Usually you’re playing nonconference games, but it’s kind of nice opening up conference play right now because it gives you something to play for. You play for that Mountain West championship and we open up against a great opponent and it’s tough to play at their place. —Travis Van Leeuwen, USU wide receiver
LOGAN — Utah State didn't have much time to dwell on last Thursday's four-point loss to Utah. The Aggies got right back to work over the weekend, preparing for their first Mountain West Conference game in school history at Air Force on Saturday.
“Usually you’re playing nonconference games, but it’s kind of nice opening up conference play right now because it gives you something to play for," wide receiver Travis Van Leeuwen said. "You play for that Mountain West championship and we open up against a great opponent and it’s tough to play at their place. So it’ll be fun to go into that atmosphere knowing it’s the first conference game.”
Playing a conference game this early could be seen as a disadvantage, but the schedule seems to have worked out OK for the Aggies. With a crucial conference road game next on the schedule, USU has been able to quickly shift focus from Thursday night's disappointment and on to its goal of chasing a league title.
“That Utah one, that one hurt pretty good, but our goal is to compete for a Mountain West championship,” linebacker Jake Doughty said. “In the grand scheme of things the Utah game won’t really affect that much; it’s the Mountain West play that’s the most important.”
EXTRA HOMEWORK: Prepping for Air Force’s option run attack can be one of the most difficult tasks in college football. The Falcons have been running their scheme well for as long as anyone can remember and nobody else on the Aggies' schedule runs anything remotely resembling it. All of that makes it a big week for the scout team to try to help the starting defense get a live look at the option attack it will see Saturday.
Coming off a Thursday night game the Aggies will get a little bit of extra rest and prep time to get ready for the contest.
“Where it really helps us is physically,” coach Matt Wells said. “It was an emotional game (Thursday), a physical game. We're able to catch our breath a little bit and heal up a bit.”
INJURY UPDATE: Aggie defensive end Connor Williams may need more than a few days to heal up. Wells said during his press conference Monday that Williams was in need of an MRI to reveal the extent of the injury to his foot. Williams was forced out of the game against Utah and was seen after the game wearing a walking boot.
MOUNTAIN WEST STRUGGLES: Opening weekend was not a high point for the Mountain West. The conference went just 3-9 overall, with only Fresno State’s overtime victory over Rutgers coming against an FBS opponent. Losses included San Diego State falling 40-19 to Eastern Illinois of the FCS and Boise State falling 38-6 to Washington, the most lopsided loss for the Broncos under head coach Chris Petersen.
The ugly weekend hasn’t changed Wells’ view of the Aggies' new conference, however.
“I don't think anything different of the league, but yeah, on paper it wasn't a good week for the Mountain West,” Wells said. “We'll bounce back and represent in bowl games.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.