Facebook Twitter

Aggies now want to win Big West title outright

SHARE Aggies now want to win Big West title outright

Still reveling in the title-clinching, bowl-qualifying 38-19 victory over Nevada Saturday in Reno, the Utah State football team is trying to keep its feet on the ground before making Humanitarian Bowl preparations.

You see, the Aggies still have a regular-season game to play Saturday in Denton, Texas, against North Texas.The game is basically meaningless in that it won't affect the Aggies' bowl trip or conference title. However, if the Aggies (4-0, 6-4 overall) want an outright title, something no previous Aggie team has accomplished, they'll have to win to avoid a tie with Nevada (each of the Aggies' previous seven championships dating back to 1946 have been shared).

"We've had a roller-coaster year, but we've won four in a row and we're going upwards," said linebacker Tony D'Amato, the defensive star of Saturday's victory. "We want to keep the momentum going into the bowl game. We're not going to take North Texas any lighter than we did Nevada."

North Texas is just 1-3 in Big West play and coming off a disappointing nonleague loss to Army Saturday. The Aggies will be heavy favorites to defeat a team that was beaten by Nevada 65-10 earlier this year.

One of the big keys to Saturday's win was how prepared the Aggies were. They had an extra week to get ready and took advantage of it.

"We were better prepared, without a doubt," said USU coach John L. Smith. "We had four extra days and that was an advantage for us."

D'Amato said that by Wednesday the Aggie coaches told the players "this is the most prepared you've been all year. Now all you've got to do is go out and execute the game plan."

The two things Smith emphasized before the game were to limit turnovers and to put pressure on Nevada quarterback John Dutton. The Aggies accomplished both goals.

They only had one turnover, an interception of a Matt Sauk pass. But Smith said that one was as good as a punt since it was a long pass on third down that was picked off at midfield and the Wolf Pack didn't convert. As for pressure, the Aggie defense came up with eight sacks on Dutton and kept him off-balance all day.

After the North Texas game this week, the Aggies will take some time off before making serious preparations for the inaugural Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 29 in Boise.

The opponent won't be chosen for at least a week, but possible opponents include Oregon, Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming, BYU, Utah, Cincinnati and Tulane.

Oregon would seem to be at the top of the list, but the Ducks must defeat Oregon State this week to get to be bowl-eligible with six wins. Air Force, with a fine 10-2 mark, would have to be next on the list. Colorado State would have to lose to San Diego State this week, and New Mexico would have to lose to Tulsa - otherwise the Rams and Lobos are ticketed for the WAC championship game. Anyway, both have already played, and beaten, the Aggies this year.

The Humanitarian Bowl would love to get BYU up to Boise, but if they lose to Utah, the bowl committee may have to choose between a pair of 6-5 teams, both of which have already played the Aggies this year.

AGNOTES: A crowd of around 200 waited in the cold at Romney Stadium for the Aggies to return Saturday night.. . . Talk about no respect. Three times in the front page article in the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Aggies were referred to as "Utah" . . . The Aggies' last bowl appearance came in 1993 when they defeated Ball State in the Las Vegas Bowl under coach Charlie Weatherbie.