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David G. McIntyre, KSL

USU prepping for Arizona Bowl, looking to finish 2017 strong

By Kyle McDonald, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted Dec 19th, 2017 @ 2:12pm


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LOGAN — Wth the early signing period just under 48 hours away, Utah State head coach Matt Wells has been in "more homes and have had more guys on official visits than we've ever had."

However, the recruiting hasn't taken away from the Aggies preparing for a matchup with New Mexico State in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson on Dec. 29.

"Last week, we went three times, so we've gotten a total of seven (practices) in," Wells said. "Those have been very short, fast, up-tempo, high-intensity and quick practices that have two focuses. Number one, the continued development and keeping our guys sharp. … We also focused a lot on our youth, our young guys. We gave them a lot of reps."

It will be the Aggies against the Aggies when the two teams collide in Arizona Stadium. USU is in a bowl game for the sixth time in seven years while New Mexico State is in a bowl game for the first time since Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the Oval Office. New Mexico State beat South Alabama 22-17 in the regular season finale to become bowl eligible.

Arizona should get a fireworks display as both USU and New Mexico State have up-tempo, high-powered offenses. USU averages 31 points per game and just under 400 yards of total offense. New Mexico State averages just under 30 points per game (29.6) while racking up 454 yards of total offense per game.

"I think they both have the potential to be," Wells said in regard to both offenses being explosive. "There have been times during the year where both offenses are not playing as well as you want and resulting in close games or losses. It's fairly safe to that for both sides. You have talented wideouts, talented quarterbacks and talented running backs, so there could be a lot of points on the scoreboard."

While some look at a bowl game as the end of the season, for USU, it could be a prelude of what the 2018 season will represent. Eighteen of the 22 players who will start in the Arizona Bowl will return for the USU Aggies in 2018, including redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Love.

Since becoming the starter against UNLV on Oct. 21, Love helped USU finish 3-2, and the Aggies averaged 32.6 points per game in that span.

"When you have 18 of 22 starters coming back, and you have a kicker and punter back, then you take two transfers that are going to become available and this recruiting class, I'm really excited about next year," Wells said. "So, you do look to a bowl game as a start, but the biggest thing is that we finish strong. Everything is about finishing. Finishing finals, finishing school, making the right choices off the field, finishing in life. We still have the seniors, and we want to finish well for them. … I think you can look at it as a step in the right direction as the first game leading into spring ball and all that. It's exciting."

USU has three practices scheduled before breaking for Christmas. The Aggies are expected to convene on Christmas Day in Tucson, where preparation will continue for a Friday night kickoff at 3:30 p.m. MST in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl.

Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias

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