Since 1983 Utah State has gone 0-6 against Cal-State Fullerton, the only Big West team the Aggies haven't beaten. That dismal record against the Titans obviously has Utah State coach Chuck Shelton concerned going into today's 1 p.m. contest at Romney Stadium.
On the other hand, Titan Coach Gene Murphy sees it a little differently."If I were Chuck Shelton, I would tell my players that they could and should win. The percentages are in their favor," said Murphy."
One thing that Shelton has definitely told his troops this week is that they are very much alive for the Big West Conference title and resulting California Bowl berth. Despite their 0-4 overall mark, the Ags are 0-0 in league play.
"It's certainly been a motivating factor this week," said Shelton. "You always figure you're going to win the league until you're out of it. If we played an independent schedule it would be harder to get up now."
In Fullerton, the Aggies will be facing a team that has shown offensive prowess in its 2-2-1 season. Two weeks ago the Titans tied San Diego State 41-41 and last week they jumped out to a 27-0 lead over UNLV before coasting to a 34-20 win.
"They're a good football team," said Shelton. "They've surprised some people with their ability to score a lot of points and make big plays."
Quarterback Dan Speltz has completed 68 percent of his passes and running back Mike Pringle, the leading all-purpose runner in the nation, has rushed for 590 yards with four straight 100-yard games. Rocky Palamara has caught 35 passes with 20 yards per reception.
On the other hand, the Aggie offense has looked anemic all season. Although Shelton didn't say he's been holding back, he said his offense will be more aggressive this week.
"We've expanded our offense quite a bit," he said. "We have many more plays. We're hoping our offense will break out this week. It depends on if our quarterback can play well."
The quarterback is Kirk Johnson, who has struggled all season, but made gradual improvement. Johnson has completed only 25 of 77 passes (32.5 percent) for 314 yards (78 per game). Backing up Johnson is Craig Sorensen, as Kevin White is still laid up with his lower back injury.
The top Aggie runners are tailbacks Brett Payne and Demetrius Brown, who have rushed for 157 and 115 yards, respectively, this year. Fullbacks Paul Trette and Todd Richardson have combined for only 13 yards on the season.
The Aggies offensive line will be slowed by the injuries to tackles Dan Hill and Mike Vivoli. Senior Steve Osborne has taken over at the left tackle position.
Defensively, the Aggies should be more healthy than they've been all season with Piliki Tauteoli working his way back into his outside linebacker position.
Shelton doesn't want to get into a scoring duel and says his team must slow down the Titans. "The defense has to play well and keep the scoring in perspective."