Back for more: Utah State coach Matt Wells feels ready for 2nd season with the Aggies
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LOGAN — It’s Monday morning, and in a few hours, Matt Wells will be getting on an airplane headed for Las Vegas.
Although it sounds like a continuation of the nearly two-weeklong vacation he recently completed, this trip is all business. The 40-year-old is headed to Sin City to take part in Mountain West Conference media days, where Wells’ Utah State Aggies will soon be slated to finish second in the Mountain Division of the MWC at the end of the 2014 season.
A year ago at this time, Wells was a first-time head coach heading into his inaugural campaign at the helm of his alma mater as it moved up from the WAC to the Mountain West. That makes it rather understandable that when asked to compare last year’s summer getaway to this year’s vacation to Hawaii and Seattle with his wife, Jen, and their three children, Wells quickly replied, “First of all, I didn’t go on vacation last year.”
Although he later admitted that he actually had two whole days off over the Fourth of July in 2013, Wells said his lack of a true vacation was due to “an uneducated fear of being away.
“These coaches, our strength staff and our players are mature — not perfect, but mature — and can continue to handle their business,” Wells explained. “There’s a balance between work and family, and it got out of balance for me a little bit last summer. I think I needed to get it back in balance.”
Wells quickly added, though, that he was never far away from his cellphone. “I mean, you’re not out of touch from reality for two weeks, I promise you that,” he clarified.
And just to make his grip on reality clear, Wells announced that during their time in Oahu, he and his family stayed at his brother-in-law’s place, “which saved a few bucks.” When reminded that USU signed him to a contract extension in April that could pay him up to $800,000 a year through 2018, Wells shrugged it off and suggested that he’ll never change when it comes to being frugal — the byproduct of being an assistant coach who had to go looking for a new job five times in the span of 14 years before returning to Logan in 2011.
Although Wells did admit to being a little more confident heading into this second season as a head coach, when asked if he felt like he proved himself last year by leading the Aggies to a 9-5 record, Wells immediately declared: “No.
“I know that I’m driven by a fear of failure, and to me, this is now the 2014 edition of the Utah State Aggie football team, and we’re not going to be given one touchdown, one break or one win because of what we did last year,” Wells said.
Following in the footsteps of Gary Andersen, the expectations were that Wells could continue to build on USU’s recent gridiron success. However, to many fans and observers, the 2013 season appeared headed for disappointment when junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton was lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered in the Aggies’ sixth game against BYU.
But under Wells and freshman quarterback Darell Garretson, Utah State quickly regrouped and ended up winning five straight games to close out the regular season. The Aggies then came up a touchdown short against Fresno State in the inaugural Mountain West championship game before knocking off No. 24 Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl.
“There were a lot of people that thought our season was done when Chuckie went down, so I think we all take a lot of satisfaction in what we accomplished last year,” Wells said. “The senior class that left here as the winningest senior class in Utah State really helped us face adversity. They did not flinch, and we found a way to win six out of seven, which was a remarkable accomplishment, something that I’ll never forget.
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