Utah State went to intermission Saturday having made a month's worth of mistakes in the first half, trailing North Texas 13-7 and lucky to be that close. But there wasn't a hint of panic.
"It's a total difference from last year," says QB Patrick Mullins. "Last year, we'd be down, we wouldn't come out at the end and win it. This year, we believe we're going to win it. Every time we go into halftime, everyone's talking, `This is our game. They can't beat us at our place.' It's just a team attitude we have," said Mullins.USU did come back to win 21-13, though it was far from a brilliant second half.
"We underestimated these guys a lot," said WR Nakia Jenkins, who had eight catches for 140 yards and one TD.
It was, however, the Ags' fourth straight win, leaving them 4-0 in Big West Conference play (6-4 overall) with at least a co-championship already clinched. They are the only unbeaten team, but they must remain unbeaten to advance to the Dec. 19 Las Vegas Bowl. Because of the tiebreaker system, Nevada (3-1, 6-3) goes bowling if it wins the finale for both teams Saturday in Romney Stadium.
"We've got to do everything right if we want to go to Vegas," says LB David Gill.
Mullins expects USU to be ready at the get-go against the defending conference-champion Wolf Pack from Reno. "They came in our place last year and beat us by five points. We could have gone to the Las Vegas Bowl if we'd beaten these guys. We remember that. This year, I think it will be a little different story," Mullins says.
USU's defense held UNT 45 yards under its total-offense average, made the Eagles punt 11 times by holding their third-down conversions to 1-for-15 and allowed only 11 first downs (two by penalty). The defense was without DT Ben Crosland, its top sackman with 6.5, who sprained an ankle early in the game, tried to return and couldn't.