It was almost a year ago to the day that the Utah State Aggies lost at Boise State in the final game of the 2018 regular season. A game that saw the Aggies score on their very first drive, and never lead again. A game that determined which team would get a shot at the Mountain West championship.
But this is a different year — at least for the Aggies. While the No. 20 Broncos are enjoying a 2019 in which they’re undefeated in the conference and have only lost once all season, Utah State has been somewhat up and down.
Right now, however, USU is up. Just two weeks ago, there was a question of whether or not the Aggies would qualify for a bowl game. Two conference wins later, and the team is feeling good about itself again.
But that doesn’t mean it’s done.
“They got bowl eligible. We have six wins,” Aggies coach Gary Andersen said this week. “Are we satisfied with just that? Absolutely not.”
Utah State’s road to a conference title has had to go through Boise State for the past two seasons. Both teams were ranked in the Associated Press poll last year, but it was the Broncos, at home, who prevailed.
The Aggies will get home-field advantage this time around, but they could have a hole at quarterback. Junior Jordan Love left USU’s win over Wyoming with an undisclosed injury and didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
Andersen said Monday that he didn’t have an update on whether Love would play against the Broncos.
“There is nothing to really tell at this point, so we’ll see,” Andersen said.
The Broncos might also be without starting freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who has missed time due to a shoulder injury. So it’s possible that both USU and BSU will trot out less-than-preferred options at that position on Saturday.
But the Aggies are riding high on their performances from the past two weeks. Senior placekicker Dominik Eberle used some boxing analogies to describe what the difference has been in the team during that span.
“On the sideline, everyone has more grit,” Eberle said. “Everyone kind of made it a personal attack to them about those two weeks, where rather than just being the guy to get punched on, they want to be the guy doing the punching. They want to be like a boxer doing the heavy hits. They want to finish that knockout blow.”
Junior linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer said last year’s loss to the Broncos still stings, and he wants to help the seniors get a little revenge on their last year of eligibility.
“We have to win this game and win the next one so we can achieve our goal of going to the Mountain West championship and possibly winning it,” Meitzenheimer said. “I have to do it for my seniors.”
In Andersen’s mind, the last two weeks have helped prepare Utah State for the challenge of facing the Broncos in what could be the most important game of the season. But he knows the Aggies have their work cut out for them.
“It’s elimination game number three for the Aggies,” Andersen said. “We have passed the first two tests, so here we go again.”
BOISE STATE AT UTAH STATE
At Maverik Stadium, Logan, Utah
Kickoff • Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Watch • CBS Sports Network
Radio • 1280 AM/97.5 FM
Records • Utah State 6-4 (5-1 Mountain West), Boise State 9-1 (6-0 MW)
Series • Boise State leads, 18-5.
Last meeting • Boise State 33, Utah State 24 (Nov. 24, 2018)
About the Broncos • Their only loss this season came at BYU. … Scored in their last 16 trips into the red zone, including 12 touchdowns. … Did not start the 2019 season ranked in the AP poll. … A win against USU secures a home game to decide the conference champion.
About the Aggies • Jordan Love has thrown 13 touchdown passes this season. … Currently on a two-game winning streak in the conference. … Most recent loss to Boise State was only conference loss in 2018. … Eric Munoz (13), Kevin Meitzenheimer (12) and Troy Lefeged Jr. (12) combined for 49 tackles against Wyoming in the absence of David Woodward, who won’t play anymore this year due to an injury.