LAS VEGAS — A year ago UNLV came into Utah State's Romney Stadium and erased an Aggie fourth-quarter lead, sending USU on a downward spiral that lasted 10 games.

Desperate to avoid a repeat of last year's struggles, the Aggies meet the Rebels again tonight to open the season — this time at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"Everybody wants to win their opener," Utah State coach Brent Guy said. "Everybody prepares and wants to win the opener, but you don't want to put everything on one game."

Perhaps not, but one game is all it will take to undo much of the confidence Guy says his team has after winning two games on the road to end the 2008 season.

One game might also give the Aggies a much-needed boost — not only in confidence, but in momentum — as Guy tries to turn the long-suffering Aggies around.

The Rebels, likewise, are in dire straights, having lost the final eight games of the 2007 season. Their coach, former Utah assistant Mike Sanford, is also feeling the heat to improve the program's on-field product.

And despite beating USU in Logan last season, Sanford said he and the Rebels are in no position to take the Aggies lightly.

After all, it is Utah State that showed potential when 2007 came to a merciful close.

"We have a lot of respect for Utah State," Sanford said of the difference in the USU team that opened the season with 10 losses compared to the two wins at the end. "They were doing a lot of the same things, they just did them better. ... There was more of a sense of urgency, and that's a real credit to Brent Guy and their coaching staff."

The Aggies return a bevy of starters from last year's squad while also unveiling 28 redshirt freshmen who have created more depth on the roster than at any time in Guy's previous three seasons with USU.

Senior quarterback Sean Setzer will make his debut while sophomore Diondre Borel is expected to play a few series to take advantage of his unique running skills.

"We have had some surprises that have popped up in our freshman class," Guy said. "I anticipated early that a lot of our freshmen would not be able to help us, but it looks like we are going to have about five kids that will probably play at some point during the season and probably early in the year."

After facing the Rebels, Utah State will take on Oregon before opening its home season with three consecutive games in Romney Stadium.

Season opener

Utah St. (0-0) at UNLV (0-0)

Tonight: 8 p.m.

Radio: 1320 AM (SLC), 610 AM (Logan)

TV: none

E-mail: [email protected]