LOGAN — To say Utah State merely celebrated its big 45-20 win over in-state rival BYU would be an understatement.
"It’s an in-state rivalry and I have never shied away from those comments. That’s a big deal to those players, to this school and to our alumni. I guess I fit in almost every one of those categories, it’s a big deal to me," said head coach Matt Wells in his weekly press conference. "It’s one game, one trophy and a heck of a lot of pride. The only thing we have right now is the pride and we have the trophy for another year."
"We came out and executed how we wanted to right from the start," said wide receiver Jalen Greene. "I’m 1-0 against BYU. I got to see how excited, especially Quin (Ficklin), everybody was. He was super excited. I got to see how excited the guys were. Even the coaches. The coaches were happy. Coach Wells was saying it the whole week. There was a lot of pride with that game. It was a huge win."
However, Utah State knows how important it is to turn its attention back to Mountain West play as UNLV comes to Logan on Saturday.
"Getting back in the Mountain West is what gets our attention really quickly," said Wells. "The biggest thing for us this week is what we do and how we do it. The focus will be on us, as well as our opponent because again, we need to sharpen our focus, increase the urgency of our preparation because we are in Mountain West play. UNLV absolutely has our attention and we respect each and every opponent that we play. We fear no one, but they’re a dangerous football team."
The Rebels will be without starting quarterback Armani Rogers after he sustained a toe injury against Arkansas State on Sept. 22. That's a big loss for UNLV as the sophomore already had 488 yards rushing along with six touchdowns on the ground plus another six scores through the air.
Utah State nose guard Christopher 'Unga even expressed some sympathy for the Rebels. "I don’t know exactly what they’re going through, but if we lost Jordan Love … that’s all I’m going to say."
But that doesn't mean that the Aggies are taking UNLV lightly.
"The biggest thing is they’ll get those guys going. That’s a really good coaching staff," said Wells. "UNLV is a good team and I’m sure Saturday didn’t go as well as they wanted it to. I promise you, they’ll come in here and we’ll be ready. They’ll be a good team and have energy and effort, and they’ll play good on Saturday."
And while Utah State beat the Rebels 52-28 last season, 'Unga and the Aggies haven't forgotten about senior running back Lexington Thomas. Thomas rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns when Utah State last visited Las Vegas. "It’s a new year. We’re ready to show him that it’s not the same team that he played against last year," 'Unga said.
And with this being homecoming week for Utah State, Coach Wells expects a big crowd in Logan.
"Our guys are going to be excited to play back in the Mountain West and that’s our big focus at home, and it’s homecoming. Hopefully, it’s a sold-out crowd. I know The HURD will show up and I hope everybody else does, too. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to create the best home-field advantage in the Mountain West here at Maverik Stadium," Wells said. "Saturday will be a big crowd and I know that there is a lot of Aggie brotherhood coming back. The 1978 team is coming back, and I had the chance to play on the 1993 team that made it to the bowl game in Vegas. There are a lot of guys that have played here before us that are coming back. We’ll certainly want to play well in front of them, I promise you that. It will be a big deal for our players. I’m hopeful that we’ll have a great crowd and a loud crowd, and we’ll be able to feed off of that energy in the stadium."