The biggest way teams make strides at this point in the year is if they're able to motivate themselves. They have something to play for, have individual motivation and group motivation. Our guys have that. We're playing for something. We're in the middle of the Mountain West race, and who knows how this thing is going to unfold here in the next couple of weeks. —Utah State head coach Matt Wells
Utah State football clinched bowl eligibility in its last game against UNLV, but the Aggies aren’t done yet. With two games to go, USU is still searching for some way to win the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies (6-4) will need some help to get to the Mountain West title game, but to have any chance they must win their final two games, starting Saturday with Colorado State (6-5).
“The biggest way teams make strides at this point in the year is if they're able to motivate themselves. They have something to play for, have individual motivation and group motivation. Our guys have that. We're playing for something. We're in the middle of the Mountain West race, and who knows how this thing is going to unfold here in the next couple of weeks,” head coach Matt Wells said. “We've got a 12-day stretch here where we've got to give everything we've got from both a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint. This is a big game against Colorado State.”
After a slow start to the season, the Rams have won four of five contests, including a 66-42 thrashing at New Mexico last week. In that game, Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs ran for 291 yards and tied the Mountain West record with six touchdowns. Utah State ranks 20th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 127 yards a game, which means it will be strength against strength when Bibbs gets the ball.
“When you look at his production, his stats and his numbers right now, he's playing better than any back in the country,” Wells said about Bibbs. “He's got 1,000 yards over five weeks, 600 yards over two games and all those touchdowns. He's a back that runs with great vision and great balance and has home-run speed at the end. You can tell on tape that guys have a lot of trouble getting him down. It will be a big challenge for our defense, not only the front seven, but the secondary as well.”
Despite being in a conference together for the first time since 1961 this season, the Aggies and Rams have a long and storied rivalry. In fact, Colorado State is the third most played game for Utah State behind only in-state rivals Utah and BYU. The two teams have met the last two years with Utah State winning in Fort Collins 31-19 last year and Colorado State winning in Logan 35-34 in double overtime two years ago.
To add even another level of familiarity, former Aggie offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin calls the shots for the Rams now. Baldwin was in Logan for three seasons, including during the 2011 season when Wells returned to Utah State as the team’s quarterbacks coach. While the reunion will be pleasant for the two coaches before the game, it will be all business as soon as the game starts.
“Players make plays and players win games. It's not about the coaches on the sidelines,” Wells said. “It will be nice to see him in pre-game and that about wraps it up. He's going to want to beat our brains in and we'll want to beat them. It's not about us. It's not about the coaches. It never has been and never will be.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.