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Utah State football closing in on bowl eligibility

Published October 19, 2012 5:44 pm

College football • Aggies have sights set on conference title and bowl victory.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • A cause for a party and celebration at Romney Stadium a year ago has gone largely unnoticed this week.

With a win over New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon, Utah State will accomplish one of its goals set in the heat of training camp in August — the Aggies will be bowl-eligible.

It's a testament to how good USU has been through the first two months that this has almost been reduced to a footnote. But the Aggies have officially moved on to bigger fish in the form of chasing a Western Athletic Conference title, achieving their best win total in 30 years, and winning a bowl game.

"We walked out at the very beginning of the season and we wanted to be able to get bowl-eligible," Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. "We want to get to a bowl game and we want to get into position to contend for a WAC title. But it's round eight for us, and that's what it is. It's a 12-round fight and we have to see exactly where we are."

On the bowl front, the Aggies are garnering attention from different sources. Representatives from the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl were on hand to witness USU's 49-27 win over San Jose State last Saturday. Differing bowl projections have Utah State affiliated with the Military Bowl and the Beef O'Brady's Bowl as well.

Utah State figures to be a heavy favorite in four of its remaining five games. A nine-win regular season seems to be in reach.

"There's no question that we've put ourselves in decent position to accomplish some things down the stretch," Andersen said. "For us to get bowl-eligible with a bunch of games left would be a big accomplishment for this group of kids."

A win over New Mexico State could be accomplished with a consistent offense. USU scored 49 against San Jose State, but only a field goal two weeks ago in losing to BYU.

In beating the Spartans, Utah State's offensive line played its best game of the season. A suddenly comfortable Chuckie Keeton then took apart SJSU's secondary. And the running game made a strong return with Kerwynn Williams.

"It was a great all-around performance," Utah State offensive coordinator Matt Wells said. "We want to see the same thing this week. Consistency is a big thing for us. If we can keep getting better weekly, then we can put ourselves in position to do some good things." —

New Mexico St. at Utah State

P At Romney Stadium (Logan)

Kickoff • 1 p.m.

TV • KMYU

Radio • 97.5 FM

Series history • Utah State leads 29-7

Last meeting • USU 24, NMSU 21 (Dec. 3, 2011)

About New Mexico State • NMSU is 1-5 on the season, 0-2 in WAC play. … Austin Franklin has 42 catches on the season to lead his team. … DeWayne Walker is 10-34 as NMSU's head coach. … New Mexico State is 3-13 all-time at Romney Stadium. … Andrew Manley throws for 271 yards per game.

About Utah State • USU has had 11 players make their first career starts this season. … Utah State is 5-2 for the first time since 1982. … The Aggies are looking for bowl-eligibility for the second straight season. … The Aggies have won 10 of their last 13 regular-season games.