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Monroe tries to copy ’93 Aggies, move past bad start

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F-I-D-O: Forget It and Drive On.

First-year University of La.-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie uses that motto with his team, the same as he did 10 years ago when he coached the Utah State Aggies.

His team now is a lot like the 1993 Aggies.

The Indians are 0-4 heading into Saturday's Sun Belt Conference opener with Utah State, and the Utah State team of 1993 started the year 1-5.

"(FIDO) is what we expect our players to do, and that's a great attitude or a great philosophy for life," Weatherbie said. "You can't dwell on something that took place a minute ago, or an hour ago, or yesterday. You have to move on to the next day, or the next play, so to speak."

With that, Weatherbie concentrates on the future, and uses the '93 Aggies as an example.

Despite the slow start, the Aggies went on to win the Big West Conference title and earn a berth in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl. They went on to beat Ball State, 42-33, for the school's one and only bowl victory.

"I've talked to our ULM team about that team and what that team did is they bought into FIDO, they bought in persevering, they bought into that they were close to being a good football team."

Weatherbie believes his team this year has the same kind of character.

"They (1993) were a team that had lost some close football games, just like we have," he said. "They just knew if we kept fighting we would be successful."

Weatherbie is hoping for the same result this year.

"I believe that this football team is ready to explode," Weatherbie said. "They (Utah State) have had an extra week to prepare for us, so I'm sure we'll see a few new wrinkles here and there and we'll have to adjust very quickly and react to those and find a way to go out and win a football game."

It seems to be working.

"After Saturday night, everybody took it (the loss to Northwestern State) hard, but the next day everybody just totally forgot about it because that's what you've got to do," ULM punter Joel Stelly said. "A loss is a loss; you can't do anything about that. Those games don't matter. What matters is what's coming up this weekend."

The Indians and Aggies have had similar schedules the first month of the season.

The Indians lost to No. 14 LSU, Stephen F. Austin (a team Southern Utah University beat 22-21 earlier in the year), Mississippi and Northwestern State.

The Aggies lost to Utah, then-No. 24 Nebraska and then-No. 16 Arizona State.

"We're getting ready for our best effort of the year," Utah State head coach Mick Dennehy said. "We know recordwise, we're both struggling to find a win. It should be a very entertaining game."

In their first-ever meeting last year, the Indians beat Utah State 51-48 in double overtime.

ULM will start Steven Jyles at quarterback despite having an injured throwing hand. He burned the Aggies for 470 passing yards and four TDs last season.

Tailback Kevin Payne leads the conference with 368 rushing yards, while receivers Floyd Smith and Mack Vincent are No. 2 and No. 3 in receiving yards with 261 and 242 yards, respectively.

The game kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Romney Stadium.

DOWNPLAYING IS RETURN: Weatherbie is making his first coaching return to Logan since jumping ship to Navy after the 1994 season. He went 15-19 in four years with the Aggies.

"For me to be going back to where I was a coach is not that big of a deal, I don't play a snap," he said. "The players, I think, are excited about the opportunity. They know it's conference and the road to the New Orleans Bowl goes through Logan and we've got to get there and find a way to win this football game, whatever it takes."

CONFERENCE GAMES: Beginning with Utah State, the Indians will play four consecutive conference games. Utah State, after ULM, will play New Mexico and Wyoming before returning to conference play Oct. 18 at North Texas.

AT DIV. I-AA: Before moving up to Division I-A, the Indians made the Division I-AA playoffs in 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1993. In 1987 the Indians won the national championship.

Since moving up the Indians are 31-70.

TOUGH SCHEDULE: According to the Sun Belt Conference officials, La.-Monroe has played the second toughest schedule in the nation. Who's played the hardest? North Texas, also of the Sun Belt. Seven of the eight Sun Belt Conference teams are ranked in the top 41 in toughest schedules played. Middle Tennessee is tied for sixth, while Utah State and La.-Lafayette are tied for 18th. New Mexico State is 27th and Idaho is 33rd.

AIRING IT OUT: With its 470 yards passing last year, the Indians are the latest team to throw for more than 300 yards against the Aggies. In the six games since, Arizona State threw for the most yards, with 277, two weeks ago against the Aggies. Utah State is averaging just 168.2 yards per game passing since playing the Indians.

La.-Monroe (0-4) at Utah State (0-3)

Romney Stadium

6 p.m., Saturday

TV: None

Radio: 610 AM (Logan) 860 AM (SLC)

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com