Logan Bonner. Picture by Clint Allen
LOGAN—There isn’t better-positioned to win the Mountain Division and go to the conference championship than Utah State. At 3-1, the Aggies are one of two teams in the division with just one loss in conference play. The other is Colorado State, but after losing to USU 26-24 last Friday, the Aggies own the tiebreaker and are the only team that controls its own destiny.
Of course, that could all quickly change with another in-conference loss. With four conference games left for the Aggies, the only way to 100 percent guarantee a championship game berth is to win them all.
Mountain Division Standings
Conference / Overall
Utah State 3-1 / 5-2
Colorado State 2-1 / 3-4
Air Force 3-2 / 6-2
Boise State 1-2 / 3-4
New Mexico 1-3 / 3-5
Wyoming 0-3 / 4-3
Next up for Utah State is Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors come to Logan this Saturday for an afternoon game. Hawaii also has plenty of motivation to get a win. At 4-4, the team from the islands needs two wins in its last five games in order to become bowl eligible. With games against No. 21 San Diego State and Colorado State in the near future, picking up those wins won’t be an easy task.
Hawaii Football Schedule
Aug. 28, 2021 at UCLA L, 10-44
Sept. 4, 2021 vs Portland State W, 49-35
Sept. 11, 2021 at Oregon State L, 27-45
Sept. 18, 2021 vs San Jose State L, 13-17
Sept. 25, 2021 at New Mexico State W, 41-21
Oct. 2, 2021 vs Fresno State W, 27-24
Oct. 16, 2021 at Nevada L, 14-34
Oct. 23, 2021 vs New Mexico State W, 48-34
Oct. 30, 2021 at Utah State
Nov. 6, 2021 vs San Diego State
Nov. 13, 2021 at UNLV
Nov. 20, 2021 vs Colorado State
Nov. 27, 2021 at Wyoming
Head coach Blake Anderson said given Hawaii’s schedule and place in the standings, he is expecting his opponent to bring a win-or-go-home mentality to Merlin Olsen Field.
“They’re in a position where it is kind of playoffs for them,” he said. “I’ve been there before, where you just can’t let another conference game slip.”
Utah State, having played against teams like BYU and Colorado State, has mostly been the undersized team this year. Realizing the disadvantage, Anderson played to his team’s strengths, spreading the field and utilizing its speed. Hawaii, however, is not as big as other teams, and will pose different challenges.
“This is going to be two teams that look more like each other,” Anderson said.
Anderson is familiar with Hawaii’s head coach Todd Graham, and is expecting a tough ground game from Hawaii’s offense. Running the ball, Anderson said, is what Graham has done his entire coaching career. He said Hawaii will be committed to running the football, but that there are other challenges as well.
“He did it from a high school coach to now,” Anderson said. “That doesn’t surprise me. The weapons that he has is a quarterback that is versatile, that can run and throw, and maybe one of the most diverse, well-rounded, utilized, hybrid players in football. It’s those weapons that create the problem.”
The versatile quarterback Anderson referred to is junior Chevan Cordeiro. Cordeiro has thrown for 1410 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 298 yards and another touchdown. The “well-rounded, utilized, hybrid” player is senior Calvin Turner Jr.
Tyler, who is statistically Hawaii’s biggest offensive threat, is listed as both a wide receiver and a running back. He has picked up yards and touchdowns as both. Anderson said Tyler may be the most versatile threat of any team on USU’s schedule.
“Home run speed, a ton of different things he can do and brings to the table,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen power and now we’re going to see a guy who is really, really good in space. You miss a tackle and he’s got a chance to score on you.”
Aggie safety Ajani Carter said it will be fun to face an offense that will spread the ball and pass to the outside, but whatever Hawaii throws at them, he said, the defense will be ready.
“At the end of the day we’re going to play hard,” he said. “Whether they run it or throw it.”
Hawaii’s defense gives up a lot of yards, but Anderson said the numbers can be deceiving. Depending on the matchups and the number of plays an opposing offense runs, he explained, overall yards can be an unreliable statistic. What Hawaii does well is create a lot of turnovers.
“That, to me, is the definition of a great defense,” Anderson said. “If you can bend but don’t break, create the turnovers and force the kick, you are going to win a lot of games.”
Through eight games, Hawaii’s defense has intercepted the ball 10 times and has recovered eight forced fumbles. Aggie quarterback Logan Bonner, who made sure to watch Hawaii’s game as it happened Saturday, described the group as guys that fly to the ball, are disciplined and make big plays.
“They have really good ball skills on the back end,” he said.
Utah State’s offense will still be without running back Calvin Tyler Jr., who did not play against Colorado State. Anderson said Tyler broke a bone in his hand in the previous game, had surgery and is expected to be back in “a week or so.” As far as other injuries go, there isn’t much.
“There was nothing in this particular game that was season ending,” Anderson said, “or honestly, at this point, would cost anybody the next game.”
The game will kickoff at 1 p.m. and will be the last home game until Nov 20. USU will go on the road to play New Mexico State and San Jose State before hosting Wyoming the last home game. USU will finish Nov. 26 at New Mexico.