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LOGAN -- There's no place like home.
At least that's what the Utah State Aggies are hoping after spending their first two games of the 2009 season - both losses - on the road.
"We're progressing, and there was definite improvement from game one to game two," USU Head Coach Gary Andersen said. "I think we've played a quality opponent [in both games]. You don't change it overnight, you just don't." After surprising many by taking the Big 12's Texas A&M to the wire last week, USU is looking to pick up its first victory of the season and its first Homecoming win since 2006.
"It would mean a lot," said sophomore defensive end Junior Keiaho about winning the homecoming game. "It will jump start us for the season."
The Aggies will be hosting instate foe Southern Utah from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division II) Saturday and the meeting will only be the second between the two schools with USU taking the lone victory in 2000.
The Thunderbirds (1-2) enter the contest on the heels of a two game losing streak, but Andersen and his staff know better than to overlook the smaller school from the south.
Andersen was head coach of the Thunderbirds back in 2003 when he led the team to more wins then they'd had in the three previous years combined. Five other current Aggie coaches also have ties to SUU.
SUU is led by senior quarterback Cade Cooper who is averaging 246.3 yards a game while completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Cooper has thrown for seven touchdowns in the Thunderbirds three games and given up three interceptions. On the ground the T-birds are led by sophomore running back Austin Minefee's 115 yards per game.
Overall, Southern Utah is averaging 417.3 yards of total offense a game - numbers that should definitely grab the attention of an Aggie defense that has struggled in its first two games.
"Are we executing flawlessly? Absolutely not," Andersen said. "Especially on the defensive side of the ball, we're not even close. We need to improve on defense. It's not an effort situation it's just an ability to be able to get into position to make plays."
Keiaho said executing on the defensive side of the ball was the biggest key to shoring up a defensive unit that's given up nearly 1,100 yards in only two games.
The Aggies, however, will be showcasing a few weapons of their own.
Junior quarterback Diondre Borel is coming off a career-high 334-yard passing performance and sophomore tailback Robert "Turbo" Turbin is currently ranked fourth in the country in rushing, averaging 134.5 yards per game.
With that winning focus in mind, Keiaho and Turbin both expressed their excitement about finally being able to play a game at Romney Stadium and showcase their ability to Utah State fans for a change.
"It actually does feel good to come home and have our fans see us play at our home field, we're hoping it's going to be a big crowd for us," Turbin said. "It's going to be exciting to actually have a crowd cheering for us. We won't have to go on silent count on offense anymore." Heading into Saturday's game, the Aggies are hoping for another jump in improvement like they saw from their first to their second game. Andersen was particularly impressed with the fight his team showed against the Aggies of Texas last week.
"We're playing extremely hard, there's no quit in these young men. We're playing extremely tough," Andersen said. "It's day by day, we're playing good enough to win Division I football games - we haven't yet - but we'll continue to make strides to get that done."