Utah State football: Aggies have long to-do list in bye week
Las Vegas • There was a celebration for Utah State after the ugliest win of the year.
The Aggies' 28-24 victory over UNLV almost certainly guarantees that they'll be bowling for a third straight season, unprecedented in program history.
However, coach Matt Wells said Saturday night that there's still work to do.
"We're not in a bowl yet, and we haven't gotten a bowl invite yet, so we'll keep grinding away," Wells said. "The mark of a consistent program is that we want to get to November and we want to play for championships. ... Right now we'll keep the blinders on. We're right in the championship hunt still."
Looking back at the narrow success in Sam Boyd Stadium should provide plenty of motivation for that.
Coming into the game, whenever Utah State had won, it won big. The Aggies piled up double-digit routs against Air Force, San Jose State, New Mexico and Hawaii. Miscues happened, but they rarely set them back.
UNLV was no pushover, and every mistake had the threat of costing Utah State the game. The Aggies gave up a fumble and a big kickoff return that resulted in scoring drives early. Two touchdown passes were canceled by penalties, then they couldn't get a play to the end zone off before halftime.
Penalties by the USU defense kept UNLV's two big drives alive in the second half, including the one that almost wiped away victory for Utah State.
The thrill of the game won't wipe away the things the Aggies need to work on.
"It's undisciplined play that we can't have, and that we haven't had all year," Wells said. "Those were some very inopportune times to play undisciplined, and we'll have to right that."
One of the most pressing issues continues to be in pass coverage. UNLV's receivers averaged nearly 15 yards per catch against the Aggies, and Devante Davis and Marcus Sullivan exploited matchups with their speed and size. Although cornerback Nevin Lawson led the USU secondary with two breakups and a pick, the defensive backfield also sparked a number of flags that came back to bite them.
The offensive line was another group that didn't have its best game. The Aggies struggled to create push up front early in the run game, and Darell Garretson consistently was under assault by pass rushers.
The freshman quarterback was sacked four times, but it could've been more had he proved not to be surprisingly elusive. But the offense also can't be happy with four fumbles, including three by Garretson.
"I mean, we started off really slow," Jojo Natson said. "Things weren't going as fast because we weren't really executing how we wanted to."
Penalties will be a team-wide focus. Utah State had seven flags for 34 yards against the Rebels. The Aggies rank No. 94 nationally in penalty yards this season, coughing up an average of more than 58 yards per game.
Fortunately for Utah State, its second bye comes at a prime time to fix some of the issues. Home games against Colorado State and Wyoming close out the year. The Rams could be bowl-eligible with one more win, while Wyoming is trying to reclaim some of its early-season magic.
Colorado State at Utah State
P Nov. 13, 1:30 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network
USU's areas for improvement
The Aggies go into a bye week with a few issues to correct from their game against UNLV
• Utah State's offense fumbled four times, losing two of them
• The Aggies allowed only 17 completions, but UNLV averaged 14.8 yards per catch
• Utah State drew seven penalties for 34 yards, and is No. 94 in the country in penalty yards