Leave a legacy.
These are three simple words that laid the foundation for what has become the most successful football season at Utah State since 1979.
The last time the Aggies won seven regular season games, Jimmy Carter was president of the United States; the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in Game 7 to win the World Series, and it was the first year of the ever-popular McDonald's Happy Meal.
The last time the Aggies ventured to a bowl game was in 1997. Bill Clinton was president and legendary quarterback Brett Favre won his first Super Bowl title in leading the Green Bay Packers over the New England Patriots.
In 1997, Utah State played in the inaugural Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. This week, they will head to the same city to play in the newly renamed Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
"They started out this season with a goal to leave a legacy, and that's exactly what they've done," said head coach Gary Andersen. "They've done a tremendous job of taking the next step. This team has been a crew of fighters all year long."
During fall camp, the team, led by the senior class, set a series of goals for the season. With a Western Athletic Conference title and a bowl game in mind, they set off with positive attitudes and driven hearts. However, the season did not start as smoothly as expected. Game after game ended in heartbreak.
More than halfway through the season the team was at a 2-5 record.
Ask any Aggie, fan or player, and they will tell you the Hawaii game was the turning point of the season. At halftime, USU was down 28-7. Starting freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton was hurt and had been taken to the hospital. After a motivating halftime discussion, the team came out of the locker room with a changed mind-set.
Junior quarterback Adam Kennedy came in and turned the game around. With that, he turned the Aggies' season around.
"Everyone just kind of looked each other in the eye and asked what had been going wrong," Kennedy said. "It wasn't necessarily blaming anyone, but just finding out what wasn't working, and what we needed to do to make it work. Looking at the guy sitting next to you had a lot to do with the turnaround."
Senior running back Michael Smith said the halftime talk was fairly simple.
"We basically looked at each other and realized our option was to win or to lose," Smith said. "We chose not to lose. We chose to fight. We started playing as a team, as one."
Senior defensive end Levi Koskan added when he said the team finally realized the potential they had.
"A couple guys got in each others' faces, and we just realized that we're a great team," Koskan said. "There's no way we should be at the point we're at. We're better than this. We deserve to be better. Let's go out and do something about it."
The Hawaii game stirred something in the hearts of the Aggies. It showed them they could win. They recognized the talent they had. They went on to win the rest of their regular-season games, ending the season with a 7-5 record.
"Anytime that you're losing, you're never as happy as you are when you're winning. They handled it very well," Andersen said. "I think they always thought they were a good football team. They had the mind-set they could win physically and mentally every game."
This football team has fought hard year after year. For this class of seniors, a season like this one has been all they have worked for.
- Deseret News podcast: 2016 NBA draft preview
- A look at how freshmen have fared with NBA...
- High school softball: A closer look at this...
- New Rome mayor maintains opposition to 2024...
- Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose traded from Bulls...
- NHL coming to Las Vegas; New team to start...
- Massive crowd engulfs Cleveland, champion...
- Chile beats Colombia 2-0 to return to Copa...
- Morning links: Athlon ranks Utah FBS... 89
- Never on Sunday: BYU won't compete on... 60
- Utah Jazz to acquire Indiana Pacers PG... 37
- U. stadium gets bigger scoreboard,... 27
- Morning links: ESPN analysts critical... 25
- Utah basketball: Poeltl taken by... 16
- Brad Rock: Jazz move up playoff... 14
- Families grapple with the pressure to... 14