Utah State’s football team will be running on fumes Saturday when it pulls into Fort Collins, Colo., for its season finale against Colorado State.
Yet interim coach Frank Maile indicated at his weekly press conference he sees that as no reason to take his foot off the gas. He plans to drive the Aggies hard, until either they win or they sputter to a stop on the sideline.
“We’re going to play to win. So whatever that means,” Maile said. “If it’s trick plays, if it’s, you know, getting the best guys on the football field, if we’ve got to move guys from offense to defense and guys from defense to offense to put us in a situation to win, we play to win. Bottom line. And so I’m going to be aggressive with play calls.”
It may take all of that plus popping the clutch.
USU has been depleted this season, and not just because of COVID-19, though that put the Aggies at a disadvantage when several starters didn’t dress out for their opening two games against defending Mountain West Conference champion Boise State and San Diego State. A third loss later, the school dismissed head coach Gary Andersen. That was followed by the exit of four marquee players to the transfer portal and another for disciplinary reasons.
And this week comes amid the news that the Aggies have hired a new permanent coach, with Arkansas State announcing Thursday that Blake Anderson was leaving Jonesboro for Logan. USU, as of Friday afternoon, had made no official announcement.
The 1-5 Aggies were already expecting to be young and inexperienced, and they have become even moreso. Twenty-three Aggies started for the first time in their careers this season, the fifth most in the nation. In addition, 28 players made their debut for USU in 2020.
“A lot of the young players have been making plays, so that’s good to see,” said sophomore defensive lineman Hale Motu’apuaka. “I’m excited to see how the future will be. With all these young players coming back, but it’s been a good experience for them. We all needed this experience, to see how it is.”
On the surface, CSU doesn’t seem to be in any better shape experience-wise. The Rams are 1-3 under new head coach Steve Addazi and saw six players transfer into the program this season. They have just 18 seniors.
However, the Rams also return 38 letter winners. On offense, that includes quarterback Patrick O’Brien and most of his targets, such as tight end Trey McBride. Despite the shortened season, McBride has collected 560 receiving yards, the third-most in a single season for a tight end at CSU.
On defense, the Rams bring back nearly their entire secondary as well as graduate student Scott Patchen. The defensive end has almost single-handedly led CSU to be ranked No. 4 nationally in sacks with an average of 1.38 per game along with a 1.88 tackles-for-loss average.
Plus, that 1-3 record is deceiving. The Rams’ losses all came to teams that are currently second, fourth and fifth in the MW standings. And, they are 13-point favorites over USU.
But the race isn’t over until they wave the checkered flag. And tight end Carson Terrell, a tight end out of Lehi, said the Aggies have 21 reasons to see this thing all the way through the finish line. That’s how many USU players, like him, are seniors this season.
“Yeah, there’s been some adversity and it’s been kind of a weird season. Every week, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to play,” Terrell said. “With that being said, just going into this week, I think a lot of it is just for the seniors. …
“I think it’s really important to this team to just send them out with the win.”
At Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins, Colo.
Utah State football needs jump start as it heads into finale at Colorado State /p>