Monday Cooldown: Finally .500 again and a chance to repeat rare history

LOGAN – For the first time in nine weeks, Utah State football can cast off the “losing team” moniker, having reached a 5-5 mark on the season after beating Hawaii on Saturday.

It’s a solid achievement already for the Aggies to have turned around a 1-4 start into a potential bowl game. Of the 29 times USU has started a season 1-4 (or 0-5) the team has gone on to win five games six times (now seven). It’s hard to turn a start like that around, something that head coach Blake Anderson talked about in his weekly press conference on Monday.

“The ability to go out and stay focused and continue to work every day is not a given,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of teams that when they’re 1-4 they don’t recover. So I think just the resiliency and willingness to work is maybe the best thing about this team.”

The major achievement would be actually getting to a bowl game. Of those aforementioned 29 seasons, only one time did USU make it to a bowl: 1993. In that season, the Aggies ultimately started 1-5 and wound up winning the final six games of the season, including the program’s first bowl game win, to finish the year 7-5.

There are some similarities between this year’s Aggies and the 1993 team. For one, both teams were not good on defense early on. This year, USU allowed 36.4 points per game through five games. The 1993 team through its 1-5 start allowed 31.3 points per game. Both teams turned up the defense the remainder of the year. Over the last five games, this year’s team has allowed just 22.4 points per game. In 1993 over the final six games after the 1-5 start, the team only dropped the average to 27.7 points, but did have three games where they allowed 21 points or less. Better defense led to more wins.

Anderson spoke about the improvements his team made in his weekly press conference Monday, a lot of those coming on the defensive end.

“We’ve reduced mistakes when you talk about MA’s (missed assignments). Just situations where you just did not do what you were supposed to do in defense, in an offensive scheme. Those still happen and those happen with young guys but we’ve reduced that number a great deal. We’ve reduced missed tackles – although we had a couple critical missed tackles this week, one down on the goal line from Hunter Reynolds who came right back the next series and created a turnover. We’ve reduced missed tackles, we’ve reduced MA’s, we’ve reduced drops.”

With the Mountain West championship mathematically impossible, matching the 1993 season in its turnaround and bowl appearance is the primary goal of this team right now.

“That’s our goal,” freshman safety Ike Larsen said on Monday. “We all want it. So we’ve just got to put in the work and if we don’t put in the work then of course we’re not going to be able to get there. But it’ll be cool if we can get a bowl game.”

“This is a big game for us,” Anderson added. “We’ve talked, been very open about our desire to get this team to a bowl, become bowl eligible, keep that streak rolling. And that’s something that we know is on the table this week.”

The likelihood of Utah State making a bowl game is still very much up in the air, though most on the national college football scene are leaning toward the Aggies missing bowling season. Of eight different bowl projections (from 247Sports,, College Football News, CBS Sports, Athlon Sports, Yahoo Sports, College Football Network, and The Sporting News) only one projects USU to be in a bowl game – College Football Network which predicts Utah State will face BYU in the Hawaii Bowl.

That one of eight number can be flipped completely around with just one win. It’s just that few national outlets believe the Aggies will win one more game. Admittedly, they’re playing on the right side of the odds. Utah State opened as three-point underdogs to San Jose State in the sports books and ESPN’s matchup predictor has the Spartans as 61.0 percent favorites. The final regular season game features even lower odds. Sportsbooks haven’t posted betting spreads, but ESPN’s matchup predictor currently has Boise State as a 90.9 percent favorite to win the Nov. 25 matchup.

Few probably expected it before the year, but this San Jose State game is the biggest game of the season for Utah State.

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