LOGAN – The “Jekyll and Hyde” reference could be appropriately used in describing the Utah State football team, and it has nothing to do with Halloween weekend. The same team that picked up big wins against Colorado State and Fresno State before forcing eight turnovers in a 52-26 win against Boise State was embarrassed in a 48-14 loss just one week later at San Diego State.
Despite the blowout loss, a Mountain West championship is still very much within reach. The only thing head coach Matt Wells and his team needs to do is win. If that happens, everything else will take care of itself. There is no need to cross fingers and hope another team with a better record loses, Utah State controls its own destiny. A win against Wyoming tonight will keep the Aggies in control, a loss in this game – or any other – would greatly hurt the odds. Aggie fans are hoping the right version of this 2015 team shows up at 8:15 p.m. tonight.
“We have one step that we’ve got to take this week and then we’ll take the next step next week,” Wells said in a press conference Monday morning. “We’ve got everything to play for still as far as our goals in the conference and bowls.”
The Cowboys’ only victory through eight games was a 28-21 win two weeks ago against Nevada, but Wells isn’t expecting anything easy tonight, even on Merlin Olsen Field. He said he remembers last year’s game in Laramie as being a “tough, hard-fought fight.”
“Now we get them here in Logan and I expect a very similar type of game,” he said. “They’re a tough program and they’re going to run the ball downhill. They’re going to establish that and we’ve got to rise up and meet that challenge.”
The Wyoming rushing attack is led by sophomore Brian Hill who has already ran for more than 1000 yards this season. For the most part the Aggies have been able to stop the run, ranking 29th nationally in rushing defense at 125.9 yards per game, but last week was a different story. The Aztecs picked up 328 yards on the ground during the controlling win.
“We’ve got to get it fixed and righted because Wyoming is going to be very similar on offense this week,” Wells said. “They have a really good offensive line, physical tight ends and a very physical, very good running back.”
Wyoming’s passing game has been led by quarterback Cameron Coffman, but it will most likely be redshirt freshman Nick Smith under center in Maverik Stadium. Coffman, who has been averaging 224.9 passing yards per game, injured his shoulder last week against Boise State. Smith made his first career appearance against Eastern Michigan early in the season and played in just his second game last week in Boise where he completed 4-of-8 passes for 53 yards. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said Coffman doesn’t have any broken bones, but is sore.
“He’s not ruled out, but I’d say doubtful to remote,” Bohl said. “So we’re going to go ahead and rep Nick as the number one quarterback during the course of this week.”
Wells described Wyoming’s defense as being “very physical” and said it has a good defensive end in the 6-foot-3, 251-pound Eddie Yarbrough, but that hasn’t stopped opposing teams from scoring. Except for the lone win against Nevada, each opponent has put more than 30 points on the scoreboard against the Cowboys. Bohl noticed his defense struggled earlier in the season, but said he is seeing more improvement and consistency.
“We’ve adjusted some things in our lineup, our lineup is staying a little bit more static,” he said. “Now that’s certainly having an impact and I think we’re improving on the field.”
Utah State has won the last three games against Wyoming including both meetings between the two schools as part of the Mountain West Conference. Last year, quarterback Kent Myers led USU to a 20-3 win in Laramie.