As if things haven't gone badly enough in this once-promising season for the Utah State Aggies. First they got bombed by Missouri, which may have one of its better teams in years. Then they go to Oregon for a 52-7 drubbing Saturday. Maybe it's not quite like playing Southern Cal, Illinois and BYU back-to-back-to-back, like last year, but who'da known before the season that Oregon would have one of its best teams of maybe ever? And now, it's on to Fresno State for the 1-3 Aggies.
What's Fresno's story? Well, the nationally ranked Bulldogs were just humiliated 73-18 at Northern Illinois, a team that's lost to Northwestern and Toledo.The Aggies played an Oregon team high on its win over BYU; now they have to meet Bulldogs frothing with embarrassment.
"I find that unbelievable, to tell the truth," Utah State Coach Chuck Shelton said about the NIU-Fresno score. "I have no idea how that could happen," he said.
However, he added, "Going in, Northern Illinois would have been my pick to win that game."
It's hard to take the Midwest out of Shelton, apparently.
But that's not the problem for the Aggies now. They play at Fresno Saturday night, then have to travel to San Jose State, the No. 2 contender for the Big West title, the week after that.
"If we're a conference contender," says Shelton, who still expects to be just that, "we'll get up and get ready to play. If we're not a conference contender, we won't.
"You've got to be tested against the schedule," Shelton said last week. "This is the schedule."
The Aggies may have some injury problems. Running back Roger Grant left last Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury, and it was re-hurt in Saturday's game. He came out before halftime. Also injured Saturday in Oregon was outside linebacker Tom Hansen, who sprained a knee in the first half. He had four tackles including a sack of Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave before leaving.
Shelton was probably enough satisfied with Ron Lopez's first complete performance at quarterback, even though he threw two interceptions (one was taken out of the receiver's hands). "An area we can look at positively," Shelton said of Lopez, who threw for 222 yards, despite 13-for-32 completions and three sacks. Lopez had started the Long Beach game Oct. 8 but left in the first quarter with a knee injury and played mainly against Missouri's second and third teams the next week.
During their two-week bye, the Aggies revamped their offense to fit Lopez, a dropback passer.
Shelton remembered the rocky debut of another Aggie QB: Brent Snyder started against Nebraska. He took 43 hits and tore cartilage. "He worked his way to all-conference quarterback," says Shelton, hoping perhaps Lopez can follow suit.