Logan • This wasn’t the script.
The Utah State Aggies — returning 15 starters on offense and defense, returning a bevy of upperclassmen leaders, coming off an 11-2 season — were supposed to compete for a Mountain West championship.
Utah State at New MexicoSaturday, 7 p.m.
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Four losses and too many injuries later, coach Matt Wells was forced to acknowledge that goal is no longer in Utah State’s hands. The Aggies (3-4, 2-1) could win out and still be out of the action on Dec. 7 for the conference title game, and that would be as bitter as any of the team’s defeats have been.
But Utah State still has many things it can claim: a bowl berth, conference wins and pride. Wells said Saturday night that he was proud the Aggies fought to the end of their 34-23 loss to Boise State — scoring twice in the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach — and he expects them to keep at it.
"There are plenty of things for our team to play for," he said. "We will keep fighting."
To rediscover success in the final five regular-season games on the schedule, Utah State will have to answer some questions about itself, and cure some deficiencies.
The glaring issue at hand is at starting quarterback: Utah State doesn’t appear settled between junior Craig Harrison and freshman Darell Garretson.
Harrison was the starter Saturday, and led two scoring drives, but struggled again to bring Utah State to the red zone. Wells tried to stir up his team by switching in Garretson, a freshman, but he threw two picks before finishing out the game with a scoring drive.
"We didn’t have a whole lot of momentum at that time," Wells said. "To me it was close in deciding who was going to start. They both had good weeks in practice and I wanted to get Darell in. I wanted to see what he could do. He didn’t start real well, but he finished a whole lot better."
Wells said he would evaluate the quarterbacks in film study this weekend, but his staff has a wide range of problems to tackle ahead of Utah State’s road game in Albuquerque on Saturday night.
The offense has been ravaged by injuries: Tight end D.J. Tialavea didn’t suit up for Boise State, and Wells later announced he was the fourth starter this year to be lost for the season. The running back situation is also looking perilous: Joey DeMartino didn’t play much of the second half, and Wells acknowledged he was "dinged up."
The Aggies had been hoping the defense would pick up some slack, but the secondary was savaged once again. Between Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick’s savvy touch and Shane Williams-Rhodes’s elusiveness after the catch, Utah State looked out of gas by the third quarter before getting a second wind to close out the contest
Although the Aggies still are the top-ranked defense in the Mountain West, that reputation has taken a hit in the last two weeks, with a pair of teams scoring more than 30 points on them.
The secondary will get a break against New Mexico, the worst passing team in the league, but will have to bolster itself for the Lobos’ rushing attack, ranked No. 2 in the country.
New Mexico is the only opponent between Utah State and a much-needed bye. And although problems seem to be piling up by the week, the Aggies said there’s no excuses if they can’t enter their break with a win.
"We can cry and moan about all this adversity and all the hurting, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning football games," receiver Travis Reynolds said. "No matter how you do it, no matter how you get it done, just go out there and get it done."
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