The Aggies lost and then won last weekend, thanks to a Colorado State Hail Mary that gave the Rams the last lead and win, only being called back due to the receiver stepping out of bounds prior to the catch.
Ten straight was in serious doubt.
It was an ugly game. It was a wild game. It was a win.
The biggest game of the season now lies on the Smurf Turf as the Aggies take on Boise State in what is essentially a Mountain West semifinal playoff matchup. The winner will host the MWC championship game against Fresno State on Dec. 1.
Three things (briefly) from the past: USU at Colorado State
1. Another secondary star out
A few weeks ago it was Shaq Bond who was lost for the season due to an injury. Deante Fortenberry is adding his name to the list after suffering a torn patellar tendon against Colorado State. Fortenberry, a senior, started the last five games, even snagging an interception against San José State.
2. David Woodward etching his name in the books
Per Jaden Johnson, sports manager of The Utah Statesman, David Woodward is just the 15th player in ALL of college football this season to get 20+ tackles. He's also the fourth Aggie to do so since 2000, with the other three fellas enjoying Sunday football in the NFL (Bobby Wagner and the Vigil brothers).
3. Time of possession
Out of 130 FBS teams, Utah State ranks 115th in time of possession, averaging about 27 minutes on offense a game. On Saturday, the number dipped dramatically as the Aggies were on the field for only 18 minutes.
The flow was like when the Aggies hosted Air Force. In that game, USU had 16 minutes with the ball on offense, struggling on third downs and, consequently, first downs (3/9, 22 first downs). It was a similar story on Saturday with a 4/11 showing on third downs with just 16 first downs.
BONUS: cool stat
The Ags gathered 2,109 yards of offense in their last three games. However, they could only get 310 against one of the Mountain West's worst defenses in Fort Collins.
What you need to know: USU at Boise State
1. Players to watch: Sean Modster, WR, and Alexander Mattison, RB.
Given that Brett Rypien has been the quarterback for the Broncos for four years now, he isn't included on the list. His assets on offense, however, are.
Sean Modster, a senior who wears No. 8, is the go-to recipient through the air. Last weekend, Modster snagged three touchdowns with 129 yards. It was his third time with multiple scores, but those are the only games where he has scored.
Lining up at tailback is junior Alexander Mattison. Mattison, wearing No. 22, surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season in Boise's win over New Mexico last Saturday.
If it feels like Boise always has a solid running back, it's because they have. KTVB's writer Tom Scott pointed out that Boise has had a rusher go over 1,000 yards in 10 straight seasons (the longest in the nation unless Auburn can tie them this year). Mattison also joins five running backs, Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi being two of them, as recent Broncos with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
2. The little things
In a game with a lot on the line, with a matchup of two really good teams, plus a bit of a history/rivalry, it's the little things that must be done right to secure a win. Here's a few to keep track of:
- Punter situation. If you've watched Aggie football lately, you've cringed a few times when Taylor Hintze puts foot to ball. He's had some squibs, some out-of-bounders and some net-negative kicks, too. He averages 40-yards-a-kick, which is bottom 20 in the country. Main message: field position will matter this upcoming Saturday.
- Mental mistakes. Speaking of special teams, a muffed punt-return put the Aggies in a precarious situation last weekend, giving Colorado State prime field position in crunch time to get a score. Jordan Nathan was out with an injury, putting inexperienced returners on the field. Turnovers and mental mistakes must be minimal, if not nonexistent, this Saturday against the Broncos of blue.
- Getting off to a quick start. Saturday was the first time this season that Utah State failed to score a first-quarter point. There have been other games when the Aggies wait until the second quarter to really take off, but it seems important to get points on the board early this Saturday to set the tone, pace, and attitude.
3. The odds and lines and such
With regards to rankings, Utah State's narrow win didn't change its standing in the Coaches Poll as they stayed No. 14. Boise moved up two notches, now at No. 21. With those rankings in mind, Utah State will be the highest-ranked team to ever visit Albertsons Stadium.
If you look at the basic stats, the teams are pretty even. Points per game are the outlier (USU: 49, BSU: 37) but points allowed per game is nearly identical (USU: 22.1, BSU: 22.2). Total yards: 498 for USU, 465 for BSU. Yards allowed: 373 for USU, 355 for BSU.
Boise State is favored by +2.5, according to most spreads as of Nov. 20. Teams are usually a +3 for home field advantage, which means the Broncos would barely be a favorite, +.5, if the game were at a neutral site. ESPN's Football Power Index is more confident in the Broncos, giving them a 59.2 percent chance of winning.
Since entering the Mountain West, the goal has always been to win the conference. Bowl game eligibility is nice, rivalry wins are great, too, but it's about being on top of the Mountain.
In his weekly press conference, coach Matt Wells said, "The goal for us is still out there, which is to win the Mountain West. I'm sure that was Boise State's goal to start the season, just like it was our goal." Wells added, however, a word of caution by saying, "That game is not this weekend. This weekend is a chance to win a division championship. You have to win your division before you get in the championship game."
When the Aggies started stringing together wins, my eyes couldn't help but wander toward Nov. 24 on the calendar and the date with Boise State. To win the division, and even to win the conference, it usually runs through Boise. They are the face of the conference and the leading identity for the group-of-five in general. If Utah State wants to be a champ, it has to beat Boise.
It's been a special season with a special team that is special in all phases of the game. It has set the bar high, but I expect the special season to continue. I'm not one for predictions, but I am confident.18 comments on this story
Given how explosive the offense is, I am confident that the Aggies will always be in the game, thanks to the ability to score whenever and however. Given how opportunistic the defense has been, I am confident they can come up with big plays to make Boise uncomfortable. Given the Aggies recent scare and ugly win last weekend, I'm confident the team has learned from that environment and those mistakes. Given a division title and an MWC championship invite is on the line, I'm confident players and staff are focused and prepared for this game.
Late November meaningful football, there's nothing better.