Aggies looking for win in Hawaii despite adversity

LOGAN – The Aggies are heading to Hawaii for the first time since Nov. 5, 2011, the day considered by many to be the turning point of Utah State football.

At one point, it was the day hope seemed lost. Chuckie Keeton, the freshman quarterback that had created new excitement in the Aggie football program, left the game with injuries and the team was down 28-7.

But the Aggies fought back. Backup quarterback Adam Kennedy led the comeback that was finished when Robert Turbin punched the ball into the end zone to take the lead with just 14 seconds left on the clock. USU won the game 35-31.

Since that day, the whole feel of the program has changed. The Aggies have gone 30-11, played in three straight bowl games, won a conference championship and accepted an invite to the Mountain West Conference. With their win over UNLV last week, the senior class became the winningest in school history. There is now a winning attitude at Romney Stadium.

“Since that game, this program has been different,” senior safety Brian Suite said. “That’s kind of what got the ball rolling. I mean, at half time, that game wasn’t real pretty. But that’s when we really started dealing with adversity, finding ways to cope with it and finding ways to win a football game. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but you find a way to win.”

The Aggies are still dealing with adversity. Injuries have plagued the team this year, especially at the quarterback spot. Freshman quarterback Kent Myers, who played his first game last week against UNLV, is expected to start this Saturday night when they take on the 2-6 Rainbow Warriors. He will be the fourth starting quarterback the team has put on the field this season.

Despite the difficulty and pressure of it all, head coach Matt Wells said facing adversity is something he finds fun.

“Nobody thinks we can do it,” Wells said. “They didn’t think we could do it when Chuckie got hurt, when Darell got hurt. So we’ll be the first team in the nation to win games with four different quarterbacks. Maybe five at one point, I don’t know.”

The quarterback job became Myers’ after quarterback Craig Harrison was injured against UNLV. Myers went 3-5 and threw for 32 yards. He added another 28 yards rushing. Even though it wasn’t a lot, after the game Wells said he was proud of the way Myers played. He said Myers’ dual-threat ability was something he liked during the recruiting process.

“He throws the ball on the run very, very well,” he said. “He’s actually a better pocket passer today than I really thought he was coming out of high school. I’m not knocking him in high school. I just think he throws the ball better from the pocket … than I thought he did coming out of high school.”

Myers’ teammates believe in his abilities.

“He’s a great quarterback,” senior tight end Jefferson Court said. “You saw him run a couple times and he did really well. He threw it well. I don’t think we’re going to skip a beat.”

Utah State’s defense has been one the highlights of the team this year. The team ranks fourth in the nation at rushing defense, holding teams to an average of 89 yards each game. Wells said they will need to “keep playing championship defense” if the team is going to win. He added that in order to help out Myers, they need to find a way to run the ball better. The USU rushing offense ranks 10th in the Mountain West with an average of just 138.4 yards a game.

“The plan has not changed and it will not change” Wells said. “It can’t change. There are no magic plans out there for a fourth-string quarterback.”

If the Aggies are to hope to stay in the Mountain Division race, a win in Hawaii is essential.

“They better play hard and they need to worry about that logo they’re representing,” Wells said. “As long as they do that, we’ll be fine. The plan to win hasn’t changed.”

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