LOGAN – Head coach Matt Wells and the Aggies aren’t opening up the 2015 football season on the road against an SEC team like they did last year, but that doesn’t mean they are taking anything lightly. Southern Utah is coming into town Thursday night and Wells said he has reminded his players every day what the Thunderbirds are capable of.
“They’ve won two games in the last four years against Division I teams, we’re fully aware of it,” Wells said in a press conference Monday morning. “We know both those opponents.”
The last time the Aggies played SUU was in 2012, and it was under similar circumstances. It was a Thursday night season-opener in Logan, Chuckie Keeton was the starting quarterback and a rivalry game against Utah was scheduled the next Friday. Almost everything went according to plan against SUU that year. Keeton completed 22 of 26 passes for more than 300 yards and the Aggies won big, 34-3.
But this is a different SUU team, and the Aggies understand that.
“It was a lot of fun back then,” Keeton said. “Hopefully we can improve on what happened before, but at the same time it’s a completely different team. I have to treat these guys as a completely different entity as the other one.”
Wells described the Thunderbirds as having experience, both among the players and coaching staff.
“You know that you’re going to get a prepared team that comes in here,” he said. “They’ve been preparing for us for quite some time.”
A weapon the Thunderbirds bring to Logan is defensive end James Cowser. The senior, who recorded an astonishing 28.5 tackles for loss in 2014, was voted as the Big Sky Conference preseason defensive MVP.
“He plays hard, extremely hard and that’s what our guys have noticed,” Wells said. “We’re going to have to do a good job of blocking him and knowing where he’s at, at all times.”
Keeton is also aware of Cowser, but said he has trust in his line to keep him safe.
“That’s the thing with every single defense, they are always going to have some good players,” he said. “At the same time were not just playing against them, we have to play against an entire unit.”
On the offensive end, pass-heavy SUU is led by senior quarterback Ammon Olsen. Wells said Olsen has a “strong, accurate arm” and even said he thinks he could have a football future after college. In 2014, Olsen threw for 3049 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Aggie linebacker Nick Vigil said Olsen is a smart quarterback who can run with the ball if needed.
“He’s very accurate when he gets hot and he has very good games,” he said. “So we’re going to have to try and get some pressure on him with the D-line and linebackers, and the secondary is going to have to play well.”
Wells said his keys to winning the game will be stopping the run, disrupting the quarterback and playing as one on offense.
“You have to play as one, whether you’re playing Southern Utah, next week’s opponent or a Mountain West game, it doesn’t matter,” Wells said. “For an offense to be very efficient, you must play as one, so that will be a big goal for us.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Maverik Stadium.