Since their 1997 Humanitarian Bowl loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats, the only bowls you’d hear about in Logan were the ones that kids filled with Lucky Charms. The Utah State University Aggies were recognized annually as one of the worst teams in division one football. After enduring poor head coaches for a decade, a new group of skilled head coaches and promising recruits were expected to revive the program in 2009.
The 2011 season was filled with high expectations that escalated after an opening loss to the defending national champion Auburn Tigers. The Aggies gave the game away after being up by 10 points with 2 minutes to go. The Aggies continued to choke against their opponents and the pressure mounted. They lost the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel to BYU on a last minute drive by former USU quarterback and Logan High School hero Riley Nelson.
The Aggies were 2-5 and nearing another season of ineligibility. Future Seattle Seahawk defender Bobby Wagner wasn’t enough; the true freshman phenom Chuckie Keeton wasn’t enough. On a dark November night in Honolulu Hawaii, USU would have to turn to a second string player to turn the program around.
Chuckie Keeton was injured by a Hawaii defender right before the end of the first half and Utah State was down 28-0. Coach Gary Andersen maintained his motto: Players win games. He turned to second string quarterback Adam Kennedy to start the comeback. Adam turned the team around and the Aggies scored five straight touchdowns to win the game 35-28. Four consecutive wins followed and the Aggies qualified for their first bowl game in 14 years. Multiple rivalry wins, conference title games, and bowl wins followed.
Utah State has now come back to earth with a few average seasons. They have a new head coach in former Aggie quarterback Matt Wells. Many of their star players are in the NFL now and their team is left to young players. There will be many turning points to come. Little mistakes could lead to more losing seasons but it will take more unknown players between the lines to propel the Aggies back into the conference title conversation. The question is now this: Who’s got next?