It's been a long 17 years for Aggie fans like me.
My parents moved to Logan to finish up their degrees, and I had just started kindergarten at Hillcrest Elementary, home of the Huskies. We lived in Aggie Village, and my dad worked at the 7-11 on 4th North. Anthony Calvillo was the quarterback for USU then. Calvillo led the Aggies to one of the best seasons the team has had. I'm pretty sure it is the best season I've ever seen. (I hope that's no longer the case come December.)
Calvillo set a few school records as the Aggies won the Big West Conference and later beat Ball State in the Las Vegas Bowl. All of that is great, but at least in my mind, his best achievement was leading the Aggies to victory over the BYU Cougars in front of a sold-out crowd.
I thinks it's very appropriate that Utah State is kicking off it's conference schedule with Fresno State this season. This is the year many people, including me, think the Aggies get over the hump and become a contender in the WAC; and what better why to find out if that's true, then to defeat the team we've been so close but just can't get past, the Bulldogs.
Not to sound too cliche`-ish, but this game is really going to be the barometer of this years team. Fresno is good, how good, we're not quite sure since they've only played 1 game, but that one game was a sound victory of the defending Big East Champs, Cincinnati. This game sets the pace; if they win, I don't see them getting tripped up again until they travel Reno.
So how are they going to win? The offensive line needs to have a big day. The defensive line of Fresno racked up 8 sacks against the Bearcats...8! 3.5 by defensive tackle Logan Harrell. Utah State allowed 2 against Oklahoma and 1 against Idaho State, a great start by a line who's been historically bad for the last decade. The speed and strength they play today is going to be very similar to what they faced in Norman and without a stellar performance up front, the offense won't be able to move the ball.
Stay with me here for a second, this is going to seem far fetched but it's been on my mind ever since it has happened. Last week, while one of our weekend shows was airing, fellow producer Mike Grant (author of the Crimson Corner blog, another blog you should be reading) and I were finishing a few odds and ends at our desks. On the TV, Star Wars: A New Hope was playing. It was towards the end, about 10 minutes before the attack on the Death Star. We started quoting a few lines back and forth to each other when Mike said, and we're about to get real geeky here so just prepare yourself, "I had this friend in high school and he used to say the line ‘I'd say about 20 guns; some on the surface, some on the tower,' all the time!" It made me laugh, it made him laugh, why? I have no idea, it just did. It could be the way the line is delivered, very robotic and cartoon like, or it could be the fact that we had been working for about 12 hours at that point and even "Death at a Funeral" would have been hysterical to us in our state of mind. So,that part of the movie was coming up and we just kept quoting that line back and forth, over and over, to the point where our excitement for it's delivery was unmatched. Finally, it came; "I'd say about 20 guns; some on the surface, some on the tower." We cheered, we laughed, I think we even high-fived. It was glorious. Now, why did I tell you this lame, nerdy Star Wars story? Believe it or not, I have a point to make with Aggie Football.
I love Star Wars, I watched it every day of my youth. I can quote the movie to you word for word. I'll never get sick of it. What happened with Mike gave me a new reason to love it, something different to look forward every time it's on. It's not that I was bored with it or needed a reason to watch it more; but that simple line gives me one more reason to get excited when it's on.
The way that Aggie defense is playing right now, does the same for me. I would watch every Aggie game even if it was guaranteed they would go O-fer on the season. I still love it, can't get enough of it, they're my team and I'm fanatical about them. The Aggie defense is playing with a level of intensity and talent level I've seen since I started following them. They get stops, they force turnovers, they sack the QB, they're fast, they're big, they finally look like a Division I D! Did anyone see Rajric Coleman's pick last week?! Phenomenal! We shot the Idaho State game last Saturday and on Sunday, when I had a few moments, I went through and watched the way the defense swarmed the ball. Remember in my first blog when I said there would be times we'd look at the Aggie D and think that it looked familiar? (Utah's D) It does, not to that level yet talent wise, but scheme and intensity wise, it's a carbon copy. Kudos Coach Andersen, kudos.
First and foremost, congratulations to Diondre Borel for becoming the 7th USU QB to pass for 5,000 yards, a great accomplishment, and I'm happy to see that it came during a win. Great player, great teammate, great person; he deserves to have a great senior year, and Eric Moats is going to make sure of that.
For those of you who don't know Moats, you will over the next few weeks. He's the most sure handed, consistent receiver on the field for the Aggies. The best comparison I can draw, Utah's Bradon Godfrey a couple years back. Those are two players who came from the same mold. Goes over the middle, makes the tough catches in traffic, and brings down everything thrown in his direction.
He was the one who caught the TD pass on the fake FG last week against Oklahoma that got called back due to a questionable call. Against Idaho State, he caught 3 passes for 65 yards and had a fantastic TD catch where he got lit up and held on for the score.
An amazing effort by the Aggies this weekend, so amazing in fact, that I wanted distance myself from game by a couple days just to make sure I had my mind straight and objective to what it all meant.
First let me say, no way in a hundred million years, would I have ever guessed it would be that close. My official prediction for that game 49-24. I figured they would score some points but what a job Coach Andersen and Coach Busch did preparing and coaching up that defense for that game. Sure they gave up a lot of yards, including over 200 yards on the ground to DeMarco Murray and 142 yards receiving to Ryan Broyles, but they did get stops when they need to and gave the team a chance in the 2nd half to win the game.
For example, end of the 2nd quarter, Oklahoma has just gone up 21-0. Utah State's offense drives into Sooner territory and scores a TD on a fake FG, but it's called back on what I've heard was more than a questionable illegal downfield call, then settle for a field goal. Sooners get the ball back with about 3 minutes to play, defense forces a 3 and out, getting the offense the ball back with 2 minutes to play. They march down the field and Michael Smith punches it into endzone, giving the Aggies momentum.
Twas the night before opening day, and even though #7 Oklahoma awaits, I still shout "Yay!" It can be hard for Aggie fans to be optimistic about tomorrow's showdown with the perennial juggernaut Oklahoma, but this year, as opposed to years past, I think we can watch this game for signs about the team's performance for the upcoming season.
Historically speaking, these "money" games never gave you a real feel for the Aggies. You could tell from the moment they stepped on the field they knew they were going to lose and they just wanted to get it over with. The games were like watching Peter Klavin trying make friends, painful. But Coach Andersen has brought such a great mentality to this team, it was apparent even last year in his first season at the helm.
Take their games against Utah and BYU for example, 2 of their toughest opponents (I'll get to Boise in a minute, relax, I know they were the best team they played); both losses by the same score, 35-17. Fairly lopsided, but did you ever feel that they were getting blown out at any time? I didn't. In all actuality, I was able to take positive things away from both games, such as "wow, our running game will always keep us in games," from Utah; and "hey, our secondary has a nose for sniffing out picks..." insert Max Hall joke here.
|University Stadium, Albuquerque||12/20 12:20 pm|
|Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan||12/18 8:05 pm|
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