Logan • The October evening had turned chilly before the Utah State Aggies trudged off their home field after a 34-23 loss to Boise State.
Coach Matt Wells looked pained as he addressed the media afterward about how his defense could get off the field on third down, and how his offense simply "just struggled." Then he had to acknowledge the most painful thing of all: His team didn’t control its own destiny any longer in the Mountain West title game race.
Wyoming at USUSaturday, noon
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USU on top of Mountain Division
» The Aggies can clinch a spot in the conference championship by beating Wyoming.
» Utah State has averaged 33.25 points per game in its last four wins.
» The Aggies’ defense has allowed only 11 points per game in its last four.
Then Wells said something else: "There’s plenty for our team to still play for. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to regroup."
There wasn’t much reason to believe it then. The Aggies were coming of their two worst losses and faced a season ahead without a number of starters lost for the season, including star quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
Just a month and a half later, Utah State (7-4, 6-1) has weathered the storm and is once again in position to win its way into the Mountain West title game.
USU beat Colorado State 13-0 on Saturday, and got some help in the conference race when San Diego State upset Boise State 34-31 in overtime.
If the Aggies beat Wyoming this Saturday at home, they’ll book themselves a trip to Fresno State to take on the BCS-contending Bulldogs.
It’s been a long battle to get to this point, Wells said after Utah State’s latest win.
"It’s a special group in there," he said. "The group dwindles, and we add to it. We’ve got a bunch of fighters. We got a bunch of kids that care about each other more than themselves. And when you have that chemistry in a locker room, it’s a powerful thing. It’s a powerful thing."
The Aggies have won four straight conference games since falling to Boise State, and done it behind a shutdown defense and an offense that has broken in a new quarterback.
Utah State has allowed only 11 points per game while all but shutting down the run in its past four contests while improving to the No. 7 scoring defense in the country. That physicality was on full display against Colorado State, whose prolific running back couldn’t find any room to move.
Even against tougher teams, the Aggies’ offense has done enough to secure victories, and often that’s taken some adjustments. Darell Garretson threw all over Hawaii, but the Aggies needed to turn to Jojo Natson’s wildcat running to beat UNLV. When that didn’t work against Colorado State, Joey DeMartino took on a bigger role.
As DeMartino said the Aggies don’t have the temperament to give up, even as they continue to suffer more injuries. Both cornerback Rashard Stewart and receiver Travis Reynolds both had to be helped off the field, with Stewart going to a local hospital.
"We have the right guys on our team who can step up," DeMartino said. "It’s unfortunate, but it’s football and injuries happen. Our team is clicking right now. We know guys will step up, and we’ll put the pressure on them to do so."
Of course, there was only so much help Utah State could do for itself. On Saturday night, many Aggie fans were glued to their televisions to watch if San Diego State would knock off the Broncos.
It took an overtime, and the clock ticked into early Sunday morning. But when Aztec receiver Collin Lockett wrapped his hands around a touchdown pass to win, Utah State fans, players and coaches alike celebrated.
Wells sent out a tweet not long after: "We MUST. … Finish the drill!"
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