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Amid a rocky season, Utah State has a small bit of good news: 'As of today, we're playing ball'

Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL

Amid a rocky season, Utah State has a small bit of good news: 'As of today, we're playing ball'

By Ryan Miller, | Posted - Nov. 23, 2020 at 5:07 p.m.

LOGAN — One day at a time. That's how Utah State interim coach Frank Maile is approaching the remainder of the season.

And, really, what else can he do? The Aggies have had just about everything thrown at them this year: A fired head coach, coaches missing games because of the coronavirus, a dismissed starting quarterback, a canceled game due to the virus, and, just in the last week, three of their best players opted to enter the transfer portal.

That's all on top of an 0-4 record, too. At this point, it seems that just being able to kick off against New Mexico for a Thanksgiving Day clash will be considered a success. In short, there have been better times in Logan.

Utah State had to cancel its game against Wyoming last week after contact tracing from positive COVID-19 tests left the Aggies without enough players. The good news is that tests haven't increased enough to cause another cancellation — at least not yet.

"As of today, we're playing ball," Maile said. "Had a test today, got a test tomorrow, can only speak to one day at a time. So, so far we're in the clear to play ball, but our plan right now is to play Thursday."

Maile has chosen to take the glass half-full approach. The canceled game gave his team some extra time to prepare, something the Aggies can use based on their poor start. It allowed some key players — including quarterback Andrew Peasley and offensive lineman Demytrick Ali'ifua — enough time to get out of quarantine.

"Obviously, an O-lineman and your quarterback — two crucial guys coming back to play," Maile said. "They are very important for us offensively."

While it appears the game will be played, the Aggies still don't know exactly who will be playing. As the week goes on, Utah State will get more and more players back from quarantine, but it might not be the easiest thing to throw them right into a game.

"That's always tricky about how much you want to play somebody who hasn't practiced or has been isolated because of a positive test," Maile said. "So for us, we're just taking it one day at a time and we're taking all the positives we can get."

While Peasley, who was named the backup to now-dismissed quarterback Jason Shelley, will be back, that doesn't necessarily mean he will be the guy under center come Thursday. Maile said that it's still a competition between Peasley and redshirt freshman Cooper Legas, who was set to make his Aggie debut last week before the game was axed.

"I know Andrew has more experience, but I think it's always a competition outside when it comes to the quarterback position," Maile said. "I think Peasley has the upper hand because he knows the offense a little bit better and has more experience. But that doesn't speak to what the competition will look like from day to day so I expect that there will still be a competition there."

Maile said he will meet with assistant Dave Schramm, who has taken over the offense from Bodie Reeder after Reeder has been forced to miss time to complications of COVID-19, to discuss the quarterback situation.

Even with all the uncertainty surrounding the program this season, the players still say they are eager to return to the field, and to finish things out on a stronger note.

"It's a crazy situation for everybody. It just happened to hit us a little harder last week than other teams," Ali'ifua said of the canceled game. "But all we can do is control the controllables. Everybody's still fired up, everybody's still ready to go. Whether we're 0-4 or 4-0, everybody's ready to rock. So, the morale is still there, and we're doing well as a team. So we're ready to play."

At least that's the case for the players who are still there.

Over the last week, Utah State got word that Deven Thompkins (their best wideout), safety Troy Lefeged Jr. (their leading tackler from 2019), and senior linebacker Cash Gilliam were set to transfer.

"The message to the team has been the same: You're in or you got to walk," Maile said. "Nobody's bigger than Utah State. The culture here is still strong, the kids that are here want to battle to the end, they want to grind, they're still hungry — as crazy as that sounds with the ups and downs of this season. But I haven't lost any hope and neither have the kids that are still in the building."

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