Our focus this week has been to find a way to get win No. 7. We talked about that coming off the bye week a few weeks ago that it was a two-week sprint. —Matt Wells
LOGAN — While it may be a couple of days past Thanksgiving, the Aggies are going for the gravy Saturday night.
Although Utah State’s 38-0 shutout of Hawai’i last week was certainly a huge victory — the Aggies doubled their wins from a year ago and regained bowl eligibility for the sixth time in the past seven seasons — USU head coach Matt Wells clearly wants to add to his team’s win total at Air Force Saturday night in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Our focus this week has been to find a way to get win No. 7,” Well declared. “We talked about that coming off the bye week a few weeks ago that it was a two-week sprint. Hawai’i happened to be step one, and this week is step two.
“Now we need to go on the road and beat a really good Air Force team.”
Utah State (6-5 overall, 4-3 in the Mountain West) will wrap up it regular-season schedule against the Falcons (4-7, 3-4), who are also hungry for a victory on Senior Night after three straight losses to Army (21-0), Wyoming (28-14) and Boise State (44-19) all but destroyed their hopes of qualifying for a bowl game.
Troy Calhoun’s squad boasts 33 seniors, and over the past four seasons, that group has gone 19-4 at Falcon Stadium, including a 35-28 win over Utah State in 2015.
“This is a team that will fight their guts out, and we will get their best shot,” Wells said of the Falcons. “They have over 30 seniors. And I know from coaching at an academy (Navy), that when there is no bowl game coming up and that’s the very last game of their careers before they go onto to protect our freedoms, that it’s an emotional night for them.
“We will get their best game of the year. I know that, and I respect that about them.”
Despite winning only four games thus far, Air Force’s rushing attack leads the Mountain West and is fifth nationally at 298.4 ypg. Senior running back Timothy McVey is the Academy’s biggest threat, having rushed for 714 yards and six touchdowns on 121 carries.
“He is good,” Wells said of McVey. “He’s really good. He’s tough.”
What the Aggies aren’t sure of, however, is who will be running Air Force’s trademark option offense. Sometime starter Nate Romine suffered a broken collarbone late in the loss to Boise State, a game the senior was playing in due to a knee injury to starting quarterback Arion Worthman.
“Worthman didn’t play (against BSU), and had been the starter all year,” Wells noted. “I anticipate we’ll see him on Saturday.”
Worthman has rushed for 821 yards and 13 touchdowns on 217 carries this season, while completing 54 of 109 passes for 1,100 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. But if his junior QB is unable to go Saturday, Calhoun will likely turn to sophomore Isaiah Sanders, or possibly even Tyler Williams, a senior wide receiver who played quarterback in high school.
“For being a 4-7 team, they are a lot better than their record shows,” USU linebacker Chase Christiansen said of the Falcons. “They are pretty good, especially running the option. It is something we only see one other time of the year when we play New Mexico, and it’s hard to prepare for. It’s fast and they are efficient at it, so we need to really bring our 'A' game and everyone has to play assignment sound if we want to win this game.”
On defense, the Falcons are good against the pass — fifth in the nation in passing defense at 160.8 ypg — but 10th in the conference against the run (221.5 ypg).
The Aggies come into Falcon Stadium with a two-game winning streak, and an unblemished conference record on the road this season, having won at San Jose State, UNLV and New Mexico.