While a sizeable number of college football fans in Utah continued to focus on what the vanquished did wrong, Utah State’s players and coaches preferred to concentrate Monday on what the Aggies did right in beating Brigham Young on Friday.
During his weekly press conference on Monday, USU coach Matt Wells noted the change from two weeks ago, when he stood at the same podium answering questions about the Aggies’ lopsided loss at Wake Forest — which was doomed by the same kind of slow start they had against BYU. Only this time, there was a twist.
“We got down 21-7 and we didn’t fold. We kept fighting and a player made a play,” Wells said. “Then we got the ball back on offense and it was like clockwork right down the field.
“We folded in a similar situation against Wake Forest on both sides of the ball and didn’t overcome it,” he added.
In the 40-24 victory over the visiting Cougars, Utah State (3-2) outscored BYU 33-3 after trailing by two touchdowns.
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The critical play Wells saw as the trigger for the turnaround was one of three interceptions by senior cornerback Jalen Davis.
His first of two takeaways that he returned for touchdowns was a pass that bounced off the back of teammate Chase Christiansen, which Davis then caught on the fly and returned for a pick-six.
That was one of seven turnovers by BYU at Maverik Stadium.
“One of our coaches always says that luck follows effort,” Wells said.
In addition to Davis’ three interceptions and one more from safety Dallin Leavitt, the Aggies also recovered three fumbles.
Wells credited effort, and emphasis on USU’s strip-technique, for that last result.
“Maybe we have emphasized it a whole lot more in practice especially what we are calling ball-surges, which are attempts on the ball,” the Utah State coach said.
“When you’re the second or third guy in and you’re swinging and clubbing — and you’re missing. But you’ve got to have those [misses] to get them,” Wells added.
Now, the Aggies are prepping to host Colorado State in a key Mountain West Conference game on Saturday.
The Rams, like USU, won their first league game by beating Hawai’i 51-21 on Saturday. Utah State opened MWC play by routing San Jose State, 61-10, on September 23.
LaJuan Hunt, Utah State senior running back, is hoping for a similar type of crowd this weekend as the one he just experienced against BYU — big and loud.
“We knew the Herd, the student section, was going to be rowdy and loud — full of energy,” Hunt said. “From the start, they were amped up.
Turnover after turnover, it felt like the crowd energy got louder and louder.”
Wells said the key to continued success is to now hit the reset button, starting Saturday.
“Nobody’s going to take that victory away. That Wagon Wheel is staying here for a year and we’re excited about it,” Wells said. “It’s a great win, but we have to put that thing in the rear view mirror.”