Utah State feeling motivated against Stony Brook after suffering close loss in season opener

Utah State back Gerold Bright (1) rushes for a first-half touchdown against Wake Forest in an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Logan • The Utah State Aggies have made something of a habit of dropping their first game of a new football season. Since 2017, all of their season openers having gone that way, and they have all been on the road.

But last season, even after a close loss to Michigan State, USU used the early adversity as a springboard to 10 straight victories and a bid to the New Mexico Bowl. Just a week ago, the Aggies suffered another close loss to open 2019, this time to a Wake Forest team that eked out a win during the final stretch of the game.

Will Utah State burst out of the stables again like it did last season? That remains to be seen. But there was a sprinkle of deja vu in the locker room after the loss to Wake Forest.

“It definitely felt pretty similar to last year [after Michigan State], especially in the locker room everyone knowing that we could have won that game and we were just one play away,” junior linebacker David Woodward told reporters Tuesday. “And then, just how we responded to it, too. Nobody was hanging their head down, everyone handled it pretty well and knew that we can still achieve all our goals.”

Those goals are to win a Mountain West championship. The Aggies fell short of it last season, and are practically hellbent on getting there this season. Losing by just three points to the Demon Deacons seems to have lit a fire under Utah State.

“As a team, it makes us hungrier,” junior running back Jaylen Warren said. “We can’t mourn about it. Nobody likes the feeling we felt after the game, so I feel like it makes us want to go even harder, so we don’t have that same feeling, so it’s not repeated.”

The Aggies will have to do it against a Stony Brook team that already has one win under its belt and, by USU coach Gary Andersen’s admission, presents some unique challenges. The Seawolves like to play different styles of offensive at times, oscillating between the spread and going more physical with a couple of tight ends.

Defensively, Stony Brook is adept at disrupting just about every aspect of an offensive scheme whether it’s rushing quarterbacks, getting tackles for losses or nipping at the heels of receivers.

“Whether it’s the run or throw, you’re going to get a lot of different looks from these guys,” Andersen said.

Aggies junior quarterback Jordan Love told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday that, despite Stony Brook’s multifaceted defensive, he approaches that side of the ball like he would any other defense: appropriate preparation. Senior running back Gerold Bright told The Tribune that the team will respect its opponent, “but you don’t have to fear them.”

“We have to force our will upon them no matter what,” Bright said. “Still have to get explosive plays and we have to light up that scoreboard."

Sophomore running back Deven Thompkins told The Tribune that he was really upset after the loss to Wake Forest, especially because the Aggies are “always known for going against a Power 5 team and almost winning.” Andersen said it’s been “a long, long time” since USU has prevailed over a team of that caliber on the road.

But last year, a loss like that turned into a magical run. Saturday, in front of their home fans for the first time in 2019, could bring about the better version of deja vu.


At Maverik Stadium, Logan, Utah

Kickoff » Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MT

Streaming » Facebook Live

Radio » 1280 AM

Records » USU 0-1; Stony Brook 1-0

About Stony Brook » The Seawolves will play the Aggies for the first time in school history. … The school is located on Long Island, 62 miles east of New York City. ... Like USU, Stony Brook scored 35 points in its opening game. … The Seawolves went 7-5 overall in 2018 and lost in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

About USU » The Aggies have not lost back-to-back games to open a season since 2009. … Jordan Love opened the season with 416 passing yards and three touchdowns against Wake Forest. … USU has won its last seven home games. ... The Aggies are expecting a crowd of between 20-25,000 for their home opener.