With a nasty stretch of games coming up against teams with BCS Bowl aspirations, Utah State absolutely needs to take advantage of every opportunity it gets to pick up a win.
The first such opportunity came and went without a serious threat to UNLV. Now the Aggies suddenly find themselves hitting the meat of nonconference schedule trying to figure out how to make the best of another bad situation.
"We'll have a great challenge this week in going to Oregon," USU coach Brent Guy said. "It is a very hard place for an offensive team to go into and execute."
That's bad news for an Aggie team which struggled for the better part of a half to move the ball against UNLV a team not remotely close to the caliber of the Ducks.
Utah State's running game managed just 130 yards in the opener on 37 carries. Seventy of those yards came via the legs of backup quarterback Diondre Borel. The running back duo of Robert Turbin and Curtis Marsh combined for only 40 yards on 18 carries.
"We didn't run the ball well from the running back position," Guy said. "We need to run the ball better. We averaged three yards a carry and that number needs to be higher."
Turbin, who got the bulk of the carries and scored on a 1-yard dive that left him flipping upside down into the end zone, knows there will have to be a better effort if USU is to entertain any hopes of pulling out a stunning upset in front of 50,000 fans at Oregon's Autzen Stadium.
"First of all, it's going to be easier for the quarterback to be able to throw the ball if we can run the ball," Turbin said. "Then we'll be able to use play action to open things up downfield. It will also slow the game down a little bit, the crowd won't be as into it and as loud because the defense won't be making the stops if we're able to successfully run the ball."
That's been the mantra Guy's coaching staff has preached for his three-plus years. But during those years, the running game has struggled and typically been led by the quarterback.
"We know we can do a lot better," Turbin said. "The running game is something we practiced a whole lot. We thought we could get some big plays, but unfortunately, it didn't happen like we wanted to."
While Borel's running ability certainly provided a spark during the second half, it came at a cost. Instead of letting passing plays develop, the nervous sophomore quarterback often took off running as soon as he felt a little pressure.
And while he did average 4.7 yards per carry, his eagerness to run meant missing out of passing opportunities."He tends to pull it down quick and miss some deep balls," Guy said.
Utah State (0-1) at No. 21 Oregon (1-0)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV: noneRadio: 1320 AM (SLC), 610 AM (Logan)