Commentary: Highs and lows were plentiful for the Utah State football this season
After a tempestuous, ugly victory over an improved UNLV team in Las Vegas, the Aggies shut out Colorado State and smashed Wyoming to close out the regular season as Mountain Division champions, thanks in big part to a Boise State loss to San Diego State.
Utah State's depth issues eventually were exposed against Derek Carr and Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference championship game. The depleted offense didn't score in the first half, so Doughty did it himself off a forced fumble. Though the Aggies outscored Fresno State in the second half, their first-half mistakes were too much to overcome in a 24-17 loss to the Bulldogs.
Heading into the Poinsettia Bowl with an 8-5 record, the Aggies received one last chance to win a game against a marquee opponent: a ranked Northern Illinois team led by quarterback Jordan Lynch.
The game appeared to be a toss-up with an elite Husky offense versus an elite Aggie defense. It marked the first time in school history Utah State has been to three bowl games in a row.
And the Aggies delivered in spades. Lynch had the chance to be the first player in NCAA history to rush and throw for 2,000 yards in the same season. He needed just 119 rushing yards to reach that unprecedented milestone. Utah State denied Lynch history by holding him to just 38 rushing yards on 18 carries and beat the No. 23 Huskies, 21-14, in San Diego.
So what's in store for next season?
The coaching carousel hasn't begun in earnest, so it's unknown which assistants will be back on staff next season. As far as the roster goes, Utah State is losing production from key seniors such as DeMartino, Travis Reynolds, Doughty, Connor Williams, Nevin Lawson and Travis Van Leeuwen, and all are very tough to replace. Most of the offensive line, including standout center Tyler Larsen, graduates as well.
However, most of the receivers, most notably Brandon Swindall and Ronald Butler, will be back next season. The defensive side of the ball has plenty of mature players such as Brian Suite, Frankie Sutera and BJ Larsen. The linebacking corps appears to be just as tough, too, so this bodes extremely well for the defensive side of the ball, even if Orlando, the defensive coordinator, ends up taking another job.
With Keeton back for his senior year, the Aggies can potentially get another shot at the MWC championship. Most of the games on the schedule are pretty winnable to boot, thanks in part to coaching shuffles at Wake Forest, Boise State and Arkansas State. A win over Boise would almost certainly clear the path to the title game.
The Aggies treaded new ground and reached many new milestones this season. As long as they don't get bit by the injury bug again, they can continue to build off of this season's hard lessons and successes and do something truly special for 2014.
Onward and upward, it's the best time to be an Aggie.
Sam McConkie is a technical and professional writing graduate from Utah State University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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