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PROVO — Charles Kano, senior writer for True Blue Cougars, spoke with USU Aggie insiders Al Lewis, Voice of the Aggies on KVNU radio, and Tavin Stucki, sports editor for the Utah Statesmen, the USU campus newspaper. He asked them a series of questions to help Cougar fans get some insider views on Aggie football in anticipation for the USU-BYU game in Provo this Friday night.
What is the buzz around the Aggies’ camp after their heartbreaking loss to Colorado State? Lewis: Aggies were really down after Saturday, but coach (Gary Andersen) says they know they will turn this thing around to win these close games
Stucki: Aggie fans have all pretty well put the CSU loss behind them and are getting pumped to beat BYU.
What are the USU coaches and players saying about BYU at this point?
Lewis: Utah State thinks BYU plays great defense, and their offense has just faced great defenses, too. They expect a real tough game.
Stucki: One football player said "We can't let CSU beat us in the BYU game too," and another said during the summer, "There are going to be a lot of penalties, on both sides." I didn't think Aggie football players cared as much about the rivalry with BYU as they did with Fresno or the other California schools, but he shot that down fast for me.
Fans are saying they didn't believe USU had a chance to beat BYU before the season started. Since watching the Auburn vs. USU and BYU vs. Utah games, and BYU’s games against Texas and Ole miss, Aggie fans believe they will beat BYU for the second time in a row. Most students have seen the banners on BYU message boards about "Happy October First" last year with the 31-16 reminder (last year's final score), and they like that.
What has been learned about USU at this point in the season?
Lewis: We have learned that USU is a much better overall football team, despite a 1-2 start. USU can run the ball.
Stucki: USU is a lot better than people think. Freshman QB Chuckie Keeton is a stud and Robert Turbin is also.
With Utah not playing the Aggies this year does that make BYU their de-facto rival?
Lewis: Utah will play USU next year again, and it sounds like home and home is back on in the future. Games with the Cougars and Utes always get the most attention of any games for Aggie fans.
Stucki: The thing people in Salt Lake don't understand about the USU rivalries is how much Aggie fans hate BYU. Yes, Utah was an in-state rival, but there aren't any Ute fans in Logan, so there isn't any banter back and forth between spectators. There are a lot of BYU fans in Cache Valley, so the banter builds. You might say Aggies hate Utah, but Aggies hate BYU. There were tons of Facebook posts about how Aggie fans were happy Utah crushed BYU in their recent football game.
Can you characterize the rivalry with BYU from a USU fan’s perspective?
Lewis: Since we dominated the game last year, maybe it’s more of a rivalry. The only way to really get it back to a real rivalry will be for USU to win in Provo too.
Stucki: Personally, I hate how much the Salt Lake media ignores Utah State. I'm from Salt Lake so I know how it is — if you're not a Cougar or a Ute then nobody cares. Let's just say it's been a long 17 years for me in Aggie football since the last time they beat BYU before last season. What is the Aggies' strength coming into the game?
Lewis: Aggies strength is running the ball, with 3 great backs and a QB who can run too. Stucki: The Aggie strength is the running game on both sides of the ball. People don't realize how good Robert Turbin really is. The offensive line has been pushing people around this season.
Defensively, teams have not been able to run the ball real well against USU. Look at the rushing stats on both sides of the ball from all three games to prove my point. What is the Aggies' perceived weakness?
Lewis: Weakness appears to be special team’s coverage, and mistakes in special teams.
Stucki: Perceived weaknesses are the passing defense and special teams.
Who are the Aggies’ play-makers and team leaders?
Lewis: Playmakers are Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, Kerwyn Williams, Chuckie Keeton, Bobby Wagner and Levi Koskan. They are the leaders too, but it's mostly Turbin and Wagner's team. Stucki: The Aggie offense is full of playmakers. Chuckie Keeton, Robert Turbin, RB Michael Smith, WR Chuck Jacobs, and WR Matt Austin.
Defensively look at Bobby Wagner. Linebacker Kyle Gallagher will make a bunch of tackles and defensive end/linebacker Levi Koskan will probably get a few tackles for loss. What are the keys to the game for USU to be successful?
Lewis: The keys to success are no mistakes in special teams and making defensive plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Stucki: Dominate the running game on both sides of the ball, win the turnover battle, and don't let Heaps beat you with the pass. Who do you think wins and give us a score? Lewis: USU 30, BYU 21 Stucki: USU 31, BYU 21.
Who do you think will be the game's MVP?
Lewis: Turbin with three touchdowns and 125 yards rushing.
Stucki: Game MVP is Robert Turbin.
Anything else BYU fans should know about this USU team? Lewis: Gary Andersen loves to play vs the Cougars. He gets fired up as a former Ute and now an Aggie coach. But he knows how good this BYU program is. Stucki: Aggie fans hate BYU. Zoobs are fairweather fans and have an innate ability to take pro-BYU propaganda and bathe themselves in it.
Charles Kano is a senior writer for truebluecougars.com, a Deseret News partner. He is an avid sports fan with a particular interest in high school and college athletics.