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Aggie football has first practice in Boise for Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 14 2011 11:27 p.m. MST

Utah State guard Funaki Asisi (76), Havea Lasike (57) and Al Lapuaho (77) along with the rest of the Utah State football team celebrate their 35-31 win of Hawaii with their fans at the end of a NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, in Honolulu.

Eugene Tanner, Associated Press

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Utah State football had its first practice in Boise Wednesday, in preparation for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday.

USU went through a two-hour practice at Boise State’s Caven Williams Indoor Facility in preparation for Saturday’s bowl match-up with Ohio.

“It felt great; we came out here ready to work. Coach Andersen gave us a great speech, so we are determined to get this win,” sophomore defensive end Connor Williams said.

The Caven Williams Facility is similar to Utah State’s Laub Indoor Facility, both in size and with field turf.

“No, not at all,” Williams said when asked about the differences in facilities. “It is just another work week. We just have to get the job done, and after that we soak everything in. It has been great. Coach Andersen has taken really good care of us. He is making sure that we get the best experience possible. It is awesome.”

All the preparations this week are for Saturday’s game against the Ohio Bobcats, who bring a 9-4 record into the game, making their third-straight bowl appearance.

“They are a tough team. There are a lot of hard-working guys on that team. They are going to come out with their best, and we are going to come out with our best. It is going to be a great game,” Williams said.

Ohio is led by quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who set 12 single-season records for the Bobcats, accounting for 35 touchdowns (26 passing, nine rushing) and 3,709 yards of total offense.

“He is a very shifty guy. We are going to have to eliminate him as soon as possible,” Williams said, who has seen more and more playing time of late.

“I am just trying to soak in all the coaching that I am getting from Coach Frank (defensive line coach Frank Maile), Coach Andersen and Coach Danny (defensive administrative assistant Danny Gurrola), so every day I am just trying to get better. I see results,” Williams said.

Williams and the Aggies are making their first appearance at a bowl game since 1997.

“It is great for this program that has waited for years to be in this environment. During the year, it is so structured — 1:35 in the building; 1:45 special teams. It is a machine; it just rolls. This is very different. Today we practice in the morning; tomorrow we come back and practice in the afternoon, so it forces them to grow and mature as a group,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said.

After practice, the Aggies had lunch and then went to Fast Lane Indoor Kart Racing for an afternoon of fun. Redshirt freshman long snapper Nate Needham clocked a 24.109 lap in heat four, which stood as the fastest time for seven laps until redshirting quarterback Tanner Curtis logged a 23.912 lap in heat 11. Curtis’ time was short-lived atop the leaderboard as one heat later, redshirting wide receiver Rashard Stewart clocked the fastest lap of the day with a 23.894.

“It is a fun event for us. We are all having fun out here. I have never been on go-karts that go this fast at 45 mph. Everyone is having fun racing against each other. The competition is a great thing,” said junior wide receiver Matt Austin.

The go-karts gave players and support staff the chance to race against each other, with 10 karts in each heat.

“Right now it is (equipment manager Mike Bair),” Austin said when asked who his favorite racer was to watch Wednesday. “I went against Mike Bair, so that was fun. It was random, he just walked out right before we were about to race. He rammed me a couple times; so that was fun.”

Wednesday’s activity was just one of many during bowl week, giving the players the opportunity to get away from football and have some team-bonding time.

“It is fun to just get away from football and have fun with the teammates and meet other people around town and have fun around Boise,” Austin said. “Like I said, when you get on the field it is business. Again, when we are not on the football, it is fun to go around town and do this go-kart thing. I would rather do go-karts than go sledding like we are supposed to do. It is a great time to do that.”

After the go-karts, the team had free time at their hotel, then went to the Agri Beef Famous Steak ’n Potatoes Dinner, then had some more free time before bed to end day two in Boise.

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will be held Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Bronco Stadium in Boise. It will feature the Ohio Bobcats (9-4) of the Mid-American Conference against the Utah State Aggies (7-5) of the Western Athletic Conference. Utah State is the closest WAC school to the potato-growing region of eastern Idaho, and Ohio is the nation’s second-largest state consumer of Idaho potatoes, according to the Idaho Potato Commission.

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is the second game of the bowl calendar and the only one in its time slot. It will be telecast nationally on ESPN and broadcast on ESPN Radio. Five of the previous seven games have been decided on the last drive, with an average score of 38-25 over the past 14 bowls.

A few $30 tickets in the curved areas of Bronco Stadium remain for purchase in person or over the phone. There are also $50 tickets on the east side available for purchase in person, over the phone or online. There are also roughly 50 student tickets remaining at a cost of $18 with student ID, for purchase in person only.

For more Aggie football Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ticket information, fans can contact the USU ticket office at 1-888-USTATE-1 (1-888-878-2831) or 435-797-0305, or in person at the USU ticket office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on the USU football blog at usufootball.wordpress.com. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.

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