The Utah State Aggies are a very good football team, one that at times has been better than good, though the score board does not indicate as much.
Aggie fans have long suffered on the gridiron, yet have remained as dedicated and as willing to support a program that has gone through more changes than Sybil.
First, it was a running team. Then, it was a passing team. Later, a new coach with a hot new scheme breezed into town and it went back to a running team. Later still, another rising coach took the reins and it was a hybrid of a running team and a passing team, but nobody really understood which part was the running and which was passing. At times, it looked like the Aggies were confusing themselves.
All the while, scores of athletes came and went, some into the Canadian Football League, while others played on Sundays in the NFL.
Throughout all players there lies a common thread to want to be great, to play in a BCS bowl game and to taste what other schools like Utah and BYU have been savoring for decades.
But only one quarterback in the last 20 years, Anthony Calvillo, has been able to take these Aggies to the promised land, and sip that sweet postseason nectar.
He is the exception to every Aggie rule and it is he who may possibly provide the key to which all future doors may be unlocked.
What was it about Calvillo that made him so different from other Aggie quarterbacks? It’s almost as though he came in on a chariot from junior college, his sole purpose to rescue the Aggies from themselves.
He did that, and then some. He led the Aggies to a Las Vegas Bowl win, was its MVP, and is now professional football’s all-time leading passer.
All other Utah State signal callers have been denied at the altar of such greatness.
So with the Aggies at 2-5 overall going into a bye week, it seems only appropriate for somebody to say a little prayer for a team that seems to have everything going for itself–except the winning part.
A new flashy quarterback in Chuckie Keeton, an unbelievable running back with Robert Turbin, good wide receivers like Eric Moats and Stanley Morrison comprise one side. On the other side, you have cornerback Nevin Lawson and linebackers Bobby Wagner, not to mention the most talented walk-on this side of Rudy Ruettiger in Levi Koskan.
It would literally take three paragraphs to mention the embarrassment of riches the Aggies have in terms of talent, enough bodies to make both the Utes and Cougars envious.
What is also mind-boggling is that from a statistics perspective the Aggies are still ranked highly in most categories. Their players win national individual awards every week.
Yet for whatever rhyme or reason, the Aggies simply cannot get it done. They cannot win games in the fourth quarter, no matter how hard they try. It’s as if a storm cloud hovers over the Aggies’ heads–even if it’s 70 and sunny–when the last 15 minutes of the game appear.
“We found a way to lose another game. I don’t have a lot of other things to say than that. We knew exactly what we were in for and that didn’t change a bit from film,” said Utah State head coach Gary Andersen after the latest loss to Louisiana Tech, a similar refrain that is repeated over and over again, until the coach is blue in the face.
Against Auburn, the game was beyond over in the third quarter. Twitter was exploding with sentiment that the upstart Aggies were doing the unthinkable, on the road, at the defending national champions. Then against Colorado State on Homecoming, the Aggies had the game locked up with under four minutes to play, only to self-destruct.
At rival BYU, not only did the Aggies fall apart but they did so under the tutelage of one Riley Nelson, whom Aggies remember for leaving USU and transferring to BYU. The other notable Aggie fans remember about those three games is that they lost all of them.
Things seemed to be looking up after the Aggies exorcised three games worth of demons and pasted Wyoming, but those skeletons returned at Fresno State and this past Saturday against Louisiana Tech.
The kicker is, it doesn’t have to be at home, in order for everything to go wrong. It can happen on the road too.
The Aggies have attempted to bury their misfortunes by switching sponsors, and donning new helmets and uniforms. They built a football center, installed brand new turf, refurbished the old seats and added new ones, and Andersen has probably switched cereals, although he claims he is not superstitious like his old boss, Weber State head coach Ron McBride.
Perhaps the problem is he should be. With the Aggies’ next game in the Hawaiian Islands, maybe Andersen can call his buddy and see if Mac’s got anything that will help Andersen destroy, possibly obliterate this curse.
“…Tough team, yes. Physical team, yes. Played hard, yes. All those are checks. At this point there is something. We need to be tougher mentally. If we are opportunistic, we may not even get in those situations,” Andersen said.
Perhaps it is a mental thing, as Andersen stated, or maybe it’s just something in the Logan water supply that prevents the football Aggies from doing what the basketball Aggies have done for decades.
In the Smith Spectrum, the energy is so ridiculous that you would swear hoops fans held séances before, during and after every home game, from the chants they yell to perfection in the 5,000-seat arena/temple.
Perhaps putting some of that hometown voodoo on the football team would change Utah State’s losing ways at Romney Stadium.
Something has to give. Instead of being 2-5 on the season going into their bye week, Utah State should easily have six wins.
While the season is not over, for Aggie fans it certainly feels like it might be. And four more wins in five games at can change those frowns into smiles, giving its long-suffering fans something to crow about that only a December postseason can bring.
It’s a lot to ask for, but anything could happen … if only you believe.