ALBUQUERQUE — Before Kevin Whimpey’s final game in a Utah State uniform ends Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on ESPN, the 295-pound offensive lineman wants to do just one thing.
“I would like to catch a touchdown in my last game,” Whimpey joked at Friday’s bowl-game press conference at Isleta Resort and Casino near Albuquerque. “Hopefully if I get the ball, I’ll catch it.”
That probably won’t happen, big guy.
But what will happen is Whimpey will lead out the winningest senior class in Utah State history, a group that includes eight players who will be going to their fourth-straight bowl game and senior safety Frankie Sutera, the only player to ever play in four postseason games in the history of Utah State (9-4, 6-2 MWC).
Though he won’t put six points on the board for the Aggies, the Lone Peak grad Whimpey, who is pursing a second bachelor's degree from the university, is still proud to suit up one more time.
“All I can do is block for the guy behind me,” Whimpey said. “If I do that, I’ll fulfill all the expectations I have for this game.
“It’s been a huge honor for me to play at Utah State and under Coach Wells, with teammates like Zach (Vigil), Nick (Vigil), Chuckie (Keeton) and all those guys. To wrap my emotions up in one game, I want to go out on a high note. Frankly, we were embarrassed in the loss (at Boise State). I just want to get that taste out of my mouth and remember strapping on a Utah State helmet in a positive way.”
Zach Vigil, the Mountain West defensive player of the year, will be one of 13 players appearing in his third-straight bowl game when he takes to University Stadium on Saturday at 12:20 p.m. MT. And while bowl week has been fun, he knows the next 24 hours are all business.
“The festivities and everything with the bowl game are great, but at the end of the day, this is a business trip,” Vigil said. “We made that very clear, and it’s something the seniors know very well. When it’s time to have fun, have fun. But when it’s time to work and practice, it’s business time.”
The Aggies have followed head coach Matt Wells’ advice to work hard in practice and work hard when having fun. The fun time included a trip to the arcade Wednesday night, Family Feud-style trivia against UTEP (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) on Thursday and a bowl luncheon Friday morning. But the trip has also included a pair of practices and walkthroughs in New Mexico’s brisk 30-degree air as they look to win their third-straight bowl matchup.
“It’s been a good week in practice for us, and at this point on Friday, we just want to get to the game,” Wells said. “We’re looking forward to that.
“A chance to get to 10 wins and find a way to win our third-straight bowl game, which has never been done at Utah State before, is big motivation for us. We’re excited to be here.”
Wells spent three seasons as an assistant coach at New Mexico, where he served as the wide receivers coach, kickoff return coach and recruiting coordinator in 2007, 2008 and 2010. His son Wyatt was born in the same hospital the Aggies and Miners visited on Thursday as part of a bowl initiative.
But when he wasn’t in practice, he tried to remain focused on the task at hand.
“That was nice, but it’s not about me or my family; it’s about these kids and putting them in a great experience and getting them ready,” Wells said. “We, as coaches, have to do our job this week, and get rid of the distractions.
“Keep the main thing, the main thing — go out and try to win a game.”