It's the final home football game of their careers for 11 Aggies. For at least two, outside linebackers Tom Hansen and Piliki Tauteoli, the spotlight's available as they line up for the last time at Romney Stadium at noon to face the sometimes-overwhelming run-and-shoot of the Pacific Tigers.
Utah State defensive coordinator Fred Bleil says chances of stopping the NCAA's No. 3 pass attack hinge on outside pressure. That means Hansen and Tauteoli, the Big West defensive player of the week. "Their rush will be awfully important," says Bleil. He expects Pacific to throw 50-60 times, mostly quick, short, possession-type passes from a no-huddle set."It will be a test of endurance for our defense," says Tauteoli.
He and Hansen are both Utahns and relish the chance to make a difference in their last home games. "I've played in front of my family for four years here," says Hansen.
"I'll be up for this one," declares Tauteoli, outstanding the last several games.
Both say Pacific's style with four wide receivers and one back suits them. "They don't keep backs in to block, so it's 1-on-1 with us and the tackles. It's easier than being double-teamed," offers Hansen.
"A run-and-shoot quarterback," says Tauteoli, "will roll toward the outside linebackers, so we should get a lot of sacks. It's an easy rush for us. I have to keep contain and don't let anything outside of me."
The no-huddle start can confuse, but Hansen says it's not a two-minute-drill type of no-huddle. Quarterback Troy Kopp walks tackle to tackle surveying the defense, calls signals and then gets the snap, says Hansen. "It's almost like a huddle," he says.
Fresno State was successful against Pacific last week, holding Kopp to 249 yards in a 48-17 Bulldog win by blitzing nearly every play.
Aggie Coach Chuck Shelton doesn't think an all-out blitz will work for his team. He says Fresno's secondary is better at man-to-man coverage than Utah State's, especially without senior Greg Haynes, who could be back for the BYU game next week after a knee injury. The Aggies must mix it up, go after the Tigers "a little," and be patient, Shelton says. "They're going to get some yards. That's a scary football team."
Shelton figures USU must score 30 points to win. It's done that the last three games, beating UNLV 31-6, New Mexico State 55-10 and Fullerton 45-17.
Keeping the Ag offense on the field is primary, and Pacific's defense is vulnerable, seventh in the BWC in total defense and pass-efficiency defense and sixth in scoring defense. The Tigers are fourth against the run.
AGGIE NOTES - They can assure a .500 season with a win; they haven't been .500 since 1981. "If we don't beat Pacific," says Shelton, "I'd have to be bitterly disappointed in our season" . . . Other seniors are Rob Howell, Scott Munson, Atu Fihaki, Naeole Kapele, Wayne Wylie, Kevin Bouwman and Monte Ahlemeyer; junior Ryan Duve won't play next year . . . Junior Roger Grant has 1,101 yards rushing. Junior Tracey Jenkins has 10 TD catches, one off USU's record . . . Now 4-1-1, they've never won five league games in the BWC/PCAA.