Not to dredge up the past or anything, but that was what the Utah State Aggies dealt with during the 2022 season. Twenty-seven injuries, most to key rotation players, many of the season-ending variety.
There were plenty of things that went wrong last season for the Aggies, but injuries especially contributed to what ended up being a mediocre season for Utah State.
“We had (true) freshmen, redshirt freshmen and walk-on guys on the field pretty much the entire second half and definitely fourth quarter. And still were able to manage playing good ball.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson on game against Idaho State
Fast forward to 2023 and the serious injury bug has largely avoided the Aggies through the first two weeks of the season, with the lone exception being a season-ending knee injury for linebacker Max Alford.
There have been plenty of bumps and bruises, though, starting in fall camp and carrying into the season, ailments that have limited multiple projected starters from playing much, if at all.
Players like defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka and tight ends Josh Sterzer and Broc Lane, to name a few.
With a game against Air Force Friday night, in Colorado Springs, the Aggies are surprisingly healthy, though.
In fact, head coach Blake Anderson described his team as being in “great shape,” entering what is an always physically brutal matchup against the triple-option-running Falcons.
“Bumps and bruises mainly,” Anderson said. “Obviously everybody knows Max (Alford) is out for the year, but Hale and Brock did great (against Idaho State). Had no soreness, no issues.”
Both Motu’apuaka and Lane made their season debuts against Idaho State, and were limited in the number of reps they got as a precautionary measure.
Motu’apuaka — the Aggies’ leader along the defensive line — especially.
“We limited them both, took their pads off at halftime,” Anderson said. “That was purposeful because I know Hale, if I leave his pads on I would’ve looked out on the field and he’d be on the field anyway. So we literally hid his pads and helmet from him at halftime to make sure that he didn’t go over his pitch count.”
The Aggies’ blowout 78-28 win over Idaho State was a boon on the injury front, enabling Anderson and company to play freshmen, walk-ons and others, while resting upperclassmen and avoiding serious injuries in the process.
“We had (true) freshmen, redshirt freshmen and walk-on guys on the field pretty much the entire second half and definitely fourth quarter,” Anderson said. “And still were able to manage playing good ball. Those are residual reps you don’t typically get during the middle of the season. A lot of guys touched the ball for the first time, caught the ball for first time, made a tackle, you name it. That (builds) confidence and are reps that you can draw from.
“You never know what is going to happen. Last year we have 27 injuries during the season. The year before (2021) only five. Completely different environments in terms of how many guys had to be plugged in. I hope we can stay healthy. So far we’ve been really fortunate but it is a long season. Some of those reps may come in real handy late in the year if we start having an injury issue.”
There are a few players that could be limited against Air Force, though.
Placekicker William Testa isn’t in great shape. “He got beat up,” Anderson said.
Additionally, sophomore running back Robert Briggs, fresh off the first 100-yard game of his career, is questionable.
“We will see how he does over the course of the week,” Anderson said. “Otherwise, we’re in great shape and came out, I think, really good.”