Gameday Guide: Arizona Bowl

The Utah State football team is in Tucson, Arizona for a bowl matchup against New Mexico State. The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl will kick off Friday, Dec. 29 at 3:30 p.m. MT at Arizona Stadium.

<h3>WHAT IS ON THE LINE?</h3>

After a disappointing 3-9 finish a year ago, USU is back in the bowl picture. The Aggies went to the Potato Bowl in 2015, but lost. USU’s last bowl victory was in 2014, when the team beat UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.

That 2014 season was also the last time Utah State finished with a winning record. The 2015 Potato Bowl loss ended USU’s season at 6-7. A loss Friday night in Tucson would result in another overall losing record. A win would put USU back over the .500 mark.

“We’re not going to put any more pressure on ourselves because of that,” head coach Matt Wells said, “but does that fact matter? Absolutely.”

It’s been a much longer losing streak for New Mexico State, which last had a winning season in 2002, and last went to a bowl game in 1960. Currently at 6-6, a bowl game loss would mean another losing season.

Also on the line, of course, is a trophy.

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<h3>THE NOVA HOME LOANS ARIZONA BOWL</h3>

This is the third year the Arizona Bowl has been in operation, and Arizona Bowl chairman Ali Farhang said it has been a successful run so far.

“We had 33,000 and change last year,” he said. “We were the second-highest attended non-BCS bowl game, in our second year. If we sell out, people are going to notice.”

Farhang said that is his goal, to be able to announce a sell-out. Given the proximity of Tucson to New Mexico State University, there is a good chance of having a majority NMSU crowd.

“They are selling tickets at a faster rate than any two teams we’ve had in the prior two years combined,” Farhang said. “My challenge to all Utah State fans is you need to step up, because that stadium is going to be crimson and white, unless we get some blue in there.”

<h3>HOW TO WATCH &amp; LISTEN</h3>

The game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network. For Comcast customers in Utah, that is channel 269/753HD. For DISH customers, it can be found on channel 158 and on DirecTV it is channel 221.

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The “KVNU Gameday” pregame show with Al Lewis and Craig Hislop will begin at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live from the Murdock GM located at 1955 North Main Street in Logan at 1:30 p.m. Tune in at 610 AM and 102.1 FM, listen online at kvnutalk.com or on the KVNU mobile app. Radio coverage on KVNU will continue with “Aggie Call” once the game concludes.

<h3>AGGIES vs AGGIES</h3>

The history between these two teams goes much deeper than a shared nickname. They were both members of the Big West from 1985 to 2000, the Sun Belt from 2002 to 2003 and the WAC from 2005 to 2012.

“We had to fight to keep this matchup,” Farhang said, “because it was very unique.”

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Utah State has dominated the series history with a 30-7 head-to-head record, but New Mexico State won the only bowl game between the two programs. That game was the Sun Bowl in 1960. Undefeated New Mexico State met one-loss Utah State in El Paso, where New Mexico State finished its undefeated season with a come-from-behind 20-13 victory.

After a 57-year postseason drought, this is New Mexico State’s first bowl game since.

<h3>THE NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES</h3>

There have been a lot of points scored for and against New Mexico State this season. The team is putting up an average of 29.6 points per game while giving up a slightly higher 30.5 points per game.

The NMSU offensive attack is very pass heavy. It averages 453.8 yards per game, with 352.6 of those coming through the air. Defending it is a challenge that USU’s newest All-American Jalen Davis is looking forward to.

“They love throwing the ball, and I love defending passes,” he said. “So I can’t wait to go out there and compete against them.”

For 11 of the team’s 12 games it was quarterback Tyler Rogers throwing the ball. Rogers has thrown for 3,825 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. His primary target has been Jaleel Scott, who is averaging 86.8 yards and eight touchdowns per game.

“Their quarterback is very accurate with his throws,” Davis said. “That makes me know that I have to be on my game and on my technique to make sure I’m on the receiver’s hip.”

Wells said that both Aggie teams have the potential to be explosive on offense.

“There have been times during the year where both offenses are probably not playing as well as you want and resulting in close games or losses,” he said. “It’s fairly safe to say that for both sides. You have talented wideouts, talented quarterbacks and talented running backs, so there could be a lot of points on the scoreboard.”

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