Aggies didn’t make it to the MWC title game, but bowl prospects are promising after a 10-2 finish

(Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP) Boise State nose tackle Sonatane Lui (98) puts pressure on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Boise, Idaho.

Boise, Idaho • Chase Christiansen’s eyes glistened as he spoke to the media in the wee hours of Saturday night. His voice was on the verge of breaking, and his words came slow and steady. It was clear that moments before, the emotions of Utah State’s 33-24 loss to the Boise State Broncos had overtaken the senior linebacker.

Then came junior running back Gerold Bright’s turn to speak. He too spoke of disappointment that the Aggies couldn’t advance to the Mountain West championship game, a goal USU has been building toward all season.

But his demeanor was much more laid-back. Some of his answers came with smiles despite his admission that every player in the Aggies locker room felt hurt about the loss.

“It’s tough, but I’m a very optimistic person,” Bright said. “We still got great opportunities ahead of us. We fell short, yes. We have one more game to go out and display how great we are, and I do believe we’re a great team and we’re going to do our best to get this ring at this bowl game.”

With Utah State’s loss Saturday at Albertsons Stadium, the Aggies now must wait for a bowl selection. They don’t yet know what team they’ll play, when or where.

But in the immediate aftermath of the loss, head coach Matt Wells had this thoughts on other things — mainly the emotions of his players after their investment and effort the entire season resulted in disappointment, he said.

“I haven’t thought two seconds about the bowl game,” Wells said. “I know there’s one coming, but we’ll figure that out in a week.”

Last season, the Aggies played in the Arizona bowl, losing to New Mexico State, 26-20.

The loss seemed to weigh on Christiansen, who said he wouldn’t change his teammates for the world and is proud to have been a part of one of the best Aggies rosters in recent years. His comments had a sense of finality to them, even though a bowl game awaits Utah State.

But USU had one goal in mind, and not reaching it was all Christiansen could focus on in the moment.

“The end goal is always the Mountain West championship game,” Christiansen said. “Not being in that, that stings. That stings a lot.”

The Aggies finished the season 10-2, with a 7-1 record in the Mountain West Conference. A win in the upcoming bowl game would tie a Utah State record of 11 wins in a season.

There were accolades on which Utah State could hang its hat. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love broke the school record for touchdown passes on Saturday. The Aggies also finished the regular season with their best overall record since joining the Mountain West in 2013.

Utah State had nearly 20 seniors on its roster this season, most notably wide receivers Ron’quavion Tarver and Aaren Vaughns, left tackle Roman Andrus, defensive end Adewale Adeoye, and Christiansen.

But with Love, Bright and junior running back Darwin Thompson, the Aggies look to have some pieces that can help the team hit the ground running next season.

Although Wells empathized with his players and certainly felt the gut punch of the loss he wasn’t prepared for, he also felt a swell of pride for his players. It was evident in his posture and the timbre of his voice as he spoke postgame.

“They’re winners in my book,” Well said.