After trip to bowl, Aggies look for more
7:28 PM, Aug 29, 2012
When they opened the 2011 season at Auburn, the Utah State football team found itself in a position no one expected.
Leading by 10 with three minutes left, the Aggies couldn’t close the deal and came out on the losing end of a 42-38 decision.
Instead of letting the heartbreak of the moment fester, Utah State turned a lemon into lemonade, finishing 2011 with a 7-5 record and its first appearance in a bowl game since 1997.
And as the Aggies welcome Southern Utah to Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium Thursday, head coach Gary Andersen wants more.
“Overall, we had a very positive camp,” Andersen said. “We stayed healthy for the most part, and that’s a good thing for us.
“It was a good, competitive camp for all, and I felt it was positive.”
Utah State had a pair of key departures in running back Robert Turbin and linebacker Bobby Wagner, who were both drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. Senior Kerwynn Williams (6.7-yard average per carry in 2011) will be the featured back, and Wagner’s shoes will be filled by Tavaris McMillan (45 tackles) and Bojay Filimoeatu (41 tackles, 11 for loss, three sacks) at the linebacker slots.
In addition to Williams, Andersen likes what he’s seen from Kelvin Lee and Abou Toure to fill the backup position.
“It isn’t solidified by any stretch of the imagination, but it definitely gave them the reps they needed to compete,” Anderson said of the pair.
Andersen has plenty of history when it comes to knowledge of the T-Birds. He led SUU to a 4-7 record in his only season in Cedar City in 2003, and guided USU to a 53-34 win when the teams met in 2009.
“It is always a little bit different to play an opponent that you have a background with,” Andersen said. “I had a great experience with Southern Utah, and I am glad to see them taking the steps in the right direction to get into the Big Sky Conference.”
The Aggies will have a pair of family connections on the opposite side when they face the T-Birds, most prominent being starting center Tyler Larsen going up against older brother Cody at defensive end.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Tyler Larsen said. “There might be some little jitters, but after the first play I’ll remember that it’s just another game, just like playing against any other guy. I’m going to be there trying to be quiet and playing my own game, and he’ll be talking alongside me.
“Just talking to my brother, he says he’s more than ready. They’re confident in their scheme. We can’t let that lower division talk get to us, because really it doesn’t mean anything.”
Senior safety McKade Brady added that getting a handle on throws from T-Bird quarterback Sorensen will be a big challenge for the Utah State secondary.
“He makes good decisions and gets the ball out quickly,” Brady said. “It’s always hard to defend that.”