by Daniel Olsen
With the 55-0 loss that USU suffered at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide, this might seem like a footnote on another championship campaign in Tuscaloosa. While that might be true on a national scale, there is a silver lining that the Aggies can take from this game. It’s time to look at three things that were learned from this matchup.
1. Rest is important
With the Aggies down 24-0 early in the second quarter, Coach Blake Anderson decided to rest starting quarterback Logan Bonner. While the tweak he suffered in his leg wasn’t one that he couldn’t play through, the game was already out of reach and rest was the right call in this situation. Cooper Legas and Levi Williams, backup Utah State quarterbacks, also had some time and were able to make a few completions on the stingy Alabama defense.
2. There were bright spots
While it’s tough to find positive narratives in the first shutout in the Aggies have suffered in 15 years, there were some positives that they can draw from. One was freshman Ike Larsen. This is the second game in which he has recorded an interception. His interception to cement the win over the UConn Huskies last week was a happy one. While the result in this game wasn’t as happy, it’s still a play he can add to his highlight reel.
While the beginning minutes were misleading, it was positive that the Aggies completed a pass on their first play of the game. While that drive failed, they limited an electric Alabama defense to just a field goal on their first drive. It wasn’t pretty after that, but it was clear the Aggies at least started with the intent to win this game.
The Aggies still have the rest of the season within their control. The goal of defending their Mountain West title is still in sight. Boise State proved by their double-digit loss to a lesser P5 team in Oregon State that they have just as many questions of their own to answer as the Aggies.
3. The team needs to bounce back
Weber State won’t come down without a fight. The Aggies can’t hang their heads. They have to be ready for one of the top 25 FCS programs in the nation. The Wildcats had a convincing win of their own as they defeated Western Oregon 41 to 5. They have a stout defense that has given FBS teams some trouble in the recent past.
While the Wildcats haven’t defeated an opponent from the Mountain West Conference since its inception in 1999, they came close a few years ago. They only lost by one possession to San Diego State and Nevada in 2019. They have only defeated the Utah State Aggies on one occasion back in 1978, they have won by double digits in all of their matchups since then.
Conclusion: This went as scripted
This was never going to be a year that the Aggies could run the table with Alabama on the schedule. While the conference slate is favorable, this game is more formidable than their matchup with Washington State a year ago. Next year, they’ll face an Iowa team that needed two safeties and a field goal in their win over FCS for South Dakota State. While that defense will be a test, the Aggies have the worst of their losses behind them. While the nearly two million dollars from this game is favorable, the Aggies will hopefully find more winnable money games in the future.
Featured image courtesy Vasha Hunt, AP