Los Angeles • Falling to USC won't matter in the Mountain West standings. Utah State entered the Coliseum an underdog, so it doesn't necessarily shatter any faith in the team.
But it certainly hurts the Aggies' pride, the second loss this season that's been just beyond their reach. The players didn't hang their heads after Saturday's defeat, but there was a sense of resignation. They had missed an opportunity to achieve something special.
"It hurts, because coming from my freshman year, we always fell short," said receiver Travis Reynolds, who went on to describe defeats from years past against Oklahoma, Auburn and Wisconsin. "It's tough especially since it's my senior year, and I don't have a year to come back for redemption."
The opportunities missed, the miscues and mistakes Utah State will have to shelve those regrets.
The Aggies (2-2, 1-0) face a short week to travel to an opponent they snagged last year, San Jose State, that has its own designs on revenge this Friday.
The situation is much like after Utah State's loss to the Utes: The Aggies will look to forget a close-fought disappointment to handle business in the Mountain West. But unlike Air Force, run over twice in conference play since falling to Utah State, the Spartans could be a contender within the division.
Like the rest of the Mountain West, San Jose has had its stumbles, falling 43-24 to Minnesota this weekend. Although the Spartans haven't yet shown the offensive and defensive firepower they hoped for this year, they still have dangerous talent.
It begins with quarterback David Fales, who threw for 467 yards last year on the Aggies despite getting sacked 13 times. Wide receiver Noel Grigsby could miss the season with injury, but Chandler Jones has stepped up as the team's lead receiving threat. The Spartans' defense was shredded in last season's 49-27 blowout, but still has playmakers like Keith Smith, who leads the nation with 17 tackles per game.
More critically, the Aggies are licking their own wounds this week. Aside from the usual bumps and bruises, starting running back Joe Hill left the game early with an unspecified injury that the team is evaluating. And if anyone else is hurt, they'll have to feel better in a hurry for a Friday night game on ESPN.
Still, the last time Utah State had to refocus, it rolled Air Force on the road in a 52-20 blowout. While the loss to USC may sting, coach Matt Wells said, it doesn't spoil the Aggies' season.
"We'll regroup and we'll rebound," he said. "We still have a goal ahead of us, and that's competing for the Mountain West championship."