LOGAN – Now in its third year in the Mountain West Conference, the Utah State football team is looking for its first league championship. The team will travel to San Diego State to face the only other team with an undefeated conference record Friday. A win would greatly increase the Aggies’ chance at a first place finish, a loss would be a major disappointment just one week after the 52-26 win over defending champion Boise State – a game head coach Matt Wells called “maybe the greatest win in this program’s history.”
The Aggies are rolling, and seem to be picking up more speed with each week. After a 1-2 record to start the season, the team has won three-straight games by a combined score of 141-58. Quarterback Kent Myers has proven he can pass or run the football depending on what is needed to win, and the defense is becoming dangerous to opposing teams, forcing 18 turnovers through the last four games. The coaches and players want to do everything possible to avoid a letdown, that includes putting the Boise State win away.
“We know San Diego State is another good opponent,” senior safety Marwin Evans said. “Our coaches give us the 24-hour rule, so we live it up for like 24 hours then put it behind, just worry about the next opponent.”
“When you win a game like that, you need to celebrate,” Wells added. “When we walked in on Sunday, we watched the tape and put it to bed, it’s over. It’s easy to do that, especially when you flip on the tape with San Diego State.”
Shifting focus to the Aztecs may be “easy to do” because of the glaring challenges San Diego State presents. Wells said the Aztecs will be a prepared, confident team with an aggressive, experienced defense that has been effective against the run. In terms of stopping the run, stacking the box and switching back-and-forth from man pressure to zone pressure, Wells said the Aztec and Aggie defenses are similar.
“They are extremely physical,” he said. “That’s what they brand themselves to be and that’s what they are.”
The Aztec defense, which has limited its three conference opponents to just 28 total points, is led by linebackers Calvin Munson and Jake Fely. Munson leads the team with 50 tackles, Fely has 44. Wells called the pair “the heart and soul” of the SDSU defense.
“(I have) a lot of respect for them,” he said. “The way they pressure and the way they blitz. You don’t see them miss tackles, and they can cover backs in space. They’re really, really good players.”
On the other side of the ball, senior Maxwell Smith is the starting quarterback, but the Aztecs get most of the offensive production on the ground. Junior running back Donnel Pumphrey, who is on track to pick up close to 1,500 yards this season, is the main rusher, but he is complemented by running backs Chase Price and Rashaad Penny. Wells said the trio could be the best running backs group in the conference, but the Aggie defense has been effective against the run, and Evans wants to keep it that way.
“We go in there with confidence that we’re going to stop the run and try and make teams one-dimensional,” he said. “That makes the play calling and the game play a lot easier for us, especially on the back end so we know what’s coming.”
A win would improve the Aggies’ record to 5-3 overall and 4-0 in conference. It would be the first win against the Aztecs since 1967, its only win in the 11-game series.