There was plenty of feel-good hanging around the postgame at the Potato Bowl on Saturday night, as Gary Andersen and his Aggies celebrated Utah State’s first bowl win in 19 years.
The victory did everything Andersen hoped it would do — crown an 11-2 season, send seniors off with nothing but a warm glow, set a deeper hook with recruits, throttle up the program’s momentum, both in the Aggies’ minds and also in the view of onlookers whose opinions and perceptions matter in judging Utah State football next season, and keep his own coaching momentum rolling for whatever might come in his future.
He said after the 41-15 win that his players had achieved every goal they set for themselves this season. "How often does that happen in life?" he asked, knowing full well the answer.
It almost never happens.
"It doesn’t happen very often in football," he said. "We talk about it all the time. ‘Let’s go turn these young men into men.’ This will help them through life. Whenever they get their backs up against a wall, they know they can set lots of goals and reach them. That’s what they did this year. I’m very proud of them.
"It’s unbelievable for the program. To get to 11-2 and ending the year ranked, moving into a new conference, it starts everything off right as we move forward. We get more and more recognized the more we win, and the more these young men take care of themselves on and off the field. It makes a big difference. It’s a huge step in the right direction."
Andersen said he was going to kick back and relish all of the above, maybe go float on a raft somewhere or maybe not, for a few days before dialing back in on Utah State’s direction. Either way, it will be a happy holiday for a man whose vision for the renovation of a losing program, from the day he started picking up the pieces there, was resolute. His teams went 4-8, 4-8, 7-6, and now … well, you know. Andersen correctly called 2012 the best season in the school’s history, probably by measures beyond wins and losses.
He said before the bowl game that one of his favorite moments this season was at the Monday practice after USU’s loss to BYU: "It will be in my mind forever … just the way they came out to practice. … That is something that I will never forget."
He said he knew right then there was "something special" to this group of players: "I’m not a guy who even likes to think that, let alone say that, during the season, especially after a tough loss to an in-state rival. But they came out and their want-to, it was in their eyes. It wasn’t anything they said, it was just how they carried themselves, and that is a special moment now for me."
One of many in a rather crowded memory bank from Andersen’s season to remember.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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