The Utah State Aggies wore traditional road uniforms Saturday night at Romney Stadium for their homecoming game. Regardless of costume choice, they're looking very comfortable this season in Logan and beyond.
Dressed in white pants, jerseys and helmets to join in the school's "Whiteout" fan promotion, USU delivered a 35-13 win over UNLV.
Besides defending their home turf, the Aggies (4-1) are steadily expanding their brand. Friday, they'll have a chance to establish themselves as Utah's best college football team of 2012, visiting BYU. After that, they'll take a shot at a Western Athletic Conference title in their final season of membership.
And just to announce their upcoming arrival in the Mountain West, they've soundly defeated future rivals Colorado State and UNLV.
"I've never seen an institution win two leagues in the same year," joked MWC commissioner Craig Thompson, and that was before the Aggies went out and shredded UNLV with 564 offensive yards.
Explosive plays from USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton and running back Kerwynn Williams covered much of that total. Otherwise, there was nothing extraordinary about this victory, which is precisely the point: The Aggies have arrived, to a degree where they're supposed to win this kind of game and they actually do it.
This thing was there for the taking as of the start of the fourth quarter, and USU seized it. "It's great to finish a game out," said coach Gary Andersen.
Undoubtedly, this is new territory for the Aggies. After practice Wednesday, relaxing in a meeting room in USU's end zone complex, Andersen considered how the world has changed in Logan. The Aggies have grown beyond the stage of trying to overachieve as underdogs.
"It does put a little bit different spin on things," Andersen said. "It does have a different feel to it, a different expectation level. But it's fun to watch them play at the high level they're playing at."
That remained true Saturday, especially in the fourth quarter. The Aggies had wobbled in the third period, with their turnovers and penalties enabling UNLV to cut their lead to 20-13. Only the USU defense's determination to force two field goals instead of touchdowns preserved that margin.
"Mainly, it was huge for momentum," said linebacker Jake Doughty, who made 13 tackles.
Yet at that point, anyone in the crowd of 24,226 naturally had to be wondering if the Aggies could invent more ways to keep this game interesting until the end. Instead, they accelerated, and finished in style.
To begin the fourth quarter, Williams took a swing pass and sprinted 74 yards down the right sideline to the end zone. On the next drive, Joe Hill raced 65 yards down the left sideline with another short pass from Keeton, reaching the UNLV 14. Those plays help account for Keeton's 402-yard passing night, USU's biggest quarterbacking production in 10 years.
Keeton's fourth touchdown pass, a 17-yarder to Chuck Jacobs, made the Aggies even more comfortable, and then the defense added a safety.
USU even closed things out with a hint of swagger, and deservedly so. UNLV coach Bobby Hauck needlessly called two timeouts while the Aggies were running out the clock, so Andersen authorized backup QB Craig Harrison to throw a 22-yard pass. That was the end of that silliness, concluding a terrific start of the season for USU.
There may be more where this came from, for these guys. After posting 260 yards of rushing and receiving, Williams was asked if this was his best career game. His response: "I'd say up to this point, yes."