Logan • It took most of the season for Utah State coach Matt Wells to find his quarterback of the present.
Heading into this week’s bowl game, however, it seems safe to say the Aggies have their quarterback of the future. So while everyone around the Utah State football team is focused on a bowl win over New Mexico State, a victory that would give them a winning record this season, reaching this point should pay dividends for the Aggies in 2018.
“From that standpoint, you could argue it’s almost half a spring ball,” Wells said recently. “It’s 15 practices in spring ball.”
And quarterback Jordan Love is looking to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Getting a bowl game, getting those extra practices helps with the young guys and getting us ready for next year,” Love said after one of the Aggies’ practices. “Just the more and more you practice, the more confident we get in each other and running our plays. The more reps we get, the better we’ll be.”
Love finished his redshirt freshman year with more than 1,300 yards passing and eight touchdowns. Those numbers might have surprised Wells at the start of the season.
Senior quarterback Kent Myers was “absolutely ahead” of Love after fall camp, Wells said. But the Aggies’ blowout loss at Wake Forest back in September opened the door for Love to get some extended time on the field. Love slowly worked his way into a starting job.
“When I started getting in the game, getting those early reps in the second quarter, seeing how it is, that’s when I started feeling good,” Love said.
Utah State went with Love as its full-time starter in October, and the freshman earned Mountain West Player of the Week honors for his performance in his first start.
Myers only has seen spot duty since Love’s breakout game at UNLV, though Wells credited the senior for his part in Love’s progress.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kent Myers — knowing because I personally have gone through a situation similar,” said Wells, a former Utah State quarterback. “He’s a very good player. He handled it like a pro, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s been a great teammate to Jordan in a situation that is tough.”
The Aggies now head into their Arizona Bowl matchup with New Mexico State looking to bounce back from a disappointing regular-season finale against Air Force. Regardless of the outcome, the past month has been an important one for a program trying to rebuild. The Aggies have been able to get extra reps not only for Love but for youngsters such as freshmen linebackers Maika Magalei and David Woodward and newcomers like TCU transfer Tipa Galeai and Fua Leilua.
“I think it’s absolutely critical for your program’s development … going to bowl games because they help your development,” Wells said. “… They’re not reading a card on scout team anymore, they’re going. If we’re not in a bowl game, they’re not getting those reps. They just went from looking at cards and being scout team players to spring ball at the end of February. They’re in development, and I think that’s critical. They will be much better at the beginning of spring practice because of the benefit of a bowl game.”
Love knows this, too.
The freshman has enjoyed the bags of swag, shoes and T-shirts and sweat suits as he has prepared for Friday’s game. He’d like to cap his first season with a win. More importantly, though, Love has a bigger goal for his future.
“My hope is always to get a Mountain West championship,” he said.
Position • Quarterback
Year • Redshirt freshman
Hometown • Bakersfield, Calif.
Height • 6 foot 3
Weight • 215 pounds
2017 stats • 1,377 yards passing, eight touchdowns, six interceptions