With regards to Utah State football, storms of conversations about blues from the Boise blue or blizzards about coaches leaving and getting hired have blanketed Cache Valley in between scenes of football.
Now, however, it’s back to the field marked by yards for one last dance in this historic 2018 college football season for the Aggies. Let’s talk about some things.
Three things about North Texas
1. Coaches leaving? North Texas doesn’t know what you’re talking about
Head coach Seth Littrell is staying put. Kansas State showed interest in Littrell, who has led his team to three straight bowl games, but he decided to build upon the foundation laid in North Texas. Graham Harrell, the team’s offensive coordinator, is sticking around too, despite North Carolina having interest in signing him for the same position in Chapel Hill.
With everything bigger in Texas, this is, well, a big deal. In 2015, the squad won one game. One. Since then, UNT has had back-to-back nine-win seasons. This season could be an exclamation point for the Mean Green with a statement win over a Top-25 type team.
Also, can we talk about how the Mean Green may be one of the best nicknames in college sports? I love it.
2. Prep yourselves for a high-flying affair
This season, North Texas ranks 15th in total offense in Division I football. It can score in bunches, as it eclipsed 40 points in six of its games this season (including wins over SMU and Arkansas), and average 472 yards a game. It does most of its damage through the air, with 316 yards from the passing game, which is good for the 11th best in the country. Points per game, offensive yards per game and passing yards per game were all set as school records this past season.
At the point of attack of that air raid is quarterback Mason Fine, a junior. Fine plays like his name suggest, completing 65 percent of his passes with 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions. With an adjusted completion percentage, Fine checks out at nearly 80 percent, ahead of Heisman winner Kyler Murray or nominee Dwayne Haskins. The knock against Fine is his size — 5-foot-11 — but you wouldn’t be able to tell due to his quick delivery, on par accuracy, and solid arm strength. The pressure didn’t bother him, either, as he still divvied out 898 yards while under deliberate attack. With Fine more than likely to come back for a senior year of college ball, plus coaches returning, too, the Green Mean could be even meaner next year.
Since Utah State is potent on offense, too (maybe you've heard), expect a high-scoring affair in the New Mexico Bowl. The over/under is set for 67 with the Ags being favored by +8. ESPN’s Football Power Index give Utah State a 72.3 percent chance of taking home the trophy Saturday afternoon (kickoff is noon MST).
3. Some light reading
Be sure to head to The Underdog Dynasty, an SB Nation blog dedicated to Conference USA, to read up on the history between the Aggies and the Green. The article recaps each of the seven meetings between these two programs, including the last matchup when players were still at recess in elementary schools (a 31-24 victory for North Texas in 2004). The Aggies hold a 4-3 overall series advantage.
4. Bonus nuggets on North Texas
- E.J. Ejiya anchors the defense at linebacker with 113 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his senior campaign. He has NFL size and speed and could be a future late-round draft pick.
- Sophomore DeAndre Torrey ran for 942 yards and 14 touchdowns this season as starting running back.
- All three of UNT’s losses have been by eight points or less.
- In fact, it is the only team in the nation to never trail by more than one possession throughout the season.
- North Texas gave up 246.1 yards per game through the air this season, which is only good for 88th in FBS. However, it did pick off opposing quarterbacks 17 times this year.
- Oh, and the highlight of North Texas' year (and maybe college football) was its fake fair catch turned into punt return TD against Arkansas.
Three things about Utah State
The Coaching Carousel, bullet point style
1. Head coach train
- Gary Andersen is the prodigal son returning home to coach the posterity of Utah State football.
- Matt Wells is the former coach, who will not be on the sideline despite earlier reports saying otherwise.
- Frank Maile is the interim head coach for the bowl game against North Texas.
- And in his words, no matter who is coaching, the expectations remain the same. “I don’t think we’re going to skip a beat, not at all,” he said.
- Dave Yost is the outgoing offensive coordinator, yet has been running practices amidst bowl game prep for the Aggies. He will also be at the bowl game to call plays, which is a sigh of relief to high-octane offense fans.
- Per the Salt Lake Tribune, Stacy Collins, who coached the inside linebackers this season, will coordinate the defense; and Jason Shumaker, a special teams analyst, will run special teams.
3. The departing effect
- In regards to outgoing coaches, Wells is taking both his coordinators with him to Texas Tech. It was also announced that a few other members of the staff will take their talents to the Alamo State, making it seven out of 10 full-time assistants leaving the Aggie sidelines. Notable departures include personal favorite and wide receiver coach Jovon Bouknight and strength and conditioning expert Dave Scholz.
- With many coaches on their way out, it’s been team captains and seniors (25 this year) who have stepped up to lead practices and dictate the attitude heading into the postseason. Per the Salt Lake Tribune, senior wide receiver Ron’Quavion Tarver said, “It’s been kind of weird, but it’s our jobs as captains to lead the team.”
- Per the Herald Journal, senior safety Gage Ferguson admitted: “I have no idea who’s going to go here and who’s not as far as the coaching staff’s concerned.” But, he said, “I believe the players are going to do the right thing and that is continue to build this program in a positive direction.”
Three things: the final thing9 comments on this story
The last two weeks were wild with high peaks and low valleys, but one final showing of football is finally here. Given the historic season fans have been able to witness, a cherry on top is expected. Moving coaches and job insecurities, or even a season letdown after losing against Boise and missing out on a conference championship, are a disservice to the players who have performed above and beyond anyone's expectations coming into this season.
Is it too much to ask for one more Darwin Thompson chugging train run? A defensive score, preferably another 98-yard pick-six? A 10+ tackle performance from David Woodward? An "ooh" and "ahh" kickoff return from Savon Scarver? What about Tipa, anything from Tipa? Love to Tarvar in the corner of the end zone?
Is it too much? Sure, but we're asking anyways.
It's been a treat in 2018, we just want one last taste.