After almost five years, it came down to six points Saturday in Romney Stadium. Chuck Shelton's Utah State football team had six points more than University of Pacific and wouldn't allow the potent Tiger offense to come close to tying or winning on the last drive.
After almost five years, that 51-45 Aggie victory finally let Shelton know that maybe his program's made the progress he's been looking for."There's no doubt this game was the biggest game in our program," Shelton said after the win. "We needed to win this football game.
"It was an opportunity," said Shelton, "to see if what we came here to do - if we were on track to do that. I'm pretty happy," he said.
The win, tenuous though it was, established milestones for the team, the visitors and Romney itself.
"It was the 100th game played in the stadium, and it might not mean that much to some, but to us traditionalists, that means a lot," observed Shelton.
The Aggies are now 5-4-1 on a four-game winning streak. It's Shelton's first four-game win streak as a Loganite. They are assured now of their first .500 season since 1981, when Utah State was 5-5-1.
Utah State completes its season Saturday at fourth-ranked BYU.
The Ags ended the Big West season at 5-1-1, tied for second with Fresno State, both behind San Jose, which gave both runners-up their league losses.
It is the first time since the Aggies entered the PCAA/Big West that they have ever won five league games. It's the first time Shelton's Aggies have finished with five or fewer losses or with just one league loss.
In addition to Tracey Jenkins' school record of 13 touchdown catches, accomplished with three scoring receptions Saturday, and Roger Grant's third-best-in-USU-history 1,316 yards (215 Saturday), there were these Romney remarkables:
- Tiger QB Troy Kopp's 515 yards passing was a stadium record for one passer. Kopp's six TD passes tied the stadium record.
- Tiger Aaron Turner tied the stadium record for most catches by a USU opponent with 13.
- A USU-record 34 first downs.
- Grant's 43 rushes were two short of the USU record.
- If Jenkins had had this season last year, he'd be poised to tie an NCAA record. He has TD receptions in seven straight games; the NCAA mark until this season was eight. One more TD and he'll be sixth in USU single-season scoring.
- The teams combined for 1,112 yards of total offense, 843 yards through the air and 164 total offensive plays.
- Ag QB Ron Lopez had arguably his best day statistically. He threw for 328 yards, second to the 348 he totaled at San Jose State. But Saturday he had four passing touchdowns (his best) and just one interception. He completed 22 of 35. At San Jose, he threw one TD and two interceptions and was 28-for-49.
"Once Ron got into the game, he played pretty good," said Shelton. Lopez didn't start well although receivers Jenkins and Rod Moore made impossible catches to get him going. "He's just got to continue to grow up," Shelton said. (Lopez is a junior-college transfer who joined the program this fall, without benefit of spring practice.)
"It was about as phenomenal an offensive day as we've had since I've been here."
AGGIE NOTES - Senior linebacker Kevin Bouwman wore No. 13, instead of his usual 48, to honor teammate and roommate Greg Haynes, a senior cornerback who missed the last home game with a knee injury. Haynes may be back for BYU. Bouwman had three tackles; his career USU record is 373 with one game to go.