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Randy Hollis: Great time for Aggies, tough time for Cougs

Published: Saturday, Oct. 2 2010 10:57 p.m. MDT

What a great, glorious day for the Aggies. After all, their football team had been waiting forever to knock off in-state rival BYU.

Well, that is, if you can consider 17 years forever.

It certainly seemed like forever in Cache Valley.

But finally, for the first time since 1993, Utah State University proudly walked off the field Friday night having vanquished the much-despised Cougars with a convincing 31-16 victory that would have made the namesake of their Romney Stadium football field — the late Aggie great Merlin Olsen — mighty proud, too.

When you've lost to a team 20 times in your last 21 meetings, and had not been able to beat them in 13 previous Friday night LDS Conference weekend tries, it's definitely cause for celebration for those folks in Logan.

Second-year USU head coach Gary Andersen, whose team showed such promise in its season-opening loss to Oklahoma, now has his signature win. He has put his stamp on a Big Blue program that has struggled mightily for a couple of decades.

Their frustrating loss to Fresno State two weeks ago and a dismal performance last weekend against San Diego State will now be quickly forgiven and soon forgotten.

Indeed, a victory over BYU has a magical way of healing all wounds and soothing all fears for the Cache Valley faithful who have been waiting and hoping for someone, anyone, to resurrect their long-suffering football program since John L. Smith left for Louisville after guiding USU to a Humanitarian Bowl appearance in 1997.

Yes, good for them, good for the Aggies. Oh, sure, at 2-3, they've still got plenty of work to do. But Friday's rousing win could help catapult them to many more great days in the second half of the season.

As for the Cougars? Well, who would have thought that, five weeks into the 2010 collegiate football campaign, the "Big Five" team with the fewest victories would be … BYU?

OK, so Southern Utah doesn't have any more wins than BYU does. But four straight losses and a 1-4 record must look mighty discouraging to a proud BYU program which has notched double-digit-win seasons for four consecutive years.

And with seemingly unwinnable games coming up against TCU and Utah, and a difficult challenge on their schedule next weekend against San Diego State, the Cougars' campaign could be coming apart at the seams.

Most of us so-called experts predicted seven or eight wins for BYU's boys in blue before this season started. Now, unbelievably, seven losses are certainly not out of the question.

Nobody saw this Cougar train wreck coming. But if Friday's performance is any indication, Bronco Mendenhall and Co. need to circle the wagons and come up with better offensive and defensive schemes, a new resolve and, most importantly, more fire in their collective bellies.

Their receivers might want to start catching a pass or two, especially when the ball keeps hitting them in what has turned out to be a bad spot — their hands. The number of dropped passes was absolutely appalling. Heck, Stevie Wonder could have caught some of those passes.

Desire and determination are those intangibles which, any coach will tell you, can make a huge difference in a football team's fortunes.

Just ask Gary Andersen and the Aggies. They possessed those qualities in great abundance Friday night, and it made all the difference in the world in a battle between two struggling teams that both came into their matchup with 1-3 records.

Now, one of them — Utah State — can't wait to play its next game, already licking its chops after meeting the challenge and coming up with one of the program's best wins in recent memory.

The other one — BYU — is wondering what the heck went wrong — again — in a season that's filling up with disappointment much too fast.

Yes, it's a great, glorious day to be an Aggie.

And a mighty tough time for the Cougars.

e-mail: rhollis@desnews.com

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