No. 25 Utah State aiming even higher against Idaho

The Utah State Aggies already have had quite the week.

They went on the road to beat a nationally ranked team in

overtime then arrived back in Logan to the cheers of several

hundred fans who didn’t mind waiting in the rain.

Now, after earning a spot in the AP poll for the first time

since 1961, the 25th-ranked Aggies have a chance to make more

history in Saturday’s regular-season finale against Idaho.

”There are a lot of `nevers’ out there,” said coach Gary

Andersen, who was moved to tears after his Aggies beat high-powered

Louisiana Tech last weekend to guarantee at least a share of the

Western Athletic Conference crown.

”There are a lot of things that they can do that have never

happened in the history of Utah State football. That’s pretty

special.”

The Aggies (9-2, 5-0) can secure the program’s first 10-win

season and first 6-0 mark in conference play.

Though they are 39-point favorites against Idaho (1-10, 1-4),

history has taught Utah State not to take anything for granted.

Last year they needed double-overtime to beat the Vandals in

Moscow, prevailing 49-42 on Robert Turbin’s 2-yard TD run.

”Idaho is going to come in here prepared to play,” Andersen

said.

Just as the Aggies have much on the line, so do the Vandals, who

have played the last three games under interim coach Jason Gesse,

who is making a pitch to keep the job.

”Kids want to beat the champion,” Andersen said. ”It’s always

a driving force for competitive kids.”

Utah State is eligible to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

for the second straight year, but another win conceivably could

vault the Aggies to a bigger postseason payout.

”We couldn’t ask for much more out of our season, but we still

have goals in front of us,” Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton

said of winning the WAC title outright, then a bowl game.

Keeton entered the week ranked 11th in the nation in total

offense (321.6 yards per game) and 25th in passing (273.3). Now he

faces an Idaho defense that is allowing 42.2 points and 493.3 yards

a game. He needs 258 yards passing to break Utah State’s

single-season record.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham certainly knows what Keeton can do,

having lost to the Aggies in early September in a game that saw the

sophomore QB complete 22 of 32 passes for 216 yards and two TDs and

rush for what then was a career-high 86 yards.

”He is just like the dual-threat quarterbacks we faced this

year (in the Pac-12),” Whittingham said, drawing comparisons to

the most recent opposing QB, Arizona’s Matt Scott.

”On those zone reads, if (Scott) doesn’t have the speed and

athleticism to get around the edge, we make the tackle for no gain

or (a loss) instead of a … 20-yard gain,” Whittingham said.

”That’s a huge difference to have that element in your offense.

He’s surrounded by a good back, good receiver … it’s not just

him. But (Keeton) certainly is the catalyst that makes it go.”

The other is senior running back Kerwynn Williams, who ranks

10th in the nation in all-purpose yardage (164.3) and is one of 19

seniors playing his final home game.

Then there’s Andersen, who has been asked if Saturday will be

his final game as Aggies coach, considering all the times his name

pops up for a vacancy.

”I get that 24/7, but my love has been Utah for a long time,”

said Andersen, who recently signed a contract extension to keep him

in Logan through 2018.

He said there are no guarantees for anything in life, especially

coaching, ”But I love where I’m at and expect to be here for a

long period of time.”

Andersen said he knew this was a special group after the 6-3

road loss to Brigham Young before the Aggies went on their

five-game winning streak.

”That was a tough loss and the way those kids bounced back and

prepared as early as that Monday made me take a step back and

realize how much it truly meant to them, how important it was for

them to break the huddle every day they walked off the practice

field and say `WAC Champs,”’ Andersen said.

Now the title is official. The Aggies just want it all by

themselves.