Logan • Gary Andersen doesn’t often talk about himself or his accomplishments. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that when asked to reflect on his first season back as head coach of the Utah State football team, he spent much of his time talking about his players, his relationships with them and the work they do in the community.
But upon some further reflection of 2019, Andersen admitted there’s at least one thing he would have changed in his first year back in Cache Valley.
“I would like to have won a championship,” Andersen said. “You always want to win a championship for your seniors. But, those are life lessons that we’ll learn as we go to continually improve.”
The Mountain West Conference title eluded the Aggies this year as they finished with a 7-5 record (6-2 MWC). That was still good enough to earn them a bid to the Frisco Bowl against Kent State on Friday.
Andersen said 2019 was “a grinding year” before adding the caveat that every year can be described that way. But he praised the manner in which his team battled through the season and overcame some of the adversity that came with it.
“We got knocked down a few times, and the next week we battled back and fought again,” Andersen said. “That’s such a tribute to the kids, and that’s who we want to be.”
But when players were asked to assess Andersen’s first season back, none of them talked about missing their goal of a conference title, or anything else related to football. Instead, they spoke of Andersen’s character.
Several players said they liked very much being coached by Andersen. They feel he’s looking out for them.
“I think the biggest thing he’s done is really care about us, which kind of makes us care about him more,” redshirt junior linebacker Eric Munoz said. “[We] kind of take care of each other. It goes back and forth.”
Junior quarterback Jordan Love said he knew going into 2019 that it would be a difficult year with an almost entirely new coaching staff. But he had nothing but positive words to say about Andersen.
“All the players, they love Coach A, and they’ll go to battle for Coach A,” Love said. "I know he’s going to do great things once I leave this program and other people leave. They’ll continue to do great things.”
One of the things players seem to like about Andersen is how matter-of-fact he is. He doesn’t waste words, senior running back Gerold Bright said.
“He talks when he needs to talk,” Bright said. "He’s not going to do too much. He’s not going to be with all the extra yada yada. He’s going to keep it real with you. If something needs to be said, he’s going to say it.”
GARY ANDERSEN, YEAR-BY-YEAR
Gary Andersen’s record as a head coach:
2003 • Southern Utah, 4-7
2009 • Utah State, 4-8
2010 • Utah State, 4-8
2011 • Utah State, 7-6
2012 • Utah State, 11-2
2013 • Wisconsin, 9-4
2014 • Wisconsin, 10-3
2015 • Oregon State, 2-10
2016 • Oregon State, 4-8
2017 • Oregon State, 1-5
2019 • Utah State, 7-5*
*With one game remaining
And that extends to when Andersen becomes passionate about something happening on the field or in practice. Senior linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer said what surprised him about Andersen as he got to know him was “when he yells.” If that happens, Meitzenheimer said, you know he means business.
But that trait seems to carry more of a positive connotation to it in that it shows just how much Andersen cares about winning. Meitzenheimer said those reactions are what help the players give their all for him.
“Sometimes it feels like he may care more than some of the other guys,” Meitzenheimer said. “He cares so much. To get that emotion out of him, you feel like you cannot let him down.”
Andersen said he’ll reflect and dissect every aspect of the season once the bowl game is over and he has time through the holidays when he’s not out recruiting. But it seems he’s gained the trust of his players in a season that may not have gone according to plan.
“Everything he said he was going to do, he has done,” Meitzenheimer said. “He has not shied away from anything he’s ever said.”
UTAH STATE VS. KENT STATE
At Frisco, Texas
When • Friday, 5:30 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN2