That's big, but I haven't talked one time about being bowl eligible. No offense to the bowl eligibility number, but that's nothing that we've talked about. —Utah State coach Matt Wells
LOGAN — Just a month ago, many people outside of the program had already written Utah State football’s eulogy. The Aggies were thought to be a team that was doomed to return to its previous home in the depths of college football without quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
Just a few short weeks later, head coach Matt Wells and the Aggies (5-4, 4-1 Mountain West) are back on track as the Aggies travel to Las Vegas to face UNLV (5-4, 3-2). After back-to-back wins, Utah State is just a victory away from bowl eligibility. In 121 years of football, Utah State has never made three consecutive bowl appearances and prior to 2011, Utah State had only played in six postseason games in the history of the program.
“That's big, but I haven't talked one time about being bowl eligible. No offense to the bowl eligibility number, but that's nothing that we've talked about,” Wells said.
Instead, Wells has his team focused on a bigger goal, a Mountain West title. Right now, Utah State is tied with Boise State for the Mountain Division lead, but the Broncos hold the tie-breaker due to a head-to-head win over the Aggies. Should Boise State falter however, Utah State would be right there to pick up the pieces and play in the Mountain West title game.
“We're in November and we're in the Mountain West race,” Wells said. “We're right where we want to be. It was a little bit of a different avenue and we had some roadblocks and potholes that we had to sidestep. We had to revamp the plan and pull together. We've faced a lot of adversity, but here we are 4-1 in the Mountain West and we're right in the middle of the race. That's a byproduct of it, and that's awesome.”
USU will have to hope that someone can beat Boise State along the way, but in the meantime will continue to focus on the next team on the schedule. UNLV fell last week versus San Jose State 34-24 and will be looking to clinch bowl eligibility of its own for the first time since 2000 in front of the home crowd at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“We've got the big picture and the narrow focus, which is on the Rebels this week,” Wells said. “It's a team that has had a resurgence. Coach (Bobby) Hauck has done of good job of flipping that thing. They're playing with a lot of confidence right now.”9 comments on this story
While the Rebels have plenty of confidence, it pales in comparison to the Aggies right now. The team has hardly missed a stride the last two weeks without Keeton. The offense has scored a combined 92 points in its last two outings, and the defense has allowed just 10 points in each of those games.
“The only thing two wins gives us is a lot of confidence and some revised schemes, confidence in some new players and confidence in results,” Wells said. “When you prepare right and you play right, it breeds confidence. The more confident you are, hopefully the better you play. Each week gets bigger and bigger.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.