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When it rains, it pours for Utah State Aggies

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Utah State Aggies and the Fresno State Bulldogs play without a crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions in Logan on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Utah State football team finally caught a break this week — the Aggies’ road game against Wyoming, scheduled for Thursday night, was canceled, thus sparing them what could have been another lopsided loss.

The game was canceled “due to an upward trend of COVID-19 cases within the Utah State football program,” according to a press release from the Mountain West Conference.

As if the Aggies needed anything else to go wrong this season.

For the record, that makes more than 60 college football games that have been canceled or postponed this season due to COVID-19; three have been canceled in the Mountain West.

It also means one more blow to an Aggies team that is reeling. Is there any team in the country that has had a worse run so far than USU? While everything has gone right for BYU, everything has gone wrong for USU. Both schools were 7-6 a year ago — and now BYU is 8-0 and ranked eighth in the national polls and USU is listing like the Titanic. BYU is winning by a landslide; USU is losing by a landslide.

The Aggies have played four games and lost all of them by a total combined score of 149-45 — or an average of 37-11.

It gets worse.

Head coach Gary Andersen, who resuscitated the program a decade ago and returned to the program amid much fanfare, was fired three games into the season.

Then the Aggies’ starting quarterback, Jason Shelley, who transferred to USU from Utah during the offseason and won the job in training camp, was dismissed from the team this week. Interim head coach Frank Maile said it was for “violation of team rules,” the tired old line that covers a multitude of athlete sins.

Shelley transferred to USU rather than play defense for the Utes. Now he’s playing no position anywhere. As a USU quarterback, he produced modest numbers, completing 51 of 99 passes for 420 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and no victories. Maybe he would have had more success as a safety, as the Utes believed.

Shelley’s replacement will be — well, no one is sure. Shelley’s backup this season has been sophomore Andrew Peasley, but, as more bad luck would have it, he tested positive for COVID-19 and did not dress for the last game. That meant Cooper Legas, a redshirt freshman from Orem, was going to start against Wyoming.

The Aggies’ remaining three games are against other struggling teams — New Mexico (0-3), Air Force (0-2) and Colorado State (1-2) — so maybe there’s hope for a win coming in.

The Aggies, ranked 127th in the nation in the widely respected Sagarin Ratings, have fallen hard and fast. Only a year ago they were 7-6. Only two years ago they were 11-2 and ranked 21st in the final coaches poll. Head coach Matt Wells left for Texas Tech after that season.

Maile, the Aggies’ interim coach, is a good soldier. He has been on the USU coaching staff since 2009 and twice has been appointed “interim” head coach (the first time in 2018). He hopes to become the permanent coach, but that seems unlikely.

The Aggies’ demise is just one more dismal turn in the in-state football scene, the obvious exception of course being BYU. Southern Utah and Weber State aren’t playing — their seasons were postponed until spring — and, so far, neither is Utah. The Utes’ first two games have been canceled. Normally, they’d be wrapping up their season now — they played their last two games of the 2019 regular season on Nov. 23 and Nov. 30 — and they still haven’t faced their first opponent.

It’s a strange football season. Barring a dramatic reversal of fortune, the Aggies’ season can’t end too soon.