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LOGAN — In the wee hours of the morning after Utah State lost Chuckie Keeton for the season and lost to BYU, the Aggies made a commitment to overcoming nearly insurmountable odds to make it to a bowl game and play in the Mountain West championship game.
The Aggies reeled off five consecutive victories to win the Mountain division before falling to Fresno State 24-17 in the conference title game. Over the course of that time, few had the vision to see the Aggies contend for the division title. One of the people who did was Aggies head coach Matt Wells, who was awarded the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year award in his first year as Utah State’s head coach.
Wells, who previously served as offensive coordinator under then-coach Gary Andersen, is the fifth Aggies coach to win conference honors, and the first MWC coach to win a conference award in his first season since Air Force’s Troy Calhoun did in 2007. Other rookie coaches to win the award include BYU’s Gary Crowton (2001) and Utah’s Urban Meyer (2003).
Several other Aggies were also honored as Utah State placed 14 players in the all-conference awards — second only to Fresno State’s 15. The first and second team defense is composed of six USU defenders, including: linebacker Jake Doughty; cornerback Nevin Lawson; linebacker Kyle Fackrell; defensive tackle B.J. Larsen; nose guard AJ Pataiali’i; and linebacker Zach Vigil.
Notable statistics among the group include Doughty’s 140 tackles, Fackrell’s five sacks and Lawson’s four interceptions.
Utah State’s only all-conference first-team offensive player was Tyler Larsen, who is the first Aggie to be named all-conference three consecutive years since Bobby Wagner.
Other Aggies made the all-conference list as honorable mentions. They include: safety Maurice Alexander; running back Joey DeMartino; placekicker Nick Diaz; offensive lineman Jamie Markosian; punt returner Bruce Natson; offensive lineman Eric Schultz; and safety Brian Suite.
DeMartino ranked 28th in the country for rushing touchdowns with 12 scores, and also became just the 17th player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in Utah State history.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, while Colorado State linebacker Shaquil Barrett was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. New Mexico’s Carlos Wiggins was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year and San José State’s Tyler Winston earned Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors.
The Aggies will play 24th-ranked Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 26.