Logan • Utah State showed a couple of things in its football opener at Wisconsin last Friday.
The question for the Aggies is which one is correct?
Heading into the Thursday night home opener against Idaho State, Utah State coach Matt Wells is more or less obliged to say that the real Aggies — until further evidence comes in — are both the team that led 10-0 over the No. 9 Badgers with only a couple of minutes left in the first half and the squad that was buried in an avalanche of points in the second half of a 59-10 loss.
“Right now, we’re both,” Wells said. “I want to be the first-half team, but the reality says you’re both in that we’re good enough to go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin for that amount of time.
“But we’re also immature enough, inexperienced enough and not good enough to make the mistakes that we made — and think you’re going to stay in a game,” he added. “That has to be righted and corrected. We have to play like the first half for a longer amount of the game.”
What the Aggies are getting in Idaho State is a team that had a game not unlike the one Wisconsin had last week.
The Bengals, playing at home in Pocatello, trailed Western Oregon 6-3 at halftime. But an early-third quarter interception triggered 34 points in the second half of a 37-6 victory.Idaho State quarterback Tanner Gueller ended up throwing for almost 300 yards while running back Ty Flanagan rushed for 100 yards as the Bengals’ offense righted their ship after intermission.
“They have a big, strong-arm quarterback. And [the] Ty Flanagan kid is shifty. We are going to have to bottle him up quickly,” Wells said. “As always, stopping the run is important, but that kid can get out and create a little damage if he gets out in the open field.”
“They actually run the ball really hard. Their running back, even though there will be defenders around him, he will just keep going,” said Utah State senior defensive end Ian Togiai. “So we plan on just swarming to the ball.”
Togiai said that the Aggies will not be looking past the Big Sky Conference opponent.
“I know we’re not looking down on them. I know they play hard, and they almost beat Oregon State last year,” Togiai said. “We are not looking at them any different than we looked at Wisconsin. We’re getting ready for a big game and we’re ready to play.”
For the Utah State offense, the Bengals have a defense that Wells said has a couple of big interior defensive lineman in JonRhyeem Peoples (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) and Treven Aloi (6-1, 330). Experience for the Idaho State defensive unit is also prevalent in linebackers Joe Martin and Mario Jenkins as well as cornerbacks Anthony Ricks and Koby Lowe.
“They do a lot of things very similar that our defense does, so we’ve been kind of going against the looks since spring ball and all fall camp,” Utah State offensive tackle Roman Andrus said. “We will be very well prepared for them, and looking forward to it and looking forward to putting the Wisconsin game behind us, learning what we need to and moving on.”
The Aggies’ rushing attack will dig further into the depth chart after Tonny Lindsey Jr. hurt a shoulder late in the Wisconsin game. LaJuan Hunt is again expected to start at running back, but Justen Hervey and Eltoro Allen will move up a slot in the reserve ranks with Lindsey’s absence.
As for senior quarterback Kent Myers — who had 219 yards passing against the Badgers — Wells resisted the temptation to rest him in the late stages of the blowout loss.
“We ended up staying with him to get another series because things weren’t going very well,” Wells said. “we wanted to see if he could finish with a little momentum and a little bit of success, to be blunt.”
Idaho State at Utah State
At Maverik Stadium, Logan
Kickoff • Thursday, 6 p.m.
Live Stream • Facebook
Radio • 1280 AM
Records • USU 0-1, ISU 1-0
Series • USU leads, 15-2
Last meeting • USU 40, ISU 20 (2014)
About the Bengals • In a season-opening 37-6 win over Western Oregon last weekend, quarterback Tanner Gueller threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns while running back Ty Flanagan rushed 14 times for 100 yards. ... It’s the first year of being a head coach for Rob Phenicie, who was an assistant for two years at the school. Defensive coordinator Spencer Toone got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Utah State before going to Pocatello for the 2013 season. ... Former head coach Mike Kramer finished his stint at the school with consecutive2-9 seasons in ’15 and ’16.
About the Aggies • The last meeting with ISU, a 40-20 victory in 2014,also came on the heels of a season-opening road loss against a powerhouse foe as Tennessee beat the Aggies that year 38-7. ... It’s a current six-game losing streak for the Aggies. The last victory was a38-20 over Fresno State in October of 2016. ... JC transfer Suli Tamaivena made his first start against Wisconsin and the linebacker ledthe team — with safety Dallin Leavitt — in recording seven tackles.Reserve linebacker Mason Tobeck made six tackles in the loss.