells will coach in the Big 12. Bronco did infamously state when he was just starting at Virginia that his goal was to schedule the easiest non-conference Power 5 opponent possible since it is a requirement by the ACC to schedule at least one. Matt Wells doesn’t look like he will have a weak team. There are still some openings for the two to possibly play in future schedules, but not in the foreseeable future.
It is hard to be elite in both college football and basketball as those are the two money sports. Utah State was ironically one of two teams in the nation with 25+ wins in basketball and 11+ in football. Cincinnati was the other. Texas is a breeding ground for prime football talent and Coach Wells has already said that this will be a reloading year (not a rebuilding year) in Lubbock. He is ready to Wreck ‘Em in the Big 12. Bronco has already started to meet Virginia’s expectations as he has taken the team to two straight bowl games.
Whether or not these two coaches ever face off again, it is clear that the hard work paid off for them in the form of millions of dollars. Sometimes coaches in Utah are as busy as bees and eventually leave the Beehive State, but that’s okay. We can be proud of the work they have done to bring our state into national relevance.