Just a few weeks ago, it seemed as if things could not get any worse for Utah State football.
After a subpar performance in a season-opening win against UConn, the Aggies dropped a game to Alabama. Not a problem though, since USU was clearly outmatched against the perennial national title contenders. The Aggies had two winnable games next, and many expected them to face BYU with a 3-1 record.
Instead, something went horribly wrong. Hosting FCS Weber State, USU was throttled 35-7 in what might just be the most embarrassing loss in team history. Say what you will about how the Wildcats are a Top 10 FCS program, but there is never a reason, especially as the defending Mountain West champions, to lose to the Ogden school.
Perhaps it was a blip. The Aggies hosted UNLV next, and a win against a traditional basement-dweller to open conference play seemed like the perfect way to get back on track.
Yet somehow, it got worse. USU was beaten by double digits while last season’s hero Logan Bonner turned the ball over six times. It turned out to be Bonner’s last game in an Aggie uniform. Utah State then lost to BYU in Cooper Legas’ first career start.
At 1-4 with a pair of awful losses, the wheels had completely fallen off the 2022 season. How could a team that tied a school record with 11 wins, won a conference title, beat a Pac-12 team in a bowl game, and finished nationally ranked less than a year ago now be on pace to not even make a bowl game?
The Turnaround Begins
Many said the Aggies were done. Even as a longtime USU fan myself, I couldn’t see them turning it around, at least for some time.
But here we are. Somehow, someway, Utah State will be going to a bowl game.
Credit where credit is due, the Aggies proved the doubters wrong for the second year in a row.
After a dismal start, USU showed the fight that made them champions a season ago. They upset Air Force, then fought for a win over Colorado State with fourth-string quarterback Bishop Davenport leading the winning drive.
A loss to Wyoming followed with Davenport starting, but Legas’ return put the Aggies in a good position to pick up a few wins. After wins over New Mexico and Hawai’i, USU was 5-5.
Everything On The Line
But the Aggies likely faced two of their toughest opponents in the final games, and it was evident that despite the turnaround to get back to .500, no one believed they would get the sixth win needed for a bowl invitation (except this site).
Facing a 6-3 San Jose State team in its home finale, the Aggies likely knew they had to beat the Spartans. Let’s be honest, they won’t, and never do, beat Boise State. Everything was on the line to save the season on Saturday night.
Just as they have all season, Utah State faced adversity and pushed it aside. The game itself was a rollercoaster, just like this year has been.
After falling behind 6-0, the Aggies went ahead 21-6, thanks in part to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
With the game seemingly in USU’s favor, San Jose State battled back. The Aggies made the score 28-16 before the visitors scored the next 15 points to take the 31-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
It seemed as though Utah State was going to fall short. The momentum had shifted and the Spartans had taken control of the game. The grind to turn the season around was going to be all for naught.
But the Aggies battled back, going on a time-consuming drive that ended with a Calvin Tyler Jr. touchdown to put them in front 35-31. The defense then clamped down on SJSU’s final drive, forcing a turnover on downs to seal the win.
No matter how the game against Boise State turns out, or even the bowl game for that matter, Utah State’s turnaround should be celebrated.
Sure, last season was something truly special. Even before this season’s up-and-downs, expectations were higher than the likely six wins the Aggies will end the regular season with.
But right now, it shouldn’t matter. For the 10th time in 12 years, USU will be playing in the postseason. For a program that was one of the worst in college football for most of three decades, being in contention for a bowl invite year in and year out shows how far the Aggies have come.
This season, Utah State put up a fight that no one really expected and has saved this season from total disaster.
Whether it is the Idaho Potato, New Mexico, Frisco, or any of the other bowl games that the Aggies play in, we should celebrate it. A victory in a bowl game would make the turnaround even more memorable.