How Aggies overcame long odds — and late deficits — to earn league title, bowl berth
Utah State finished the season a perfect 7-0 away from home, and could make it 8-0 with a victory over Oregon State in the LA Bowl Saturday
It was a double-digit win season for the Aggies and their first-year head coach Blake Anderson.
Utah State (10-3)
vs. Oregon State (7-5)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MST
The feat has been impressive to all who’ve watched the season unfold as the Aggies became just the fourth team in FBS history to go from one win to 10 wins in the following season. What makes it more impressive is just how many of those wins came away from Maverik Stadium.
The Aggies were a perfect 7-0 on the road for the first time in school history — and the only team in the nation to record seven wins away from home this season.
So how exactly did the Aggies shine so brightly on the road?
Anderson said part of the credit goes to his staff, which has helped the players prepare for the games, but that, ultimately, the road success came down to player leadership.
“You can have a really good team if the coaches lead them, but you’re going to have a great team if the players lead.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson
“You can have a really good team if the coaches lead them, but you’re going to have a great team if the players lead,” Anderson said.
“We had some guys in that locker room that really built a culture of accountability and discipline, which is right in line with our core beliefs and core values of being selfless, tough and accountable. That’s what you saw and I think that’s what allows you to be really good on the road in tough environments.”
Though undefeated away from home, the wins haven’t come easy. The first five required double-digit comebacks and late-game heroics.
The Aggies had a 78-24 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter of their seven road wins.
Players and coaches said throughout the season that the team taking its vigorous offseason conditioning program seriously is what allowed them to play well late in games, and that those late-game victories translated to enhanced confidence, which continued to grow as the season progressed.
What’s not clear is why that confidence didn’t fully translate at home as the Aggies finished 3-3 in Logan this season.
Quarterback Logan Bonner said his teammates — who felt as though they were the only ones in their own corner when the season started — are built to thrive in hostile road environments.
“I love home games as much as anybody, but I really love road games too. I like the environment, I like when it’s hostile and when it’s only us in the stadium fighting against everybody else.” — Utah State QB Logan Bonner
“I love home games as much as anybody, but I really love road games too,” Bonner said. “I like the environment, I like when it’s hostile and when it’s only us in the stadium fighting against everybody else.”
“I think this team has embraced that (mentality). We came into the year like that when (we were) picked to win three or four games this year, so we had the mentality that home or away it was just us against the world and we’ve carried that with us the whole year.”
Now Mountain West Conference champions, it’s safe to say that a lot more people are in the team’s corner now.
The Aggies know that, but will still look to carry what Bonner described as an “only us mentality” into what could be their eighth win away from home this Saturday against Oregon State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
While there may be fewer doubters now, senior linebacker Justin Rice said that the team wants to earn the respect of those doubters.
“We’re still an underdog in this game, even coming off a championship,” Rice said. “We love the fact that nobody respects us. … We’ve just been leaning on ourselves, knowing that we can really play with people and (Oregon State) is just going to have to come out and play the game to find out for themselves.”