MOSCOW, Idaho — Bend but don't break is a phrase that no defensive coach likes to hear. It is a backhanded compliment that means your defense allows the opposing team to move easily down the field, but stiffens in the red zone. Last week the Utah State defense held San Jose State to three field goals and a single touchdown when the Spartans got inside the 20. The Aggies' bending, but not breaking, turned out to be the difference in a one-point victory.
"That is a team on defense that has kind of made the hair on the back of my neck rise up," said Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. "But that's a little bit of who we are right now."
Utah State (4-5, 2-2) has bent as far as it can this season. After suffering painful losses week after week to begin the season, the Aggies have rebounded with back-to-back come-from-behind victories.To remain in the hunt for a postseason bowl, the Aggies will have to win at least two of their final three games. Those are the stakes for Utah State as they head to Idaho (2-8, 1-4) in search of their first three-game winning streak since 2001 and first five-win season since 2000.
"These two teams understand they are going to fight extremely hard against each other," said Andersen. "(Idaho head coach) Robb (Akey) is going to be ready. But most importantly, the kids from Idaho are going to be ready.
"They're going to play hard. They play hard every game. This will be a tremendous challenge for us. It's at their place, and we'll have to play really well to have an opportunity to win the game."
Adam Kennedy will likely get the nod to start at quarterback again this week for the Aggies. Former starter Chuckie Keeton is still recovering from a neck injury suffered in Hawaii, but according to Andersen will be dressed and ready to play. In one and a half games since taking over for Keeton, Kennedy is 29 of 39 throwing for 418 yards and four touchdowns.
"They (Adam Kennedy and Chuckie Keeton) are both great quarterbacks," said wide receiver Matt Austin. "I guess you can say that Adam has thrown the ball a little more because he is not as mobile but again they are both great quarterbacks. Adam has actually given us a chance. He is throwing it up, he is giving the receivers a chance in making some big plays for us.
"Not only for him, but for our offense and our team, our fans and everybody in Logan."
Defensively, Utah State will try and stop a Vandal offense that scored a combined 77 points in their last two meetings with the Aggies. If that fails to work, the Aggies will fall back on their red zone defense and try not to break.
"We just are playing harder in the red zone really. It's a want to. It's Xs and Os, but it is also a want to," said safety Alfred Bowden. "Coach Andersen always tells us 'you have got to bow up and answer the bell.' "
With their backs against the wall the Aggies have answered that bell and have three more games to keep their postseason dreams alive.
AGGIES ON THE AIR
Utah State (4-5) at Idaho (2-8)
Today, 3 p.m.
Radio: 97.5 FM, 610 AM
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