USU’s Texas natives excited for game against A&M

LOGAN, Utah – It has been said that everything is bigger in Texas, including the state’s passion for high school and college football. The Utah State Aggies (0-1) will learn firsthand about that passion this Saturday, as the team travels to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies (1-0) at Kyle Field. And while many USU players will be making the journey to the Lone Star State for the first time in their lives, for 13 of those Aggies, the trip south will be a welcomed homecoming.”This game has a lot of interest for me,” said junior linebacker Maxim Dinka Mba, who played his high school ball in Plano, Texas. “I am going home. I look forward to the atmosphere and the climate, everything. I just can’t wait. A lot of people think when you come to Utah you get soft, but I’m anxious to go back. I will have a lot of family there, so it will be great.”Dinka Mba’s attitude is typical of the 13 Texas natives on Utah State’s roster, who cite the chance to play in front of family and friends in their home state as extra incentive in their bid to upset Texas A&M on Saturday. Texas A&M has started off strong this season, winning in resounding fashion when they crushed New Mexico 41-6 two weeks ago. Like their Aggie brethren from the Beehive State, Texas A&M was idle in week two. “I think it’s a terrific opportunity for the Texas players’ families and friends to get to see them play, as well as spend time with them, that they normally wouldn’t get to do,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “It’s also a tremendous recruiting tool.”Sophomore linebacker Jacob Actkinson, who was an all-district running back at Grapevine High School in Grapevine, Texas, said that the game has special meaning for all of Utah State’s Texas natives because of its location.”It’s bigger for us Texas kids,” said Actkinson. “I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I signed back here in 2006. It’s nice to be able to go back home and play in front of friends and family, and I know a lot of guys on our team have friends and family coming.Added the former running back, “I personally have a bunch of friends who go to Texas A&M, so winning would just be huge for me to be able to rub in their face a little bit.”While not all of the Texas natives on Utah State’s roster were recruited by Texas A&M out of high school, for the most part the players say that they don’t hold any grudges against the school or its previous staff, most of which was let go when Mike Sherman took over the reins of the program following the 2007 season. If anything, Utah State’s players are inclined to view being passed up by a Big 12 school like A&M as a blessing in disguise, allowing them the chance to showcase their talents at Utah State. Unfortunately, the tradeoff has prevented many of the players’ families from seeing them play in person.”I was given an opportunity here, so I wouldn’t say it was their loss or anything,” said senior wide receiver Xavier Bowman, who played his high school ball in the Houston area. “I’m thankful that I’m at Utah State, and I’m glad to be playing this game close to home, because being up in this region of the country I don’t get to play too many games in Texas.”Asked whether or not there will be extra incentive in having the chance to show a big-name school like A&M that they missed out on him, Bowman said the idea hadn’t even crossed his mind. “That’s all the incentive I need, having my family and friends watching,” Bowman said.Actkinson agreed with Bowman’s assessment, and said that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder when it comes to proving himself, although admitted that a good showing in the game will be especially important given the audience.”I’m very happy where I’m at right now,” said Actkinson. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’m happy at Utah State, but it is just nice to go back and play in front of fans.”One player who is especially looking forward to the game is senior outside linebacker Paul Igboeli, a native Grand Prairie, a suburb of Dallas. Unlike Actkinson and Bowman, Igboeli said he is eager to prove himself in front of the Texas A&M coaches and fans, emphatically answering “yes” when asked by reporters if being passed up by Texas A&M out of high school gives him an extra edge in his approach to the game.”Playing well against BCS conference teams is a big thing,” said Igboeli, who recorded six tackles against another Big 12 power, Oklahoma, during a game in 2007. “It feels good when you get recognition and stuff like that from those ‘big dogs.’”Whether they’re playing for family and friends or the chance to show in-state programs that they missed out on them in high school, Utah State’s 13 Texas natives all agree that defeating the maroon Aggies will be a challenge. Utah State has lost its last nine games to Big 12 opponents, and has not beaten any team (regardless of conference affiliation) from the Lone Star state since a 17-12 victory over North Texas in 2000, losing its last two match-ups with a team from Texas. The challenge is one that Utah State’s players are ready for however, and after falling to Utah two weeks ago, it is a challenge that the team and its 13 Texas natives are embracing with a high level of confidence and focus. All that’s left now, said Actkinson, is for the team to execute on the field. “We’ve just got to play 100% like we know we can, and everything is going to have to click – offense, defense and special teams. But I know we can go out and win.”Utah State travels to College Station, Texas to take on Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 5 p.m. (MT) in an all-Aggie match-up.Saturday’s battle of the Aggies will not be televised, but fans can follow along with live stats through the USU web site at www.UtahStateAggies.com via GameTracker, a free service, which updates play-by-play and statistics throughout the game.All Utah State football games are carried live on KVNU 610 AM and KLZX 95.9 FM in Logan/Brigham City/Ogden; 1230 AM in Salt Lake City; on KLZX 105.3 FM in Montpelier, Idaho, and on the Internet at

<a href=”http://www.610kvnu.com/listenlive.php”>www.610kvnu.com</a>

by clicking on “Listen Live.” Al Lewis handles the play-by-play duties and Craig Hislop provides analysis.The Aggies’ home opener is Saturday, Sept. 26 against in-state foe Southern Utah. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. (MT) at USU’s Romney Stadium.For season and single-game ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305, or online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the “buy/renew tickets” under the “tickets” drop down menu. -USU-

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