San Diego • For most of the Aggies, being away from their families for the holidays is a new experience. But as they have come to understand in the Utah State football program, the term “family” can be relative.
For a handful of Aggies, these are their final days in their adopted family, their team family, and spending Christmas together has only brought that into sharp relief.
“These guys have grown to be some of my best friends,” senior guard Jamie Markosian said. “To be able to spend these times making these memories, it’s been really special. I wouldn’t trade any moment of it.”
On Christmas Day, some of those moments included feeding century-old giant tortoises or peering at swimming 1,500-pound hippos at the San Diego Zoo. The Aggies spent all day together, eating a team breakfast in the morning, and going to the movies at night.
But Wednesday was also Utah State’s last pre-game walkthrough. The Aggies quietly assembled for a last huddle on the San Diego State practice field before breaking toward the buses. Senior guard Eric Schultz said the coaching staff has done what it can to make the week, even practices, more enjoyable.
“It’s weird to think about, ‘This is it,’” he said. “It’s fun to have a few more experiences with these guys.”
Still, don’t expect Utah State to be underprepared for Thursday’s Poinsettia Bowl. Senior corner Quinton Byrd said the Aggies have tried to be wary of having all play and no work.
“There’s definitely some distractions out there,” he said. “We know when we’ve got to work. I think we’ve done a great job of flipping the switch when it’s time to.”
Utah State still with tickets to sell
For the first year in a long time, Utah State’s bowling destination won’t be an easy day’s drive away. But though fewer Aggies are going, the program is still expecting to be fairly well-represented on Thursday night.
As of Monday afternoon, the Aggies had sold or given out 1,989 of their 3,000-ticket allotment from the Poinsettia Bowl.
Attendance is expected to dip this year, bowl spokesman Mark Neville said. Bowl officials have sold more than 19,000 tickets and are expecting a crowd between 20,000 and 25,000 to fill the lower sections — no upper deck tickets have been sold to better pack the seats. It’s not an unexpected issue for two out-of-state teams for a game the day after Christmas.
In three of the past four years, the Poinsettia Bowl has featured a California team or Navy — San Diego is home to the country’s largest naval base — which has boosted attendance figures. The lowest attendance in bowl history is 24,607, when TCU and Louisiana Tech played on Dec. 21, 2011.
Northern Illinois’ ticket figures were not immediately available.