Utah State (1-3) at UConn (0-4)
Kickoff: Saturday, 10 a.m. MDT.
Venue: Pratt & Whitney Stadium, East Hartford, Connecticut.
TV: CBS Sports Network.
Radio: Aggie Sports Network.
Series: Utah State and UConn are meeting for only the third time. The Aggies are 2-0 against the Huskies, with wins in 2001 and 2022.
Weather: Partly cloudy with little chance of precipitation, 11 mph winds out of northeast and temperatures in the mid-60s at kickoff.
For Utah State: The Aggies are 1-3 after back-to-back losses to Air Force and James Madison. The Aggies have struggled mightily in first quarters this season, digging early holes that have proven too much to overcome.
For UConn: The Huskies are winless to start the season, with losses to NC State, Georgia State, FIU and Duke. The positive momentum from Year 1 of the Jim Mora Jr. era appears to have worn off and injuries have become an issue.
What to watch for
After four games, there really is only one thing to watch for Utah State going forward. At least one major thing.
That is first quarter performance.
In each of its four games this year, Utah State has struggled mightily in the first quarter, trailing by 14 points or more in all three losses.
Lack of focus, lack of energy, lack of seriousness, lack of execution — whatever it is, the Aggies haven’t been ready to play at the start of games and it has cost them dearly in losses to Iowa, Air Force and James Madison.
All three of those teams are fringe top-25 teams right now, with a single loss between them, and the Aggies had a chance to win two of those games, plus UConn is a winless program in the middle of a long rebuild, but Utah State has proven now that it cannot afford to fall behind early.
If the Aggies have the lead after the first quarter Saturday, they will win the game. Trail and the odds are against them.
As for UConn, the Huskies have been dealt some serious injuries the last couple of weeks, including to their starting quarterback. Health is a major talking point at this point, as is effort.
In his weekly press conference, head coach Jim Mora Jr. emphasized that his team is still competing, despite six straight losses going back to last season. The rebuild of the program, he noted, is a long-term process and last year’s success may have given fans an inaccurate view of how quickly UConn will go from being one of the worst programs in all of college football to a respectable one.
If UConn is to be competitive against the Aggies, the Huskies will have to use their advantage in size and strength to overwhelm Utah State, and keep the Aggies offense off the field for as long as possible.
Terrell Vaughn, Utah State, wide receiver: Vaughn has been the Aggies’ chief and most productive playmaker thus far, racking up 38 receptions for 347 yards (just over nine yards per reception) and six touchdowns this season. He is tied for first in all of the FBS in receiving touchdowns, alongside Keon Coleman (Florida State), Jerjuan Newton (Toledo), Will Sheppard (Vanderbilt) and Roman Wilson (Michigan).
Vaughn also ranks second in the Mountain West and third in the nation in receptions (9.5 per game), fifth in the MW and 31st in the nation in total receiving yards, fifth in the MW and 72nd in the nation in all-purpose yards (101.3 yards per game), and seventh in the MW and 32nd in the nation in scoring (nine point per game). Simply put, if the Aggies offense is successful and moving the ball, Vaughn is involved.
“(They) are massive. Really, really big. They were when we saw them last time and talking to the guys at Duke, they said the same thing. Just a big, long physical football team. I think our quickness and speed will be an advantage, but size is going to be in their favor. ... We’re going to have to match their physicality early and use our speed and quickness to frustrate them. Try to minimize some of those mismatches. And hopefully play with tempo and speed and fatigue them.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson
“They they spread the field. Against JMU, they had 38 (points) and JMU has a pretty good defense. ... They take those extra wide splits, so they make you defend width and depth really well. That’s a challenge right there.” — UConn coach Jim Mora Jr.
Utah State: vs. Colorado State on Oct. 7.
UConn: at Rice on Oct. 7.
Utah State schedule
- Sept. 2 — Iowa 24, Utah State 14.
- Sept. 9 — Utah State 78, Idaho State 28.
- Sept. 16 — Air Force 39, Utah State 21.
- Sept. 23 — James Madison 45, Utah State 38.
- Sept. 30 — at UConn (10 a.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
- Oct. 7 — vs. Colorado State (6 p.m. MDT).
- Oct. 13 — vs. Fresno State (6 p.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
- Oct. 21 — at San Jose State (5 p.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
- Nov. 4 — at San Diego State (TBA).
- Nov. 11 — vs. Nevada (1 p.m. MST).
- Nov. 18 — vs. Boise State (5 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).
- Nov. 24 — at New Mexico (1:30 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).