The winter of Matt Wells’ discontent is one step closer to being a distant memory.
Throughout the 2017 season, the Utah State football coach occasionally remembered the time between the end of the ’16 campaign and the beginning of spring football practices — and not in a wistful way.
But the pain of not getting invited to a bowl game is, for now, confined to just one year.
The Aggies learned Sunday that they will play in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Dec. 29. The game will be in Tucson and the opponent will be another group of Aggies in New Mexico State.
It’s the sixth bowl appearance in seven years for Utah State and the fourth in Wells’ five years as the Aggies coach. Last year, the only time it didn’t happen, left the Utah State coaches free to recruit without preparing for a game.
Wells said that he prefers his staff to be busier.
“We do need to be on the road recruiting, so we’ll be juggling that as coaches back-and-forth,” Wells said.
“It’s the busiest time of year. That’s basically 26 straight days for us as coaches.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Wells of the invitation and the increased workload. “Last December was miserable doing only one thing.”
Ironically, Utah State added New Mexico State to its 2018 schedule (Sept. 8) just before the current slate got underway.
It’s hardly out-of-the-norm, however, for the two groups of Aggies to meet up. The Arizona Bowl encounter will be the 38th meeting between the schools, which both finished the regular season with 6-6 records.
Wells noted that Utah State played New Mexico State every year when he played in Logan between 1993 and 1996.
In fact, the history goes back longer.
This will be New Mexico State’s first bowl appearance since the Sun Bowl in 1960 — when NMSU beat Utah State 20-13.
When the day started, Wells said he was confident that his team would be extended a bowl bid.
That level of optimism waned as the day progressed and the hours wore on.
“It was about two hours of drama played out on Twitter, phone calls and text messages,” Wells said. “Yeah, it was stressful — quite a bit.
“At one point, my gut really hurt for our players,” he added. “The thought of me even calling a team meeting tonight and telling them we’re done — it was hard to fathom.”
Having played New Mexico in a Mountain West conference game earlier in the season, Wells’ crew got to see New Mexico State on tape against the Lobos.
More of that to come for these Aggies, but for now a quick celebration.
“When you get the call you’re in, it’s an extreme amount of joy and relief,” Wells said. “I’m excited for our players to go play another game, because they deserve it.”