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Utah State makes it official, hires Blake Anderson as its new football coach

Aggies hire a coach whose Arkansas State teams produced prolific offensive attacks

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, file photo, Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson is pictured in the first half during an NCAA college football bowl game against Nevada, in Tucson, Ariz. Wendy Anderson, the wife of Arkansas State football coach Blake Anderson, died Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, after a two-year fight with breast cancer. She was 49. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

Rumors had been bouncing around for days that Blake Anderson would be the next Utah State football coach. On Saturday night, the Aggies made it official.

“On behalf of Aggie nation, I am thrilled to announce Blake Anderson as our new head football coach,” Aggies athletic director John Hartwell said in a statement. “I have watched his Arkansas State teams over the past seven years, first when I was at Troy and then here at USU, and I am excited for our fans to witness first-hand his high-octane offense and championship brand of football.”

Anderson, 51, got his first head coaching gig with Arkansas State in 2014. He has been with the Red Wolves since, compiling a 51-37 record. He also led the team to two Sun Belt Conference championships and six straight bowl games, of which they won two. This season, the Red Wolves finished 4-7.

Anderson will replace Gary Andersen, a defensive-minded coach who was dismissed three games into this season. Andersen was in his second year of his second stint with USU. He compiled a 26-24 record over his first four years, including a Mountain West Conference division title in his final season before leaving for Wisconsin in 2012, and a 7-9 record over the season-and-a-half second stint.

After an 0-3 start, the Aggies finished this season 1-5.

Hartwell had indicated he wanted to bring in someone who could bolster the Aggies’ offense, and their new coach seems to fit that bill.

Under Anderson, Arkansas State annually ranked as one of the top offensive teams in the nation. They were ranked No. 15 nationally this year in terms of total offense, with a 489 yards-per-game average, and they have led the Sun Belt in total offense for four of the coach’s seven seasons (2020, ’18, ’17 and ’14).

During Anderson’s time as head coach, the Red Wolves set 12 school records, all on offense. They included season marks for passing yards (4,106), touchdown passes (38), points scored (520), total touchdowns (69), total plays (1,024) and total yards of offense per game (494.8 average) and in a season (6,174).

“I am beyond excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead the Utah State football program,” Anderson said in a statement. “This is an unbelievable place with a great tradition and history of success, both on and off the field, that we look forward to building upon. I can’t wait to get started with the guys and I look forward to a packed Maverik Stadium next fall.”

USU’s announcement came Saturday evening, just about two hours before the Aggies had been scheduled to kick off against Colorado State in both teams’ season finale. The game was canceled Friday, however. It is believed to have been boycotted by USU players after they took issue with statements made by university president Noelle Crockett at a meeting with Hartwell and the team’s leadership council. According to a report by Brett McMurphy of Stadium.com, the athletes were advocating for the hire of interim coach Frank Maile, but Crockett said she had concerns about his “religious and cultural background.”

Maile is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints and Polynesian.

BLAKE ANDERSON BY THE NUMBERS

Anderson year-by-year record at Arkansas State.

2014: 7-6

2015: 9-4

2016: 8-5

2017: 7-5

2018: 8-5

2019: 8-5

2020: 4-7


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