What is to blame for Aggie football’s struggles?

Utah State's Jacoby Wildman (93) is upended by Wake Forest's Amari Henderson (4) after running for a first down on a fake punt in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

LOGAN – In the team’s 22 games since the upset of the No. 21 ranked Boise State Broncos in 2015, Utah State football has emerged victors in just six. Not one of those six have come on the road.

The Aggies hit another low spot Saturday. The team went into Wake Forest wanting to put the string of road losses in the past. It left with a crushing 46-10 defeat.

What is to blame for the USU football woes? It’s a question Aggie fans have been debating since the second half of the 2015 season. Wells and a few of his players discussed several different key issues during the weekly press conference Monday morning.

The team’s bad start at Wake Forest was brought up. After an early interception and two touchdown passes of 43-plus yards by the Demon Deacons, Wake Forest had a 14-0 lead in the first three-and-a-half minutes.

“We’ve got to play better early,” head coach Matt Wells said. “We had a poor start. It’s not anything you all didn’t already know.”

The team’s attitude was also mentioned. That’s the explanation Aggie safety Gage Ferguson leans toward. He said it all had less to do with the technicalities, and more to do with the team’s emotion.

“I think that we need to have better composure and poise in certain situations,” he said. “We get down 14-0, we blow two coverages and give up a pick-six, whatever it is in that situation. Those are all technical things you can blame, but to be a good football player you have to react the right way.”

It’s not that USU didn’t have emotion, Ferguson said, but that it was the wrong emotion.

“Are you going to rise up to the challenge when you blow a coverage and go get a pick after or are you going to melt and go give up another play the next drive?” he said. “The correct emotion is what we lack.”

Junior wide receiver Ron’Quavion Tarver explained that it was a bunch of little mistakes that added up.

“If we focus on the small things big things will happen,” he said.

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Wells talked about the problems with the ground game, both running the ball and defending the run. He expressed disappointment in the way his front seven played on both sides. The Aggies rushed for 42 yards while giving up 291 on the ground. Wells said he still believes in the group, but said they didn’t play well.

“They did not fit very well,” he said. “We didn’t communicate very well, we didn’t run to the football very well, but I don’t have seven free agents that came in this morning.”

The passing game wasn’t much better, especially under Kent Myers. The senior quarterback completed just nine passes on 23 attempts for 54 yards and an interception. Redshirt freshman backup Jordan Love completed six of his 13 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown after entering the game in the second half.

That was one of the few bright spots for Wells, who said his freshman QB handled the moment, and that it wasn’t “too big” for him.

“There was a couple of things he missed,” Wells said, “but he’s got confidence throwing the football, and both those long passes, they were spot-on. He stepped up in the pocket and he did a nice job. He threw with confidence, he played with confidence, he took the field with confidence.”

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There were other issues discussed. Wells mentioned first down production, the team’s seven three-and-outs and not running the ball well enough on first down. Whatever needs to be fixed, he knows now is the time. The primary goal of the team is to win a Mountain West championship, and conference play starts this Saturday at San Jose State.

Conference championship aside, Ferguson is tired of being embarrassed. He said it was an uncomfortable Monday morning film review, one he described as “no fun”, but added that he and his teammates have the right attitude going into the preparations for another road game.

“We’re going to have the best week of practice we’ve had all year,” he said. “We’re going to prepare hard and we’re going to be ready to play this week when we play San Jose. We’ve worked too hard not to be a great defense. We’ve worked too hard not to be in the spotlight doing great things.”

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