Utah State football’s strides throughout the last half-decade have included some big wins: BYU in 2010 and 2014, Utah in 2012, Northern Illinois in 2013.
Utah State’s track record in the truly marquee games, however, was one punctuated by near-misses: a seven-point loss at Oklahoma in 2010; a four-pointer at Auburn the next year; two points at Wisconsin in 2012.
Perhaps you can credit those close calls for Utah State pouncing so aggressively in the first half Friday against No. 21 Boise State, building a 45-10 lead by halftime that ensured the Aggies wouldn’t have to sweat out another close one.
Utah State rode out the huge advantage to a 52-26 win, the Aggies’ fourth defeat of a ranked opponent in as many seasons. Boise State joins Louisiana Tech in 2012, Northern Illinois in 2013 and BYU last season.
Head coach Matt Wells has something going in Logan, continuing to build on the foundation Gary Andersen laid before going to Wisconsin (and later Oregon State).
With Friday’s win, Utah State takes a step toward setting a new benchmark for the program, which is just one season removed from tying its single-season wins record of 10.
A defeat of Boise State puts Utah State in the driver’s seat of the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain division, clearly the better of the league’s two sides.
“Out of respect for Boise State…the road to the Mountain West championship goes through them,” Wells said in his postgame press conference, via UtahStateAggies.com. “Until someone knocks them off the throne, it’s theirs.”
To that end, Friday may be the most important win of Utah State’s impressive, half-decade run — if not ever.
Matt Wells called tonight “maybe the greatest win in this program’s history.” First win over Boise State since 1997.
— B.J. Rains (@BJRains) October 17, 2015
Utah State coach Matt Wells: "An unbelievable win. An unbelievable win for our program."
— Steve Luhm (@sluhm) October 17, 2015
Third-year Aggie head coach Matt Wells isn’t a victim of hyperbole labeling this one “unbelievable.” Utah State was a 9.5-point underdog at home and winless against Boise State since 1997.
For the Aggies to end the skid against the Broncos, and do so in such an emphatic manner? Yeah, pretty unbelievable.
— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) October 17, 2015
Boise State turning the ball over eight times is also rather unbelievable. But to dismiss Utah State’s takeaways solely as luck is misguided.
Throughout its current tear, Utah State’s identity has been staked on its rugged defense. The Aggies have excelled at forcing turnovers, ranking No. 11 in the nation a season ago and No. 10 in 2013.
On Friday, Utah State exploited a Boise State offense sans its star running back, Jeremy McNichols, and starting a freshman at quarterback, Brett Rypien.
Bad luck for the Broncos, rightly attacked by the Aggies.
But then, on the other side of the ball, Utah State capitalized on the takeaways with its own reserve running the show.
Utah State’s continued success these last five years despite a carousel at quarterback is noteworthy. Chuckie Keeton was dynamite for stretches, but the redshirt senior’s repeated injury problems have forced others to step up.
Adam Kennedy, Darrell Garretson and now Kent Myers all did so admirably. Myers was electric tonight, throwing for three touchdowns — which equaled Rypien’s interception total — and rushing for a fourth.
With his dual-threat rushing and passing ability, Myers may be poised to break out as a star in much the same fashion as Keeton.
Utah State’s current run is somewhat enigmatic. Aggie recruiting classes are never highly rated, and the program faces plenty of turnover.
It loses players like Chuckie Keeton to injury; Jake Doughty to graduation; Bobby Wagner, Zach Vigil and Robert Turbin to the NFL, and yet, Utah State has players prepared to step up and build upon this recent success.
Linebacker Kyler Fackrell — who made 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles Friday — talked of the culture of consistency Utah State’s maintained.
“Why would you change it if you’ve had success like we’ve had?” Fackrell asked, hypothetically, at July’s Mountain West media days.
After Friday, this Utah State crop has set the stage for its best season yet: a Mountain West Conference championship and, with some help, a shot at the Group of Five New Year’s Six bowl bid.