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LOGAN — After the first comeback victory of the year, the Utah State Aggies look to create their first win streak of the 2011 season by defeating the San Jose State Spartans. As Aggie and WAC fans know, there are no sure things this season. Both USU and SJSU have upset victories over Hawaii and both have suffered heartbreaking losses to BYU. As we prepare for the clash of the bowl eligible hopefuls at noon on Saturday, here are the top questions leading into the game:
What did we learn about USU against Hawaii?
The Aggies have heart. We thought they had it, we hoped they had it, but until last weekend, we just weren’t sure. The Aggies were down for the first time this season heading into the fourth quarter of a game. They had also suffered the loss of true-freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton (to what appeared to be a very serious neck injury) and still managed to dig deep enough to pull out the 35-31 victory over the Warriors on the road.
Aggie fans also learned why junior quarterback Adam Kennedy came so highly recruited. Kennedy brought the Aggies back from a 21-point deficit, outscoring Hawaii 28- 3 in the second half. Kennedy threw for 163 yards on 8-12 passing and two touchdowns.
While the Utah State defense struggled in the second quarter, they managed to lock down the Warriors and hold their powerful offense to just a field goal in the second half. The Aggies' continued ability to come up with the big play was a huge part in the USU victory.
A positive note for the Aggies was their willingness to stay aggressive on offense. Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin pulled out some wrinkles when it came to play calling (including two fake punts) and let his players go out and have some fun on the football field.
What questions to we have about USU?
The biggest and most obvious question that Aggie fans must have is, can the team maintain its momentum, stay aggressive and win two in a row? The Aggies have shown they can come from behind to win, but what they haven’t been able to show is how they can hold onto a lead against good teams. The Aggies have lost heartbreak after heartbreak and cannot afford anymore if they want to play in the postseason. Head coach Gary Andersen must learn from whatever he did last week in practice and during the game and not let go of it. The entire coaching staff must prove to the university, alumni and students that they can coach a winning football team if they plan on keeping their jobs for an extended period of time.
What can USU expect from San Jose State?
The Aggies will need to expect the Spartans to try and air the ball out. SJSU has plenty of confidence in their senior quarterback Matt Faulkner, as evidenced by his statistics of nine TD passes to 11 interceptions. While those aren’t exactly ideal numbers, Faulkner has managed to throw for 2,101 yards on the season with a 65.2 completion percentage. If the Aggies look to be opportunistic, the Spartans will turn the ball over and USU will be able to put unanswered points on the board.
- This will be a homecoming of sorts for offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin, who was head coach for the Spartans from 1997-2000. Baldwin was also receivers coach at SJSU from 1981-1984, which was his first coaching job at the college level.
- Senior linebacker Bobby Wagner needs only five more tackles to join the 400-tackle club. Wagner would be only the third Aggie to record 400 tackles and just the fourth in WAC history.
- Junior running back Robert Turbin needs only 79 more yards to rush for over 1,000 yards rushing for the second time in his career, having also achieved the feat in 2009 (Turbin missed the entire 2010 season due to a knee injury).
- Sophomore placekicker Josh Thompson will set the USU single-season extra points made record after two more PAT’s made.
- Utah State looks to win its third straight game against the Spartans. The Aggies are 8-8 against SJSU in Logan all time.
As it has been for the last few weeks — not only for the Aggies but for the entire Western Athletic Conference — there is no sure thing. Looking ahead at this battle between the Aggies and the Spartans, it is too close to call. Both teams are looking to turn the ship around and become bowl eligible this season. Both teams have had crushing defeats recently and hope to gain good fortune heading into the final weeks of the season. The only way to tell how this one will turn out is to head over to Romney Stadium this Saturday.
Justin is a KSL.com contributor from the San Francisco Bay Area. Justin has been covering USU sports since 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @justin_sr.