Utah State Aggies fans rushed the field after their team posted a 41-15 win over the Toledo Rockets in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and why not, right? Their team just won their first bowl game in 19 years and wrapped up an 11-2 season. From a laughing stock, to perhaps once the bowl season plays out a top 15 team in the country, the Aggies faithful had every right to blend into that blue Boise State turf. Here are three thoughts on USU’s victory:
1. Game Changers: Utah State had game changers in Chuckie Keeton and Kerwynn Williams while Toledo didn’t. Obviously the Rockets weren’t helped losing their top defensive player, middle linebacker Dan Molls on the opening kickoff, and their biggest offensive weapon running back David Fluellen early in the game. As for the Aggies, Keeton’s first half 62 yard touchdown run proved to be really the lone bright spot of the offense in the first half. Then with Utah State clinging to just a 13-9 lead early in the fourth quarter, Williams took the game over running for 198 of his 235 yards along with three touchdowns. Add in his 34 receiving yards the senior accounted for over 46 percent of the team’s offense. Definitely worth of him receiving the games MVP honors.
2. Defensive toughness: Surprisingly for just over three quarters this game was a defensive struggle. While the offense seemed lost for the first three quarters, the defense is what kept the Aggies in the lead. As has been the case most of the season, this unit stepped up when needed and made plays. Senior outside linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu had a huge game with 11 tackles, a sack and tackle for loss. The regulars stepped up including Will Davis, Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil and Kyler Fackerell who had an interception. The defense was particularly nasty in the red zone.
3. The future: It’s bright for Utah State but this will be a test to see if coach Gary Andersen has built up the talent pool to replace key players and keep the program at this high level. While several impact players return, starting with Keeton, others will need to be found to replace Williams, Filimoeatu and Davis. Andersen will have some coaches he may have to replace as well including Mike Sanford who is leaving for Indiana State. In addition, as I reported, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will be making a decision over the next couple days on whether to accept jobs at either California or Texas Tech. Add in moving to a more difficult conference along with a nonconference schedule that features road games at Utah and USC plus BYU at home it will be interesting to see if the Aggies can duplicate the success of this season. Although for a fanbase that has had nothing to be excited about for so many years, isn’t it nice to actually have big expectations?
UPDATE 12/16/12: @FootballScoop is reporting that Cal has hired Wisconsin linebackers coach Andy Buh to be their defensive coordinator. This is good news for Aggie fans that were hoping Aranda would stay at Utah State although he still has to decide on whether he will take the Texas Tech job.