Utah State proved it can win ugly and will take that lesson into showdown with Boise State

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah State Aggies quarterback Jordan Love (10) hands the ball to Utah State Aggies running back Gerold Bright (8). Utah State University defeated BYU 45-20 at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

For most of the season, the Utah State Aggies have blown out opponents on offense and, at the same time, stifled them on defense. Their play has led to some lopsided final scores and heaps of praise.

But against Colorado State on Saturday, the Aggies didn’t play their best. A last-second call negated a whistle-beating Rams touchdown, and Utah State prevailed 29-24 to come away with a 10th straight win. The game presented the type of adversity that the team has dodged most of the season, but the outcome certainly was welcome.

In the locker room, Aggies players were thrilled but felt a collective sigh of relief.

“Everybody looked at each other and had that one little shock moment, but then got excited because it’s time to move on,” senior wide receiver Aaren Vaughns said Monday. “We were just excited that we got the W.”

There haven’t been many games this season in which Utah State came that close to losing. Head coach Matt Wells recalled a one-possession game in the fourth quarter against Air Force in which the Aggies had to make two stops and score themselves to win. Then there was the tight win over Colorado State.

That’s pretty much it.

But Wells believes his Aggies tasting such adversity can do nothing but good for them as they prepare to play Boise State on the road Saturday for the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division title.

“We just continued to fight and found a way to win,” Wells said. “We’ve lost a decent amount of those games in the last couple of years, and I’m happy for our guys.”

The Aggies were displeased with their play against the Rams. Vaughns said the team started out slow and had find a way to pick things up in the second half. Wells said none of football’s three phases — offense, defense, special teams — went well for them.

“Even though it wasn’t as clean as we wanted and we gave up a lot of explosives that we shouldn’t have,” senior linebacker Chase Christiansen said, "overall, we were good enough to get the win.”

Ready for more cold, snow

After playing in snow in Colorado, Utah State anticipates similar weather in Boise this weekend.

Vaughns said Saturday’s conditions served as a preview, and he hopes his teammates adjust more quickly this time around.

“The receivers had to figure out how we were going to catch the ball in that type of weather,” Vaughns said. “So, we got the feel. I believe we had one drop from the inside corps and not very many from the outside group. [junior quarterback] Jordan [Love] got the feel of how to throw the ball. He got a better understanding of how to throw in that weather. This week, moving forward, we just have a mindset of, ‘OK, it’s going to be cold; let’s just dial it in a little bit more and focus.’”

Wells also mentioned the bad weather when describing how proud he was of his team’s resilience against Colorado State.

The forecast for Boise on Saturday shows a low of 27 degrees with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. The game kicks of at 8:15 p.m. MT.