by Daniel Olsen
For the first time since “Crank That” by Soulja Boy was trending, Utah State lost to UNLV 34-24. With the loss in the conference opener, USU now falls to 1-3 on the season while the Rebels move up to 3-1.
Mental Health Awareness Week
Utah State Coach Blake Anderson shared his experience earlier this week with losing his son to suicide. Football not only has taught his team to deal with mental health on the field, but in life off it as well.
“You can only control so much and you’ve got to respond to adversity every day,” Coach Anderson said. “Whether a call didn’t go your way, a ball didn’t bounce your way, or you get injured, you name it. Football prepares you for life more than anything I know of except for maybe the military. We are learning right now how to carry ourselves when people aren’t happy inside or outside this building. We are leaning on Christ and on each other. That’s a lot easier to say than to do for 17-19 year old boys.”
Several other players shared their stories on their own journeys with mental health. Long snapper Jacob Garcia, Brian Cobbs, Stephen Kotsanlee and others shared their inspirational messages on social media.
Mistakes cost USU in loss
Perhaps the most head-scratching mistake for the Aggies came on a punting situation at their own five yard line. Before kicking the ball away, Kotsanlee was flagged because his knee hit the ground. Then, the Aggies were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play which moved UNLV half the distance to the goal. With that gift, UNLV took advantage and went up 14-7 near the end of the first quarter.
There were other plays throughout the game that squashed any momentum the Aggies tried to sustain. They converted on a fake punt pass in the second half that seemed to redeem Kotsanlee for the first half mistake. However, Bonner threw an interception just moments later on the same drive.
“We just need to execute better,” USU wide receiver Terrell Vaughn said. “Unfortunately we didn’t do that.”
USU committed six turnovers while forcing zero on the UNLV side. They also were called for 93 yards of penalties.
Rushing Defense Improves Significantly
While there were many frustrating mistakes for the offense in the loss, the defense showed up in one key area that could help them going forward. They held UNLV, normally a stellar running team, to just 103 rushing yards. In contrast, Weber had 199 rushing yards and Alabama had 278. The Aggies will be competitive if they keep up this same defensive intensity.
The USU football team held a players only meeting during the bye week that helped not only their defense, but their entire team improve.
“The players only meeting was a good step for where we want to go,” defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka said. “Personally I feel like our team played better than we did two weeks ago. If we had played this way back then, it would have been a different result.”
USU will travel to Provo to play on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. MT on ESPN. They will play BYU in their 91st meeting in rivalry history. Future matchups between USU and BYU have been cancelled due to BYU’s Big 12 status beginning in 2023.
Featured image via Garrett Graf/USU Athletics