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Slumping Aggies taking toll — on their coach, for starters

Published October 1, 2010 4:51 pm

Stress of season going awry earns head coach a trip to the hospital.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The loss to Fresno State raised eyebrows after Utah State was dominated in the fourth quarter at home. The blowout at San Diego State was simply disheartening.

And with the Aggies once again on the verge of turning into — well, the Aggies — figuring out how to get his team back into the win column has taken its toll on Gary Andersen.

In an incident he called "stress-related," the second-year USU coach blacked out, hit the floor and lost consciousness at his Logan home on Monday. Andersen was taken to the emergency room, treated and released. He was fitted with a neck brace, which he must wear for the next five weeks, but the coach will be back on the sidelines when Utah State hosts BYU at 6 p.m. today at Romney Stadium.

Andersen called the tumble, brought on by what he called a lack of sleep during the previous two weeks, a wake-up call.

"The good news is that I'm fine," Andersen told the The Salt Lake Tribune. "The doctors have run a bunch of tests on me, but what happened was 98 percent stress-related. I'm going to learn from it. I need to focus better, I need to relax and take better care of myself."

Andersen said he hadn't been eating much and was sleeping only three hours a night — tops — during USU's two-game skid.

He vows to learn from the experience.

"I basically worked myself into a stressful frenzy and paid the price," he said.

In no small irony, Andersen once worked for Urban Meyer, who briefly took a leave of absence after suffering a stress-related panic attack at the end of last season. Andersen was Meyer's defensive line coach on the 2004 Utah team that finished unbeaten and beat Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.

But Andersen's situation also underscores how much his team has struggled since opening the season with a seven-point loss at Oklahoma followed by a blowout win over Idaho State. Now 1-3 overall, USU badly needs a victory tonight to right a listing ship.

Losing to BYU would not bode well with upcoming road trips to Louisiana Tech and Nevada, with a home date against Hawaii sandwiched in between. For a team with bowl aspirations going into the season, it's time to press the urgent button. Especially after the 41-7 disaster against the Aztecs, a game USU linebacker Bobby Wagner said was "definitely a step back for us."

"We felt, as a team, that we didn't come ready to play, and it showed. It hurt the progress we were making," he added. "But we've had a great week of practice. We're focused, and we want to make the crowd and fans proud to be Aggies."

To do that, Utah State will need to fix an offense that's scored but one touchown since the middle of the third period against Fresno State. The Aggies clearly have been hurt by all of the injuries they've endured, and for a second consecutive week they will be without their starting running back, Michael Smith. Offensive tackle Spencer Johnson also likely will miss the BYU game.

More of a concern is the Utah State passing game, which has disappeared in recent weeks. Dave Baldwin, USU's offensive coordinator, said that the receivers haven't been getting open and that the line allowed quarterback Diondre Borel to be touched 22 times in 43 pass attempts at SDSU.

"We didn't play fast against San Diego State," Baldwin said. "We didn't play with confidence, and it's putting a lot of stress on Diondre. We have to respond against BYU. It's about growing up. We have to rise to the challenge."

tjones@sltrib.com On Twitter: @tonyaggieville —

Slow-starting Aggies

A glance at Utah State's record after its first four games, going back to the start of the decade:

2010 • 1-3

2009 • 1-3

2008 • 1-3

2007 • 0-4

2006 • 0-4

2005 • 2-2

2004 • 2-2

2003 • 1-3

2002 • 1-3

2001 • 0-4 —

BYU at Utah State

P At Romney Stadium, Logan

Kickoff • Today, 6 p.m.

TV • ESPN

Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, 1230 AM, 95.9 FM

Series record • BYU leads, 43-33-3

Last meeting • BYU 35, Utah State 17 (Oct. 2, 2009)

About the Cougars • They have not lost in Logan since 1993. ... They will be without three defensive starters, Romney Fuga (knee), Steven Thomas (concussion) and Jameson Frazier (thumb). ... They have not scored fewer than 30 points against Utah State since a 20-17 loss in 1982. ... Senior Andrew Rich is No. 11 in the nation in tackles.

About the Aggies • They have lost 10 straight games to the Cougars, and been outscored by an average of 18 ppg. in that stretch. ... They are averaging 380 yards per game, while the Cougars are averaging just 307. ... Linebacker Junior Keiaho has been re-instated after being suspended against San Diego State.