Logan • Forget the month of August. These are the dog days for Utah State.
A Western Athletic Conference winner-take-all matchup against Louisiana Tech is a mere three weeks away. Even USU veterans such as Matt Austin acknowledge thinking about the Bulldogs.
Utah State at Texas-San AntonioAt the Alamodome
Kickoff » Noon
Radio » 97.5 FM. Internet » ESPN3
Series history » First meeting between the schools
About Utah State » Nick Diaz won the WAC special teams player of the week award for his performance against New Mexico State. … Utah State has won seven consecutive conference games. … The Aggies are looking to start a season 7-2 for the first time in 30 years. … USU is facing UTSA for the first time.
About UTSA » The Roadrunners will compete in Conference-USA next season. … UTSA is not bowl-eligible this season. … UTSA won its first five games before losing to Rice. … Larry Coker, the former Miami coach, is a two-time national coach of the year.
At the same time, the Aggies have to take care of Texas-San Antonio on Saturday at the Alamodome and Texas State at home next week. Lose one of those two games, and Louisiana Tech won’t matter because Utah State won’t be playing for anyone’s conference title.
It’s all a new — and a little unnerving — for the Aggies. The program is on the edge of its best season in more than three decades.
But as far as USU coach Gary Andersen is concerned, his team still is taking "baby steps," and can’t afford to look past anybody. Including the Roadrunners — playing just their second season in FBS after being an FCS program. USU is favored by more than three touchdowns.
"It’s definitely a program that we can’t or won’t overlook," Andersen said. "They’ve won a lot of football games and are a well-coached team. They compete, they are excited to be playing us, and we’re going to have to go in there and play well to get a win."
The matchup has a number of different layers. Texas is a prime recruiting territory for USU, and playing in the Alamodome will be a big deal for players like quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who is from Houston.
UTSA is led by former Miami coach Larry Coker, who led the Hurricanes to the 2001 national championship.
Finally — and maybe most importantly — UTSA has established itself in San Antonio. The Roadrunners are 5-2 this season, including wins over South Alabama and New Mexico State, and are averaging nearly 30,000 fans per game at home — accomplishments well beyond what most first- or second-year FBS programs are able to pull off.
"They have one of the top defenses in our conference, so it will definitely be a challenge for us," Keeton said. "At the same time, we have to worry about us and go out and play our type of football. Hopefully, that outshines their defense."
Offensively, UTSA runs the option, which will be a new twist for the Utah State defense. Instead of blitzing, the Aggies will need to stay in their gaps. Instead of preparing to defend against the pass, USU will employ a lot of schemes to stop the run.
"We are going to need discipline," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "They have a style that we aren’t used to, and we have to be ready for that."
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