Logan • On Saturday morning, the five letters were written onto the wrist tape of every Utah State player with indelible black marker. More than anything, it served as a reminder for a program that’s made a stunning comeback from decades of futility in two short seasons.
The word? Never.
Before Saturday’s 45-9 win over Idaho, No. 25 Utah State had never won 10 games in a season. The Aggies had never won a Western Athletic Conference title outright. USU hadn’t won a conference title of any kind since 1936.
“We wrote it there because we didn’t want to forget,” senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu said.
Now, they have. It wasn’t the prettiest, most commanding victory of the season for the Aggies. In fact, Utah State struggled offensively for large stretches. But victory was never in doubt against one of the worst teams in the country. With the heavy lifting done a week ago on the road against Louisiana Tech, Saturday’s win before 19,350 at Romney Stadium served as a three-hour coronation of the inevitable.
In the 51st and probably final year of WAC football, Utah State went 6-0 in the conference. The Aggies were so good that they were rarely challenged. The final minute featured a Gatorade bath for Gary Andersen, students and community folk alike rushing the field and Andersen taking the podium at midfield following the win and proclaiming Logan as the best fan base in the country.
“Obviously this is a special victory, one of the biggest in school history,” Andersen said. “To have this conference title outright and to have this program moving in this direction is special. I’m just grateful to be here and to be a part of this university and community.”
Last week, Chuckie Keeton looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Against the Vandals, he looked average, throwing two interceptions, and missing several receivers and reads. His struggles led to a sometimes stagnant offense where senior running back Kerwynn Williams proved to be the only constant.
Playing in his final home game, Williams rushed 17 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. When the passing game stalled out, Williams was reliable and effective, just as he has been all season.
“I thought Kerwynn was lights-out today,” Andersen said. “He did what he always does, which is give us a great game on the ground and through the air.”
USU led 21-3 at halftime and extended that lead in the second half because of its defensive performance. Where the offense turned the ball over, the defense forced turnovers right back. Where Keeton threw for just 133 yards, the defense made life miserable for Idaho quarterbacks Taylor Davis and Logan Bushnell, intercepting the duo three times, coming up with three sacks and two forced fumbles.
Filimoeatu, Will Davis and B.J. Larsen made the interceptions, with Davis returning his for a touchdown. Those plays put the game out of reach in the first half. And even if Utah State didn’t play as crisp a game as it had in recent weeks, the Aggies did enough to make sure they were never threatened in the second half.
“We kind of hung in there in the first half, and I thought we played better in the second half,” Andersen said. “We played well in practice, but today is not the way we’ve played all year long. It’s OK though, because today we’re WAC champs. It’s all ours.”
Storylines Breaking ground
R Utah State wins its first WAC title in school history.
• The Aggies accept an invitation to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
• USU wins its 10th game for the first time in school history.