USU football: Utah State players dream of special season
Logan • Kellen Bartlett remembers the losing all too well. The lack of confidence. The feeling of impending doom every week.
The fifth-year senior tight end at Utah State is one of the very last from the Brent Guy regime. Now, the Aggies have the makings of a different football program. They are now a team that believes it can play with anyone.
A road trip at Wisconsin presents the obvious challenge of facing a big-conference program away from Logan. The Aggies have also alerted the big boys, not only with the win over Utah last week, but with near-misses against Auburn and Oklahoma in the past two years. Sneaking up on the Badgers? Forget it.
Still, to a man, USU's players believe they have a chance at a special season.
"I remember as a freshman that everyone would get hyped up before every game in the locker room, but nobody really believed we were going to go out and win," Bartlett said. "Everyone would be hooping and hollering, but nothing really got done on the field. Now, we're just a tougher team. Coach [Gary] Andersen always preaches toughness. We're playing with it. Belief is a powerful weapon. Everyone has bought into the program."
With an upset victory against Utah already in its pocket, the Aggies are also looking at winnable nonconference games against Colorado State and UNLV before making what they hope is a run at a Western Athletic Conference championship.
The Aggies haven't won a conference title of any kind since 1997.
"The kids really believe they can go out and be successful," Andersen said. "They expect to go in and play well. They expect to get the game into the fourth quarter and to find a way to win the game. We've gotten to the point where we expect to do this regardless of who we play."
USU is 2-0 to start a season for the first time in 15 years. And winning has made the players hungry for more success.
"The most important thing for us right now is to not get complacent," Bartlett said. "Wisconsin is on fire now. We just have to take this step by step."
Nationally, the Aggies are receiving some attention. Utah State picked up its first AP poll vote since 1966, and is probably on the radar in a way it hasn't been since the 1990s, first under John L. Smith, then Charlie Weatherbie.
The Aggies are confident but cautious going into Saturday's game.
"We have a lot of confidence, but at the same time we're trying not to get a big head," senior wide receiver Matt Austin said. "We know that we could be on the verge of something big. But we have to take things one day at a time.
"That's all we can do. We know that Wisconsin is going to come out and they are going to want to win this game badly. We have to know that, and we have to match that intensity."
Best USU starts
1982 • 5-2
1978 • 5-0
1974 • 6-1
1973 • 5-1
1971 • 5-1
Utah State primer
• Utah State faces Wisconsin and BYU over the next month.
• The Aggies are considered one of two favorites to win the WAC.
• USU is looking to get its offense on track against the Badgers.
Utah State at Wisconsin
P Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • Big Ten Network