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USU TAKES ON SURPRISING N.M. STATE

Utah State has been The Cure for three straight ailing opponents.

But what's this?When 0-3 Utah State begins Big West Conference play today at 1 p.m. at Romney Stadium, the opponent won't be downtrodden (at least not currently). It will be prosperous, 3-0 - three-and-oh! - New Mexico State, a team that previously was delirious with anything more than a win a year but is off to a dream-season start after Sports Illustrated chose the NMAggies as the nation's worst football team.

Can the USAggies wake them up? Force a fourth straight season turnaround for somebody else? Accomplish a reversal of their own fortune?

Charlie Weatherbie thinks so. He always thinks positive. "The kids will be ready for New Mexico State. They'll be excited about a conference game - the first step in our goals," he says.

Quarterback Anthony Calvillo (438 yards passing) and running back Abu Wilson (90 yards at Baylor) make their debuts as starters today, and if they can carry the kind of numbers they had as backups into the starting roles, it could give USU some advantage. Two other changes: Aubrey Thompson starts at tight end and freshman Matt Hauk takes left defensive tackle for Mark Johnson, who reported a knee injury Tuesday and is to have an arthroscopic exam this weekend.

This game pits strength against strength: New Mexico State ranks 13th in the NCAA in total offense while defense, according to Weatherbie, is Utah State's forte though it ranks last in the league; NMS returner Fred Montgomery ranks No. 2 in the NCAA while USU's Sean Jones has the leg to put kickoffs into the end zone.

The game also pits a weakness vs. a weakness: Utah State is sixth in the league in total offense, fifth in passing and last in scoring, but NMS's pass defense ranks a notch above last (USU).

"Their concept on defense," says Weatherbie, "is bend, bend, but don't break." USU is plagued by turnovers (nine interceptions, four lost fumbles).

NOTE - On this date, Sept. 26, USU handed NMS its worst beating ever, 76-0, in 1964.