LOGAN – If there ever was a time for the Utah State football team to get back on track, Saturday would be it.
The Aggies only have two wins this year, but the opponent is faring even worse. Fresno State hasn’t won a game since September 10 when it beat FCS Sacramento State. Bulldog head coach Tim DeRuyter will bring his 1-6 team into Logan and onto Merlin Olsen Field Saturday night.
<h2><strong><em>Utah State’s recent struggle</em></strong></h2>
Fresno State won’t be the only team on the field desperately searching for wins and answers. USU is sitting at 2-4 and has lost three-straight conference games. A close loss at home against Air Force was followed by another on the road at Boise State. After jumping out to a 24-10 halftime lead against Colorado State two weeks ago, USU didn’t score another point and lost by a touchdown.
If Utah State were to drop a fourth game in a row, especially against a 1-6 Fresno State, the fans’ perception of the direction of the program will likely hit a new low – for this decade at least.
“We are what our record says we are right now at Utah State, we’re 2-4, we’re 0-3, and I get that, but I said in July, I didn’t think there was a team on this schedule we couldn’t beat and a team that couldn’t beat us,” head coach Matt Wells said. “There is a lot of parity. And go look at the teams, whether it’s Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, the teams that we’ve played and watch them and how each game is. It’s a dogfight.”
Wells and his team are now coming off a bye week, and even though the team is as desperate as ever for a win, don’t expect any major changes to USU’s gameplan or system. The basics will be the same: Kent Myers will still be the QB, Utah State will have the same defensive approach and the Aggies will still wear traditional blue and white. Wells said he wants to win just as bad as any fan, but doesn’t think it is time for any drastic deviations.
“Is there some changes that can be made? Yeah, but they’re tweaks,” he said. “I don’t think they’re wholesale changes. I’d be up in the night for a coach to do that right now at this point in the season unless there were major, major issues and unless somebody wants to prove that or ask that to me, they’re losses.”
<h2><em><strong>History with the Bulldogs</strong></em></h2>
The last time these two teams met, it wasn’t a pretty one for Fresno State. The 56-14 final score in Fresno ended up being USU’s most lopsided win of the year. Running backs Devante Mays and LaJuan Hunt combined for five touchdowns, Justen Hervey added another. Quarterback Kent Myers also had himself an impressive outing. He threw for 260 yards and a touchdown.
But that game was the first time the Aggies had beat Fresno State in seven tries. Overall, USU is 11-17-1 against the Bulldogs in a series that started in 1952.
<h2><em><strong>Scouting the Bulldogs</strong></em></h2>
Fresno State’s only has one win, a 30-3 victory over Sacramento State, but it has had some close losses. The Bulldogs lost by five points Nevada and seven points to Tulsa. The team is coming off a two-touchdown loss to San Diego State, but the Bulldogs held the Aztec offense to 17 points, its lowest scoring game of the season.
“They got stingy at the goal line, they got stingy in the red zone,” Wells said of the Bulldog defense. “San Diego State moved it at will running the ball for a decent amount of that game, and then they played really well with their backs against the wall.”
The defense is led by Jeff Camilli, a guy Wells described as “a big, strong inside linebacker.” Camilli has 62 total tackles this year. The second leading tackler is Stratton Brown, a defensive back with 53 tackles. Overall the defense is giving up a lot of yards on the ground. The 274.9 average ranks dead last in the conference.
The rushing game on offense doesn’t look much better. The Bulldogs average 122.3 yards per game on offense, which also ranks last in the Mountain West, but the pass game is where the offense excels. The Bulldogs have been able to throw for 232.6 yards per game, second only to Boise State. Most of that has been through quarterback Chason Virgil, but Wells seems to think Virgil can run the ball as well.
“Virgil’s a kid that is a dual-threat guy,” he said. “He can hurt you with his legs. They have three receivers with over 400 yards, so they’re spreading the ball out there on the perimeter.”
One of those receivers – who also happens to be the team’s leading receiver – is unlikely to play due to injury. Aaron Peck is a deep threat guy who has 34 catches for 511 yards, but don’t expect to see him suited up Saturday night.
The other two big-play wide receivers are KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan. The duo has combined for five touchdowns and more than 900 yards so far this season.
It is still a mystery to those outside the Aggie locker room whether running back Devante Mays and defensive back Dallin Leavitt will suit up. During his weekly press conference, Wells gave a “we’ll see” in regards to Mays playing.
“The bye week helps everybody,” he said. “I’m not a doctor, but everybody’s healthier from this week and the bye week always helps that.”