Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LOGAN — Believe. It's a motto that is everywhere around Utah State University these days.
Billboards around town advertise sporting events on campus with the slogan, "Believe It." Students hype up the team and the crowd by chanting "I believe that we will win" before games, and wear the same phrase on the front of their spirit shirts designed for the season.
Just three games into the football season, that belief has turned into disbelief for fans, alumni, coaches and players. The Aggies have seemingly invented new and painful ways to lose early in the season.
In the season opener at Auburn, the Aggies outplayed the defending national champions for almost the entire game, only to see the Tigers score twice in the final 2:07 to erase a 10-point deficit and send Utah State home disappointed.
Last weekend in the friendlier confines of Romney Stadium, history repeated itself. The Aggies had again outplayed their opponent — this time Colorado State — for much of the game, but with 2:17 left and nursing an eight-point lead, Utah State fumbled away a punt and shortly thereafter, the game.
"Colorado State is not a good enough team to beat us," running back Robert Turbin said after the game. "We beat ourselves."
Now an Aggie team that is just two plays away from a 3-0 record finds itself in a familiar position: sitting at 1-2 and behind the 8-ball just a month into the season.
The Aggies will try to turn things around against in-state rival BYU Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium, a place where they have not won since 1978.
While victories have not come as quickly as those associated with the program would like, there is still reason for hope in Cache Valley. The Aggies are playing their best football since Gary Andersen took the reins in 2009.
"I know this: We are playing better football than we have since I've been here, for sure," said Andersen. "I can't judge it off anything else but the time I've been here.
"I also understand that our kids are walking out of the tunnel very centered and very focused for every game. I don't see the ups and downs and the peaks and valleys (any more). To me, that shows maturity. That shows a team that is going to go out and give the same thing every week from an effort standpoint and a caring standpoint.
"Nobody wants to win more than those young men in that locker room," Andersen continued. "It's very important to them. It's going to come and it's getting closer every week. I think it's going to come on a consistent basis soon, but it hasn't come yet."
Statistics back up what Andersen says.
The team ranks fifth in the country in rushing yards at 316 per game and 14th in scoring offense, averaging 42 points a contest. The defense is not far behind in the rankings, giving up just 269 yards a game, 12th-best in the country in total defense. Still, the Aggies are looking for that one pivotal moment that will galvanize the team.
"I think a win can catapult you, a loss can catapult you, a play can catapult you. I think this team is real simple," Andersen said. "We will take the next step when they are ready to take the next step. We can coach better and play better and work harder."
Andersen and the Aggies understand that it will not be words that turn the team around, but moments and actions.
"I don't know what that moment is," Andersen said. "Are we looking for that and searching for it? You bet we are."
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