Logan • File it under lesson learned.
The Utah State Aggies says they’ve had their close call. A nail-biting win over UNLV was enough heartburn for one season.
Colorado State at Utah StateAt Romney Stadium (Logan)
Kickoff » 1:30 p.m.
TV » CBS Sports Network
Radio » 1280 AM
Records » Utah State (6-4, 5-1); Colorado State (6-5, 4-2)
Series history » CSU leads, 36-31-2
Last meeting » Sept. 22, 2012 at CSU; USU 31, CSU 19
About the Aggies » Utah State’s defense is top 20 in several categories, including No. 17 in scoring defense (19.4 ppg), No. 20 in total defense (348.2 ypg), and No. 10 in third down conversions (31.7 percent. … Linebacker Jake Doughty is No. 7 nationally with 10.8 tackles per game, and is only the 14th Aggie to record back-to-back seasons with 100 tackles or more.
About the Rams » Sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs leads the nation with 25 rushing touchdowns, 10 of them scored in his last two games. … Linebacker Shaquil Barrett has 18.0 tackles for a loss this season, second in the country.
Coach Matt Wells said his team got confidence out of edging the Rebels, evidence that they can pull out a close one. Utah State’s closest win before that was by a mere 28 points.
Still, Tyler Larsen said, if he has his preference, the Aggies (6-4, 5-1) will get back to beating up its foes when Colorado State (6-5, 4-2) comes to town on Saturday afternoon.
"We just gotta keep fighting, no matter how tough the competition is," he said. "That’s what we learned last year. We just need to remember what hard work and executing like we need to does throughout the game."
Utah State should be fresh — at least as fresh as a football team late in the season can be — for the match-up coming off a bye week. USU has had time to examine what went wasn’t so great against UNLV, and tried to adjust going into Saturday’s game.
A lot of things could’ve been better, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said, reflecting back on a game in which his unit let up more than 400 yards.
"We didn’t do things that we know, things that aren’t that complicated, and they played well," he said. "We did find a way to pull it out. It was a bit of a wake-up call for us, but we’re excited for this week. It’s a whole different animal."
The Aggies are glad to be back in Romney Stadium for their final two games, but there has also been a sense of maturing within the program over the course of a roller coaster season.
For one, Utah State has gotten two big games out of Darell Garretson. The freshman quarterback has thrown for 668 yards and four touchdowns in wins over Hawaii and UNLV, and flashed a strong arm along with suprising scrambling ability.
But his improvement in the passing game may be as much due to his relationship with his receivers getting better. Receiving coach Jovon Bouknight said he’s seen that bond grow stronger thanks to strong two-way channels.
"In some ways they’re a little more open to talk to Darrell, grab the young guy and say, ‘Hey, this could be open,’ " he said. "Not to say they couldn’t talk to Chuckie, but he had more experience. Just having those guys talking to Darell has been helping."
Defensively, the Aggies have hung tough in their last three wins, lodging themselves in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and getting opponents off the field on third downs. The unit’s pride was stung when UNLV’s Tim Cornett ran for 115 yards, however.
With Colorado State boasting sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs, the Aggies will have to be as alert as ever against the run, but also play-action. Utah State is expecting the Rams to try to stay balanced by faking run on a handful of plays.
If the Aggies can slow down Bibbs and the attack, they feel good about the prospect of knocking off Colorado State at home for the first time since 1979.
"I’ve had my fair share of Colorado State games," B.J. Larsen said. "I think there’s a little rivalry going on there. Not a big rivalrly, but definitely it’s there. It will be fun to have them up in Logan again."
With Mountain West fortunes on the line, the rivalry’s stakes are that much higher.
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