If Aggie offense and Cougar tears are what you're into, then last Friday night's USU versus BYU football matchup was the game for you. In the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel, the Aggies won 45-20 in the largest margin of victory over that team in Provo since 1968. The win catapulted USU onto the fringe of the Top-25 as it ranks 32nd in the recent AP poll.
Here are three things from that game, and some other things about some other things, too.
Three things from the past: USU at BYU
1. The history
Take a minute to just enjoy the historical significance of that resounding victory. Consider:
- The Aggies have now won three out of the last five games in the not-good-enough-for a-rivalry game.
- The last time Utah State scored 40+ in back-to-back games against BYU was in 1954-55. For contextual purposes, Brown v. Board of Education was argued in front of the Supreme Court in 1954, and segregation was ruled unconstitutional in schools in 1955. Also, the average monthly rent was $85 while gas was a whopping 22 cents.
- Do the Aggies have an explosive offense? Well, yeah. Per Jaden Johnson on Twitter (a must-follow for Aggie fans), in the history of Utah State football, the team has never scored 40+ in four consecutive games. Never. Ever. USU football originated in 1892.
2. Taking away the football
While the offensive side of the ball is getting most of the credit (Jordan Love threw four touchdowns and Darwin Thompson averaged 6.5 yards per carry), the defense deserves some shout-outs, too.
On BYU's second possession of the evening, Tanner Mangum found himself in a fourth and 1 situation from the 39-yard line. The Cougar coaching staff decided to go for it, but, interestingly enough, left the ball in Mangum's hand on a play-action rollout. Mangum threw the ball, but straight to linebacker Tipa Galeai, who scampered 56 yards into the end zone for six. Per ESPN Stats and Info, it was the Aggies's third game this season with a defensive score, which matches the Crimson Tide of Alabama for the FBS lead.
Oh, and talking about taking away specifically from BYU? Utah State has 10 turnovers against the Cougar squad in the last two games.
3. Quote of the game
The Aggies rolled the traveling trophy, a 50+ pound historic wagon wheel, into Provo, something that has been done regularly since 1948, when the trophy was introduced. For the first time in a while, however, the Aggies were able to put it back on the bus and bring it back to Logan that very night.
Quin Ficklin, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound offensive lineman, didn't mince words after the game about bringing the wheel back home. Ficklin started his college football career as a fullback at BYU but transferred to Aggie blue in 2017. Concerning the wheel, the senior from Arizona simply said, "Frankly, I think we wasted gas bringing the wheel down in the first place."
Three things about the future: USU versus UNLV
1. UNLV is treading in rough waters.
UNLV beat UTEP, who is now 0-6. UNLV also beat Prairie View, but it is an FCS team with a current 3-3 record. Last weekend, UNLV lost to New Mexico after a bye week, 50-14. The season started with high hopes for a bowl berth, but the Rebels are now 2-3 on the season, with the latest loss classified as embarrassing.
“We know we’re a better football team than that,” Rebels coach Tony Sanchez said. “It doesn’t feel like it right now. We feel like we’re a pretty damn bad football team right now. We’re all embarrassed. I’m embarrassed, and our players are embarrassed."
I'm not saying, but I'm just saying that there is a good reason why the line is giving USU a 23.5 advantage.
2. The run game.
Much like BYU, UNLV's season has relied heavily upon the run game. On the season, the Rebels have amassed 1,389 yards with an average 5.8 yards per carry. USU, for comparison, is at 985 with 5.5 yards a carry. Lexington Thomas (a small, shifty and speedy senior running back) and Armani Rogers (the bigger, bruiser sophomore who is actually the quarterback) lead the charge with 85 and 71 carries each.
However, Rogers has a hurt toe and was announced out indefinitely on Oct. 1. Without the two threats in the backfield, UNLV's offense has stalled in making traction on the ground. The team averages 277.8 rushing yards a game, good for sixth in the nation, but the number dipped dramatically after the 43-yard game last Saturday.
3. Player to watch
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Gabe McCoy has made quite the impact in his junior year. Previously, McCoy spent time as a defensive lineman where he was still a force off the line. Last year, McCoy ranked second on the team with 81 total tackles, including 3.0 tackles for loss.
This year, he is upping things a notch with nine tackles for loss (second in the Mountain West Conference) from his weakside linebacker position. That number already surpasses the team-high from 2017. In fact, the team record for tackles for loss in a season is 16.5, a number McCoy must have his eyes on.
To be honest, it wouldn't surprise me if he spends a few minutes in the backfield on Saturday night tormenting Love and disrupting run plays. He's good.
Three things about the Mountain West Conference
1. San Diego State cleared the way for the Aggies
A game to monitor last week was San Diego heading to the Smurf Turf to take on Boise State. It seemed like a conference championship-like game and it turned into a win for the Aztecs, which helps USU tremendously.
Despite playing across divisions, the loss for Boise puts a tally in the conference loss section. If, and it's a big if, USU wins its next six conferences games, it would then travel into Boise undefeated in conference play. With the Broncos' early loss, USU is in the driver's seat to cruise into a conference championship game.
In fact, ESPN now has USU projected to win 10 games this year with a 29.2 percent chance to win a conference championship and a 9.6 percent chance to win out entirely.
Sports Illustrated echoed a similar sentiment when it released its Bowl Projections on Oct. 8. In its estimate, Utah State will face USC in the Las Vegas Bowl, a slot that is usually reserved for the MWC champion.
2. Hawaii is bowl eligible
The Rainbow Warriors became the first team in the country to become bowl eligible after their 17-13 victory over Wyoming last weekend. Hawaii did have a game, and a win, in early August during "week zero," but Hawaii now sits at 6-1, thanks to its prolific offense as quarterback Cole McDonald is on the Heisman-watch list.
However, as fans of Utah State, we've seen the explosive Aggie O with big plays, multiple passing and rushing touchdowns, and points aplenty. In fact, USU has put up 251 points on the season in five games. With two extra games, Hawaii is at 269, so I don't think USU is doing half-bad.
3. San Jose is, uh, not bowl eligible
The Spartans from Silicon Valley lost to Colorado State 42-30 to remain winless in 2018 (0-5 record).
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- Week 1: you lose to an FCS school (UC Davis) 44-38.
- Week 2: you take on a big dawg from the Pac-12 (Washington State) and are completely shut out 31-0 with a 27-8 first-down discrepancy and a lopsided 544 to 109 yard differential.
- Week 4: you play your hearts out against that Hawaii offense, matching them point for point until you lose in FIVE overtimes.
Those losses fit the tortured fan index in nearly every category. Each of those defeats are across the fanhood misery spectrum, but each would leave a fan embarrassed, frustrated and heartbroken at the same time.
Here's hoping San Jose picks up its first win this weekend at home against Army (3-2 record).