Utah State football team faces difficult challenge against Air Force in final home game of 2020
Utah State quarterback Andrew Peasley (6) scrambles away from New Mexico defensive end Joey Noble (98) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP)
The 2020 season has been a rough one for the Utah State football team. As it draws to a close with just two games remaining, the Aggies have one more chance to show out in front of a Maverik Stadium crowd that will allow approximately 5,350 fans, which accounts for 22% of the venue’s capacity.
But the 1-4 Aggies will have to prevail over Air Force. And while the Falcons are only 2-2 overall (1-2 Mountain West) this season, they are still a tough nut to crack.
Air Force boasts the best rushing offense in the country
at 336.5 yards per game and sits third in the Mountain West Conference in total defense. The game represents another difficult challenge for Utah State, which just lost another starter in running back Jaylen Warren
after he entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.
The run game, on both sides of the ball, will be the focus for the Aggies against the Falcons, intern coach Frank Maile said Monday.
“If we can’t establish those two things on either side of the ball, it’s going to be a long football game,” Maile said.
Last year’s loss against Air Force left a bad taste in the mouths of Utah State’s players and coaches. Former coach Gary Andersen said at the time that the offense was “backed into a corner”
But Maile said the team has learned from last year’s game and improved between the ears.
“We’ve taken leaps forward from last year from where we’re at mentality-wise,” Maile said. “The biggest thing I tell them: ‘If you think you’re tough, this is the team you measure your toughness against.’ I love playing Air Force just for the mere fact that you can measure your physicality, your mentality just by playing these guys.”
The Aggies haven’t lacked in publicly displaying a positive attitude despite losing multiple starters and a head coach
this year, not to mention having some issues with COVID-19 infections and subsequent quarantines. But the Falcons have experienced some adversity as well.
Air Force has had 24 first-time starters in 2020, the most in the Mountain West and third most in the country. And two games have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns — one because of the Falcons, and the other because of Colorado State.
But Maile isn’t surprised that the Falcons are still one of the top teams in the country in several categories.
“The blueprint for those guys is really recruiting those types of kids,” Maile said. “That’s the culture of Air Force.”
Utah State is coming off its first win of the season, a well-rounded performance against New Mexico
. Quarterback Andrew Peasley said that after losing the first four, it was nice to get back that winning feeling with which he was familiar during his freshman year, when the team went 11-2.
“I think the win last Thursday really gave us confidence,” Peasley said. “I think the guys really liked that feeling of winning. So I think we want to get more.”
UTAH STATE VS. AIR FORCE
At Maverik Stadium, Logan
Kickoff » Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV » CBS Sports Network
Radio » 1280 AM/97.5 FM (Salt Lake City); 92.3 FM (Logan)
Records » USU 1-4; Air Force 2-2, 1-2
Series » Air Force leads, 5-3
Last meeting » Air Force 31, USU 7 (Oct. 26, 2019)
About USU » Aggies are last in total offense and total defense in the conference. … Savon Scarver averages the most yards on kick returns in the conference (29.9). … QB Andrew Peasley is averaging 10.1 yards per run. … USU has given up 219 yards on penalties.
About Air Force » Falcons are 1-2 against the Aggies in Logan. … Snapped a two-game losing streak with a 28-0 win over New Mexico. … Thanksgiving Day game against Colorado State was canceled due to COVID-19 in the Rams program. … RB Brad Roberts has averaged 140 rushing yards in two games.