Matt Wells was initially unhappy at the placement of Utah State’s bye week so late in the season, but the Aggie football coach might be coming around now.
The week off for Utah State came just last weekend, and the well-rested Aggies now resume their schedule Saturday against Hawai’i. It marks USU’s final home game of the season.
“I would have ... hoped that the bye week was a little more mid-October. It happens to be right now,” Wells said.
“I’m not sure what bye weeks late in the year gives you, but I know this: we are re-energized, and we have a little bit of a hop in our step,” he added. “Late in the year, a lot of teams get tired, and a lot of teams can start going through the motions, or they can get re-energized and re-focused. I’m hopeful that’s what the bye week did for us last week.”
The Aggies last played on Nov. 4, beating New Mexico 24-10 in Albuquerque.
Utah State is one shy win of becoming bowl-eligible. That, in and of itself, is plenty of motivation for a squad that only had three wins a year ago and was picked for last in the Mountain Division for the Mountain West Conference.
“It was something that was discussed that everybody in the Mountain West, media and coaches, they all voted us last place,” said junior safety Gaje Ferguson. It’s awesome that, obviously, we’ve gotten further than that, but there really is no ceiling to how good you want to be. That’s what we strive for, just always be better.”
In Hawai’i, the Aggies will face an offense that’s almost the opposite of the run-heavy Lobos. The Warriors employ a controlled passing game.
Quarterback Dru Brown has thrown for 2,399 yards while starting every game for Hawai’i, but the Warriors also have a 1,000-yard rusher in Diocemy Saint Juste (1,349 yards).The visitors come into the game struggling however. Hawai’i has lost its last three games — home defeats to San Diego State and Fresno State sandwiched around a road loss at UNLV.
“They have a few good weapons, some solid people and they’re capable of putting up numbers if you let them get going,” Ferguson said. “It’s something our defense, if we do our job and play how we know we can play, we should be able to take care of business with their guys.”
An additional boon that the bye week provided for Utah State was a chance to get healthier heading into the final two games. USU wraps up the regular season next week at Air Force.
“We have a real motivation these last two weeks. I think what the bye week has done for us is help to re-emphasize that. It’s also got us healthier,” Wells said. “We’re going to have a lot of guys back. We’re about as healthy this year as we’ve been since I’ve been the head coach. Very few season-ending injuries.
“Really, only one, Ian [Togiai, senior defensive end], that we’ve lost for an extended amount of time,” he added. “He’s getting closer to getting back, so we’ll see on that here this week.”
Hawai’i at Utah State
Kickoff • Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • Spectrum Sports PPV.
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM.
Records • USU 5-5, 3-3 MWC; UH 3-7, 1-6.
Series • Utah State leads, 8-6.
Last meeting • USU 35, UH 14 (2014)
About the Rainbow Warriors • Running back Diocemy Saint Juste needs 150 yards on the ground to set a new single-season record for rushing yardage for Hawai’i — currently held by Travis Sims’ 1,498 yards (1992)... Junior linebacker Jahlani Tavai leads the team with 98 tackles and, with two more, will reach the century mark in stops for a second straight season... Former Alta High standout Ammon Barker has 33 catches for 337 yards while Dylan Collie, whose older brothers Austin and Zac played at BYU, has 43 catches for 474 yards.
About the Aggies • Matt Wells is 5-0 as head coach in games after the bye week, with a double-digit margin of victory in all of those victories... Freshman Jordan Love is expected to start at quarterback again, as he has for the previous three games. Utah State is13-3 when starting a freshman QB in Wells’ five seasons... The offensive line, completely retooled at the beginning of the season, has not allowed a sack in the last two games and only one in the previous three.