by Daniel Olsen |
Wins against Power 5 teams don’t come very often for the Utah State Aggies. Yes, they’ve come close. They have almost beaten several good teams. Had they recovered an onside kick, they would have been the first Group of 5 team to defeat a defending national championship team in the Auburn Tigers in their opening game. They also had close losses to Wisconsin, USC and Michigan State in the last decade. These close calls have been too many to count. The clock is striking midnight before the Aggies can seal the deal. This Cinderella story is still waiting to be written. Little did they know, one player on an opposing team would begin his own love story on national television almost seven years after losing to the Aggies.
There have been a few wins over Power 5 teams but they have not usually been good ones. In the last decade the Aggies did beat a Utes team that would finish with a 5-7 record in just their second year in the PAC-12. Two years later, they would welcome the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to Logan. It was their first matchup in program history.
The Aggies came out on the winning end in a 36-24 victory. They would have a double digit win season to become the winningest class in program history. They started the season with a rough 38-7 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. They rebounded with a 40-20 win over the Idaho State Bengals. They went into the game vs Wake Forest with plenty of questions to answer.
The Aggies were coming off a 2013 season that resulted in a Mountain Division title and Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois. They had lost the Mountain West championship to Fresno State but the future was still bright. Chuckie Keeton was coming off a junior campaign that resulted in a season ending injury.
The Demon Deacons were coming off a disappointing 4-8 season the year before. They began the 2014 campaign with the second loss to Louisiana-Monroe in as many years. That was not a good loss by any means as it was to a lower-tier Sun Belt team. They rebounded with a decent 23-7 win over an FCS team in Gardner-Webb.
This was the first year for Wake Forest under head coach Dave Clawson and the second year for USU head coach Matt Wells. They were led by true freshman John Wolford under center. The Demon Deacons were the first team from the Tar Heel State to schedule a series with the Aggies. This is likely due to the long distance between the two schools.
The game started sloppy with the first score for each team coming off a pick six. The Aggies would then score 19 unanswered points to take a 26-7 lead into halftime. At that point the Aggies seemed confident except for the fact that Keeton, their leader, was once again injured.
The third quarter was a bit of a scare as the Demon Deacons pulled within one possession to make the score 29-21. However, Darrell Garretson would record his first touchdown of the 2014 season with a five yard pass to Wyatt Houston. Wake Forest would score one more field goal to end the third quarter and that would be the final points scored of the game in a double digit Aggie win. The Aggies would win 36-24 and secure their second game over a P5 opponent in three seasons.
How did Matt James do?
At this moment Aggie nation (and probably Bachelor nation) are probably screaming at me to let them know how the game went for the wide receiver would go on to be the star of The Bachelor in the new 2021 season. While 28-year-old James is now working for an investment firm, he was a talented college athlete in his senior season just seven years ago. He did not get nearly as many touches his first three seasons for the Demon Deacons. He caught just eight passes for 57 yards in his first three seasons in Winston-Salem.
James would tally 401 yards in his senior year for the black and gold. He was targeted multiple times and came away with three catches for 53 yards in Logan, Utah. While he did have a season high 17.7 yards per reception, his total yardage was the third best in the seven games in which he caught a pass. He had 60 receiving yards against Gardner-Webb in the game prior and 87 yards in the season finale vs Duke.
For more crossover content on USU and The Bachelor, be sure to download our #BigBluesday episode of The Hive Sports podcast:
Grading the Overall Performance of James:
While James would not come anything close to being an NFL receiver, he was still one of the more solid receivers on the team in his senior year. He brought good size at 6’5” his experience helped his team have a chance to win. While he didn’t score any touchdowns in this game or ironically his whole career at Wake Forest, he still caught some impressive longer passes that put his team in position to score. Let’s take a look at his catches.
First catch: It came with 5:49 left in the first quarter with his team on 3rd down with 11 yards to go. This was critical as the Demon Deacons were starting from their own three yard line due to an impressive punt from USU. His 13 yard catch kept the drive alive until Zach Vigil ultimately intercepted a pass and returned it for a pick six. It is funny to me that a stellar defensive player like Vigil caught more passing touchdowns from the Wake Forest quarterback than James did.
Second catch: This was his most impressive of the game. It was once again on 3rd and 11 with 8:26 left in the second quarter. He caught a 36 yard dart to get the Wake Forest into USU territory. Once again though, the Wake Forest quarterback found a way to help the hosting Aggies score. This time, it was the other Vigil brother (Nick) wreaking havoc. He sacked Wolford for an eight yard loss. The ball broke free and Devin Centers scooped and scored to give the Aggies a 19 to 7 lead. The extra point was blocked so it resulted in an odd score.
Third catch: While this catch was for only four yards, it was the only catch James had that resulted in a drive that ended in a score for his team. It came on 1st and 10 and put his team in second and manageable. Once again Wake Forest was in Utah State territory and this time they would score four plays later on a ten yard touchdown pass to teammate E.J Scott. At this point it was just a one possession score as the Aggies led 29-21.
Ultimately, James had the third most receiving yards. Cam Serigne and Scott finished with 91 and 62 yards respectively. He was targeted nine times but a few of those incompletions were broken up by Vigil (Zach) and Ricky Ali’ifua. Others were either thrown poorly or flat out dropped by James.
James had the intangibles to be a great receiver but it just didn’t work out. His production was average in the ACC but I think he would be rated at least a solid seven out of ten on a Mountain West team like the Aggies that maybe has one receiver a year with that kind of size. Judging by the reactions of many women on the opening episode of The Bachelor this season, he is a ten as a single prospect. He had the misfortune of catching passes by a true freshman with a first year head coach calling the plays.
What could have been?
That struggling freshman quarterback will possibly be starting for the Rams in a Wild Card playoff game Sunday vs the Seahawks. Had the roles been reversed, maybe James would be in the NFL and Wolford would be a reality TV star. On the bright side, James hopefully won’t be more at risk for injury in The Bachelor season than Wolford might be at the end of the NFL season. We will see though.
There have been injuries in the past but since he has never had to survive a season of drama like The Bachelorette last season (which resulted in a few injuries in a UFC style ring) James has been relatively unscathed since his football career ended in 2014. There might be a few woman that get in cat fights for his love though!
While Wake Forest would get the last laugh in the matchups against the Aggies in 2017 and 2019 in Winston-Salem, USU can proudly proclaim that they defeated a team with a future reality TV star on it.
You can vote here on our Twitter poll on whether you think Matt James will ultimately find love or whether he will have the same ending that he did to the Aggies.
Photo © Chris Nicoll – USA TODAY Sports