LOGAN – It is safe to safe this football season didn’t go as Aggie fans hoped. For the first time since 2010, Utah State did not qualify for a bowl game. Even if the Aggies win the last two games on the schedule it will still be a losing season.
There is a sense of dissatisfaction around the program. Head coach Matt Wells said he still believes in the team, but both the players and coaches are disappointed. Fans have expressed displeasure in the team’s direction through social media and boos at the games. Even with a newly-renovated stadium, bleachers were close to empty in some sections of the stadium.
Despite all the surrounding disillusionment, Wells is encouraged by what he sees in his players. He said he sees a positive demeanor.
“The coaches are also energized by the players’ reactions and the players’ continued commitment to turning this, flipping it this week, doing it the right way and continuing to invest,” he said. “They’re fighting and we’re fighting right next to them.”
USU will follow up its last-second home loss by traveling to Reno to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack. If there was a chance to end the losing streak, this would be it.
Then again, Nevada is probably looking at Utah State and thinking the same thing.
Both teams are in a similar situation. Both are in the middle of a losing streak and carry a 3-7 overall record with a single conference win. That one conference win for both came against Fresno State.
“Nevada is similar to us in a lot of ways in that they are very talented,” Wells said. “They’ve had some close losses, they’re searching for a win and fighting and scratching at the end of the year, so I know we’ll get a very good game with them.”
Utah State has already faced SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey, Wyoming’s Brian Hill, Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols and New Mexico’s Tyrone Owens. Those are four of the conference’s top five running backs. They’ll complete that list Saturday when they line up opposite James Butler, who has 1,021 yards on the year.
“He’s got strong legs, he runs with good balance,” Wells said. “He’s shifty and guys hit him and you see him spin or move out of a hit and fall forward to make a couple yards here and there. He’s been a very productive back for them over time, and been a very durable player, too.”
Utah State may have had its own standout running back this year in Devante Mays, but almost every time the senior has tried retaking the field another injury has taken him off.
“He’s big, strong and physical, and when he’s healthy, he’s in the upper echelon of backs in this league,” Wells said of Mays. “We’re a different offense with him, as evidenced last year when we got on a roll and started playing very well.”
The Wolf Pack may have a great running back, but it doesn’t score many points. Nevada’s 22.2 points per game is the conference’s second lowest, but Utah State’s 24 per game isn’t much better.
The two teams also allow a similar amount of points. USU’s defense has given up 28.6 points per game, while Nevada is averaging 30.1. Teams seem to like to run the ball against the Wolf Pack. Its defense allows a conference-low 165.3 yards per game through the air, but a conference-high 299.3.
Six games on this year’s schedule had a kickoff later than 8 p.m., and the final game at BYU will as well, but this is one of the few that don’t. The 2 p.m. kickoff in Reno is earlier than any other this year, except for the 12 p.m. start at USC. Wells said the change is nice, but it doesn’t affect much when it comes to game play.
“Let’s be real, when you’re winning and you’re confident, things are rolling and you can play at any time, like 8:15 p.m.,” he said.