LOGAN — Utah State coach Matt Wells was happy with the efforts of his team against No. 15 Michigan State last Friday. Now he's looking to build on that experience as the Aggies prepare for New Mexico State at home on Saturday.
"I’m really proud of our players’ efforts Friday night and the level of physicality that we played with on both sides of the ball," Wells said during his weekly press conference. "Now, we have a lot of things to take confidence in. There are a lot of things to be proud of, but hopefully that’s a major motivation for us to continue to prepare at a high level in terms of video, in terms of practice, and motivate us to improve a tremendous amount between week one and week two."
As Utah State turns its attention to the visiting Aggies of New Mexico State, last year's heartbreaking 26-20 loss at the Arizona Bowl can't be far from the minds of Wells and his players. But the Aggies are looking forward, not back.
"This game is all about us. It’s all about the Utah State 2018 Aggies vs. the New Mexico State 2018 Aggies. That’s how our players are approaching it and that’s how the coaches are approaching it," Wells said. "We’ll study everything that we’ve got on them from the last couple of years just like we have all summer. I probably can’t say it enough. This week is all about us. Week 2 is all about us. It’s what we do and how we do it."
"We are the same football programs, but we are very different teams," said senior center Quin Ficklin. "We’re a different team than we were last year. They’re a different team than they were last year."
Indeed, Utah State looked different against the run against the Spartans. In 2017 the Aggies gave up 216.4 yards per game, which No. 115 in the FBS. In their opener against a Big Ten offense that prides itself on pounding the football, the Aggies held Michigan State to 165 yards on the ground.
"I know for a fact that our defense is completely different than it was a year ago, from December to now," said senior safety/linebacker Jontrell Rocquemore. "We have a lot of different pieces to our puzzle that we’re going to bring. Stopping the run is our biggest emphasis this year, so I’m excited and ready to play."
Meanwhile, New Mexico State has struggled out of the gate. Wyoming defeated New Mexico State 29-7 in Las Cruces in the Aggies' opener, then was pounded by Minnesota 48-10 in Minneapolis on Aug. 30. But that doesn't mean Utah State is taking New Mexico State lightly.
"It’s still early in the year for them. I don’t know what’s going on for them or things like that," said Rocquemore. "All I know is we can do what we do on defense and offense, and what we can do here at Utah State. I’m expecting their best. We should expect their best and nothing less because it’s a good football team. It should be a good game."
Utah State is excited to play its first game in front of its home crowd.
"I’m looking forward to the game Saturday because it’s the next opportunity that our guys have and they have to go out and play," Wells said. "This week is all about us. It’s what we do and it’s how we do it. I expect a sellout and a loud crowd. I think the HURD will be in full attendance.
"It will be live, legit loud and our players are looking forward to playing in front of their students, their hometown, their community, their fans and they’re going to really be looking forward to it."