While most people enjoy relaxing on their trips to Hawaii, Utah State football coach Matt Wells is all business as the Aggies prepare to take on the Rainbow Warriors on Saturday.
"This week is a big week for us. Going on the road in the Mountain West and playing Hawaii, it’s always tough to win over there," Wells said during his weekly press conference. "There are a ton of distractions. There is the travel issue and all of that. We need to really focus on us, and control what we can control. We’ll do our very best to continue to prepare at a high level. We respect every opponent. We fear no one."
"We can’t take them lightly. We have to be ready for their schemes they have," said senior offensive lineman Roman Andrus. "We’ve seen similar fronts from some different teams earlier this year. That will help us move forward from there."
Utah State is in the middle of what's already been a special season with a 7-1 start and a 4-0 record in the Mountain West. The Aggies have also jumped to No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Utah State is all alone atop of the Mountain Division and could be headed to their first Mountain West Conference championship game since 2013.
A loss at Hawaii, however, would put the Aggies' dream of a conference title in jeopardy. Coach Wells is confident his players will stay on target Saturday.
"This year’s team reminds me a little bit of the 2014 team in terms of the mature leadership. Our captains have been unbelievable this year. They’re not all seniors. They are also juniors and sophomores," said Wells. "They’re producing. There’s a maturity about them. They enjoy football. They are doing a great job of holding their teammates accountable both on and off the field."
And it's clear what Utah State's goal is this year: A conference title.
"We worked really hard in the offseason. We worked hard from January to now, and we continue to work hard," said senior safety Jontrell Rocquemore. "One of the biggest things is having all the guys buy into one goal and be Mountain West champs.
"The dream of winning the Mountain West championship is really elevating our game and focus. Once you put a string of wins like that, it’s like OK, now it’s not just a dream, it’s reality. We’re in control of our own destiny, something that we can do. You get in a position like this, you don’t want to mess it up. You go back to your training and what you do and that’s work hard. There’s really nothing to change now."
While winning a conference title is well within reach, the Aggies are only halfway through their conference schedule. Three of their final four games are on the road.
But Coach Wells sees greatness in his team.
"A player-led team can be great. A coach-led team can be only good," said Wells. "They’re doing a great job. So, that’s the challenge. Each and every week, it’s what we do and how we do it. Recognizing who our opponent is and their schemes and the things we need to tweak on offense, defense and special teams.
"It’s still all about us. A lot of that in terms of investment and how we practice has a lot to do with us."
Meanwhile, Hawaii is on a three-game losing skid and trying to regroup. The Warriors have shown they can score a lot of points on unwary defenses, having scored 43 points at Colorado State and 59 against Navy.2 comments on this story
"Man, what a really good quarterback and a great passing game they have. (Cole) McDonald has had a great season. He can be lights out if you give him time. Any guy like that, you have to get them off their rhythm. They have great receivers. (JoJo Ward), (John Ursua) and multiple guys I can’t even name every single number that I’ve seen today. But, that’s a passing attack. As an ex-quarterback, it’s fun to watch," said Wells.
Of course, Utah State has put up big numbers itself, including last week's record-breaking game against New Mexico. Make no mistake, the Aggies will be all business on their trip to Hawaii.
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Aggies on the air
- Utah State (7-1, 4-0) at Hawaii (6-4, 3-2)
- Saturday, 10 p.m. MT
- Radio: AM-1280/FM-92.3