Logan • Nick Diaz, a California native, had heard BYU was one of Utah State's biggest rivals. He knew it was a big game.
Then, he watched it. The then-freshman got a chance to see the Aggies win a 31-16 battle in Logan, and he saw the crowd go wild.
"Just seeing the students rush the field, that put it all into perspective how serious this game is," he said.
Now a junior, Diaz could have the key to Friday's game with BYU in his toes.
The last two losses to the Cougars in Provo - 27-24 in 2011 and 6-3 in 2012 - have both by three points. A field goal could make or break it, Diaz understands.
Since taking over as the primary field goal specialist last year, Diaz has become a reliable leg for the Aggies. He's made seven of his eight attempts this year, and his only miss hit the upright. Last week, he had his best day as Utah State's kicker, sending home four attempts from 24, 45, 24 and 21 yards. The 16-point game got him a nomination as a Lou Groza Star of the Week.
Topping San Jose State was particularly special for Diaz: His family came to watch, driving up from Southern California to see him play. The trip was so last-minute, Diaz confessed, he had given all his tickets away.
"My dad called and said, 'Hey, we're coming,' and I said, 'OK, well we've got kind of an emergency, then,'" he said. "So they ended up having to buy their own tickets. But it was a nice big group, more than 10 people. It was great."
No matter who is watching, Diaz looks for a consistent effort week-to-week. That applies to BYU, he said, and he'll mentally prepare the same way. That doesn't mean he's forgotten what's on the line this Friday.
"Obviously, in reality, there's a lot more at stake: in-state rivalry, huge game, home game," Diaz said. "Every point that the kicking unit has to put up is important, as shown in the last two years. You just gotta go out there and execute."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon