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Aggies haven’t quit on gridiron

November 16, 2016
New Mexico linebacker Maurice Daniels (58) sacks Utah State quarterback Kent Myers (2) on Saturday in Logan.
New Mexico linebacker Maurice Daniels (58) sacks Utah State quarterback Kent Myers (2) on Saturday in Logan.

I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with me when I say Utah State has some serious deficiencies on the gridiron.

The Aggies have been wildly inconsistent on both sides of the football this season and have had a difficult time accounting for injuries to key players. Quite frankly, I don’t feel USU has as much depth and star power as it did a couple of years ago.

More importantly, this team hasn’t figured out how to bury an opponent when the opportunity presents itself. The Aggies have blown two-touchdown advantages in the second half against Mountain West foes Colorado State and New Mexico this season.

The Aggies haven’t figured out how to win games week in and week out — something they excelled at during their final two seasons in the Western Athletic Conference and first two seasons in the Mountain West. It’s not easy to win college football games, but let’s face it, the 2016 campaign has been a major disappointment for Utah State.

What the Aggies (3-7, 1-6 MW) haven’t done, though, is give up on the season, otherwise they wouldn’t have held New Mexico to more than 100 rushing yards and 14 points under its season averages. Had the Aggies packed it in prior to last Saturday’s home finale, there’s no way they would have marched more than 50 yards in less than one minute to put themselves in a position to either win the game or force overtime.

Likewise, a lot of teams would have completely tanked it after an abysmal first half performance on the road, but that’s not what Utah State did after trailing Wyoming 35-7 at the break two Saturdays ago. Twenty-one straight Aggie points in the third quarter attested to that.

That is the one encouraging thing USU fans can take heading into Saturday’s Mountain West finale at Nevada.

“To fight and to see the resiliency in those players and not be able to come out with the win in the end (against UNM) was tough,” USU head coach Matt Wells said during Monday’s press conference. “But as the days go by and the weeks go by, this is a team that I have really grown to respect more and more. To see the way they persevere, to see their resiliency, from the texts that I get late at night — 1:30 in the morning — to (Sunday) the players that were in the office, they just keep coming back, they keep fighting and they believe in the process and believe in this program. I am more convinced than I’ve ever been that we’re doing it right and that these kids are continuing to fight, and for that I’m encouraged.

“It doesn’t take away the hurt and it doesn’t take away the sting because there is so much invested. The more and more that we all invest, the more it does hurt, but the thrill of victory tastes that much sweeter too.”

Aggie fans can take some solace that their team hasn’t responded to adversity the same way as, say, Hawaii. The Warriors were edged at home by New Mexico, 28-21, on Oct. 29 — a game they probably needed to win to secure bowl eligibility.

What has been Hawaii’s response to that setback? Back-to-back beatdowns at the hands of San Diego State and Boise State. Granted, those are two very good football teams, but the Warriors weren’t even remotely competitive in either game, and they were shut out by SDSU (55-0).

Things didn’t get any better for Hawaii at home against Boise State. In fact, head coach Nick Rolovich was so disgusted by his team’s performance he had members of his staff take away the benches from the sideline, so his players couldn’t sit down. The Warriors, who had won three of their previous four contests before playing the Lobos, trailed 42-3 early in the third quarter at the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying USU fans shouldn’t be very frustrated with how this season has transpired. However, I do believe the Aggies will at least try to win their final two games.

If either of the final two tilts comes down to the wire, though, USU better figure out how to manage the clock. That was the most disappointing thing about the loss to New Mexico. In fact, the way the game ended was frankly embarrassing.

First of all, I’m not sure why the Aggies took their final timeout following the unfortunate offensive pass interference call on wide receiver Ron’quavion Tarver with 16 ticks left on the clock. They sure could have used it to set up a field goal attempt.

Regardless, USU had enough time to race to the line of scrimmage and spike the ball following quarterback Kent Myers’ 9-yard run to the UNM 25-yard line. I was watching the clock closely when Myers slid to the turf on Merlin Olsen Field, and there were still nine seconds remaining. Instead, the Aggies elected to rush their field goal unit onto the field, and they didn’t even get the kick off in time.

What I saw was mass confusion at the end of the game. Somebody on the Aggie sideline should have been aware there was enough time for the offense to line up and spike the ball. I just don’t understand how USU’s clock management could have been so poor.

Lastly, I feel for Tarver, who I believe has been USU’s most pleasant surprise this season. In my opinion, the sophomore has flat out been robbed by the officials twice in 2016. Aggie fans surely remember his 34-yard TD reception against Air Force that wasn’t ruled a catch.

Tarver should have 44 catches for 592 yards and five TDs this season. I sincerely hope those two blown calls won’t prevent No. 19 from garnering some kind of all-conference recognition. Believe me, two fewer TD catches can make the difference.

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