LOGAN — The Utah State football team is on a roll to end the season. OK, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. However, USU has won back-to-back games to become the only bowl-eligible team in the state of Utah to this point.
Sitting at 6-5, the Aggies are looking to get that seventh win and assure themselves of a winning season when they travel to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force in the regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon.
“The thing that is the focus this week is to find a way to get win No. 7," USU head coach Matt Wells said. "We talked about coming off the bye week a few weeks ago, so it’s not something that started this morning, that it was a two-week sprint, and we were going to do everything we could for two weeks to find a way to win two games in a row. Hawaii happened to be step one and this week is step two. We need to find a way to go on the road and beat a really good Air Force team."
USU is coming off a dominating 38-0 win over Hawaii on Senior Day. The Aggies racked up 475 yards of total offense, including 311 yards rushing, to earn their sixth win of the season and become bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Senior running back LaJuan Hunt Jr. had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 111 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
The Aggie defense held the Rainbow Warriors scoreless and has allowed zero points in seven trips into the red zone by its opponents in the last two games. Hawaii was 0-3 in its red zone trips against USU.
“We’re just pretty opportunistic," Wells said. "We’ve gotten a few turnovers and a few fourth-down stops. We’re playing really good on third down right now. We didn’t all of a sudden start practicing in the red zone any more than we had been or anything like that. … We talk about playing great in the red zone and forcing field goals. But, shoot, the last two games have been outstanding. I haven’t gone back to look at stats, but it may be as good of red zone defense as we’ve played since I’ve been the head coach. The last couple of weeks it’s been incredible, and it really has had a huge impact in winning both the last two games.”
Air Force comes in with a 4-7 record, but for a team that averages over 300 rushing yards per game, Wells knows that the Falcons are much better than the record shows.
“They’re really good," Wells said. "You flip on the tape, and you don’t think they’re 4-7 because of how they play and how hard they play. … Their guys play hard, and they play great on special teams. They’re really well-coached on special teams. They just lost a few close games. We’ve lost a few games, and I didn’t think we should have. I assume coach (Troy) Calhoun thinks the same thing. They’re a really good team.”
What Utah State has going for it on Saturday afternoon is that the Aggies' offense should continue to roll. Air Force is allowing 32.2 points per game and 382.4 yards of total offense. USU is 40-1 in its last 41 games when scoring at least 30 points. In its six wins this season, USU is averaging just over 44 points per game.
To finish off with a seventh win would mark an incredible turnaround for the Aggies. Coming off a 3-9 record in 2016 left a bitter taste in the mouths of the players. Now, USU has a chance to ensure a winning season and solidify its bowl status.
“I think the credit goes to the players," Wells said. "I’ve really said it all spring, and I didn’t know how many games we’d win, but there’s been a different vibe with this team. … We’ve already beaten four teams that were in bowls last year. I just think it’s the vibe and the things I’ve mentioned with this team so far. And we’re not done yet. We’re not done.”
Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday afternoon.
Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias