Utah State football coaches didn'tshow their players the films of last week's shocking 73-18 Fresno State loss to Northern Illinois University. "There was no need," says USU offensive coordinator Pat Behrns.
Because Northern's a wishbone team, USU got little use out of the films and will go with what it knows of Fresno, now 5-1, from the past.They are, after all, conference rivals, and this game in Fresno at 8 MDT tonight begins the heart of Utah State's Big West Conference schedule. The Aggies are 1-3 and 1-0.
That is in Utah State's favor, says Coach Chuck Shelton, who wonders if his team could get up for another nonleague game after being smothered in its last two outings - 45-10 at Missouri and 52-7 last week at Oregon. "If we were getting ready for another nonconference game this week, we wouldn't have the great attitude," Shelton says, "but I think we do. I have no question we'll be in a great frame of mind.
"We need to play better than we have but not better than we're capable."
Behrns says Fresno plays "man-to-man defense, tight, 91 percent of the time." The Ags hope to exploit that. Even without a Kendal Smith or Patrick Newman, says Behrns, "We can motion (receivers) up and do a lot of things differently to get them free."
Then it will be up to QB Ron Lopez and the running backs.
Lopez, who's had a cold since Wednesday, had his finest practice as an Aggie Tuesday, enthused Behrns. "He started looking like he really understood what he needed to do with the offense," Behrns says. It will be Lopez's third start.
Running back Roger Grant, says Behrns, should play despite numerous injuries that ganged up on him at Oregon.
Fullback Sean Hampton did not make the trip. He was hospitalized until Wednesday with a bronchial infection and asthma contracted in pollen-laden Oregon. Jim Ray replaces him.
Behrns says the Aggies must throw against Fresno - No. 2 nationally against the rush until last week's debacle against the wishbone - but the runners will have to help set it up.
Defensive coordinator Fred Bleil is disappointed with his unit, which was supposed to be USU's showpiece this year. He'd thought that, on bad days, the Ags might give up 30 points.
But the Aggie defense had its best practice in weeks on Wednesday.
Fresno QB Mark Barsotti has a young offensive line - Bleil noted places in the films where they missed some blocks - and doesn't have as many weapons to go to as in the past. He makes up for it all by himself. "It's the Barsotti Show right now," Bleil says.
USU will go with a five-man rush, instead of the usual four, against Barsotti, adding outside linebacker Tom Hansen. Hansen was hurt halfway through the Oregon game and is still limping but could play a big role in this game.
Emotion will probably be the other key. "I don't know if mad is the way to play," says Bleil, "but when coaches get embarrassed, there's a little extra intensity that week."
"If we can match them emotionally," says Shelton, "and get into a game of personnel; if our quarterback situation can just get a little bit better and we can go in there healthy, we're going to be in good shape."