LOGAN — Matt Wells’ late grandfather Gene Roop was a legendary athlete in the state of Oklahoma, excelling in collegiate tennis at the University of Oklahoma, as well as playing for the Sooners in the very first incarnation of college basketball’s Final Four in 1939.
Roop was also a longtime golf pro in Tulsa, and during his weekly press conference Monday morning, Wells recalled a vivid memory he had of his grandfather teaching him a valuable lesson when he was a young kid. Although Wells managed par on particular par 4, he wasn’t happy about the way he had to scramble to get up and down to do so, and his grandfather heard him grumbling about it.
“He said, ‘Matthew, put your par down and go to the next hole,'” said Utah State’s head football coach when asked about the Aggies’ highly unusual route to a 10th straight win Saturday afternoon at Colorado State.
While USU was able to mark down a 29-24 victory, the win over the Rams was secured only after a would-be, game-winning touchdown on the final play of the game was waved off when an official ruled that CSU receiver Preston Williams had stepped out of bounds prior to making a 34-yard catch in the end zone.
That meant that just minutes after celebrating the high point of a very disappointing season, CSU head coach Mike Bobo and the Rams found themselves stunned and confused, while the Aggies slowly started to realize they had not lost the contest after all.
“You go from thinking everything that you’ve been working for just came crashing down when you lose to Colorado State, and then it flips right around and you end up winning,” said USU linebacker Chase Christiansen. “It’s kind of hard to describe. The whole last part of the fourth quarter was just an absolute roller coaster of emotions. It was pretty crazy. I’ve never seen a game like that before, and I don’t know if I ever will again.”
The Aggies were up 23-17 and were slated to get the football back with 2:25 to go before a muffed punt by Deven Thompkins opened the door for the Rams to put up a TD just two plays later. Down 24-23 — the first time USU has trailed in the second half of a game since the season opener at Michigan State — the Aggies scored quickly themselves, needing just six plays and 53 seconds to get into the end zone on a 33-yard completion from Jordan Love to Aaren Vaughns that made it 29-24.
That was the final score in Fort Collins, even though the scoreboard at Canvas Stadium would briefly show a tally of 30-29 with no time on the clock.
The illegal touching call on Williams ended up keeping alive the Aggies’ school-record winning streak, even if it didn’t come with the same kind of ease and flair of the majority of those 10 victories.
“The other comment my grandpa made that has always stuck with me was, ‘Matthew, there is a box a golf scorecard. You put the number in the box. There’s not enough room for a paragraph,’” Wells recounted. “You don’t write a paragraph, you don’t analyze it and you don’t write all the good or all the bad. You just put the score down and you move on.
“That’s what I told our captains. I said, ‘That’s as good of an analogy as I can give you. It doesn’t matter. Put the par down and move on. We won Round 7 and now we’re onto Round 8. We have a chance to compete for a division championship, which is exactly where we want to be.’”
Although a few Aggie fans who tuned out immediately after the Rams completed their Hail Mary pass might think otherwise, Utah State actually is 7-0 in the Mountain West Conference and 10-1 overall. The 14th-ranked Aggies will play at No. 21 Boise State (6-1, 9-2) Saturday night in Boise, Idaho, with a trip to the Mountain West Championship game on the line.
A victory would also secure home-field advantage in the title contest, which is scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, against Western Division champion Fresno State.
“When you come here, in all reality, this is what you’re here for: to play for a chance to go to the Mountain West Championship game,” Christiansen declared. “So, looking at the game on Saturday, it’s kind of all your aspirations and dreams coming to fruition as a player. You work really hard all year long for the opportunity that you have right in front of you, so it’s really exciting. For myself and all the other guys, we can’t wait to play.”
The Broncos have won six games in a row and would also be undefeated in conference play were it not for a 19-13 loss to San Diego State on Oct. 6 in Boise.5 comments on this story
Utah State and Boise State are currently first and second in the Mountain West, respectively, in both scoring offense (49.3 ppg to 37.4 ppg) and total offense (498.6 ypg to 465.0 ypg).
The Aggies, who have lost eight straight games in Boise, will have to try and slow down Bryan Harsin’s offense without cornerback Deante Fortenberry, who had started the past five games. Wells confirmed on Monday that his thin secondary would be without Fortenberry for the rest of the season after the senior suffered a torn patellar tendon at Colorado State.