For the Utah State Aggies, a return to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is a chance for redemption.
In 2011, Utah State finished its best regular season since 1997 with a bid for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, where it would be matched up against MAC opponent Ohio University.
Just as it appeared the Aggies had done enough to secure a bowl victory, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton drove his team down the field and capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run with just 11 seconds left on the clock.
The Aggies would lose their second straight bowl game on the blue turf 24-23; the last time they lost a bowl game, it was the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl in Boise.
Perhaps, then, the third time’s a charm for the school that has found a way to become the best college football product Utah has to offer this year.
Once again, Utah State will be matched up against a MAC opponent, this time the Toledo Rockets. Boasting a powerful offense spearheaded by three offensive weapons in quarterback Terrance Owens, running back David Fluellen and wide receiver Bernard Reedy, the Rockets are a dangerous squad. Any of these athletes has the potential to spark a big play with every offensive possession.
But Utah State has dealt with this before and responded well.
Back on November 17th, the Aggies were up against then-No. 20 Louisiana Tech, which was eyeing a potential berth in a BCS bowl. Touting one of the nation’s top offense and quarterback in Colby Cameron, who had yet to throw an interception this season, the Bulldogs were flying high and very confident.
Utah State did not back down from the challenge, building an early 17-3 lead and holding off a furious second-half charge during which Louisiana Tech ended up tying the game. In overtime, Utah State finished off the Bulldogs, winning 48-41 in Ruston.
Some may point to the fact that the Aggies let Louisiana Tech storm back as a reason for concern. However, it speaks to the determination of the defense as well as the mentality of the offense not to take the foot off the gas pedal.
Utah State has generally been regarded as a solid defensive squad, being the WAC’s best overall defense statistically and holding Wisconsin and BYU to a total of 22 points combined in the Aggies’ two losses this season.
How about a little respect for the offense, though?
The Aggies have scored at least 35 points in eight games this season, despite not needing nearly that many to win those games.
This is due, in part, to sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who has blossomed into a star in Logan. There were rumblings from critics that Keeton did not perform well in big games, even into this season. But those critics were silenced when Keeton accounted for 461 total yards against Louisiana Tech, 340 of which were through the air.
Helping Keeton out on offense is senior running back Kerwynn Williams, who has nearly made everyone forget former Utah State running back Robert Turbin, who punished opponents in college just one year ago. Unlike the man he followed, Williams is an undersized back but has the speed and versatility to make him attractive to NFL scouts.
Rushing for 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, Williams is one of the hidden gems of the bowl season.
Keeton and Williams are great counters to the offensive weapons that Toledo possesses. In addition, the pair may have a much easier time moving the ball against Toledo’s defense than the Rockets will against Utah State.
The Rockets rank next to last in the MAC in pass defense, giving up 296 yards per game through the air. In addition, Toledo has had trouble against dual-threat quarterbacks this season, giving up 407 yards passing and 162 yards on the ground to Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch in a 31-24 loss to the Huskies.
If Utah State starts quickly against the Rockets, it could be a long day for the team from Ohio.
It has been a dream season so far for the Aggies, who have won 10 games and beat in-state rival Utah earlier this season. All that’s left to do is put the cap on it.
That cap would be taking care of unfinished business in Boise. Thanks to a confident defense and underrated offense, the prospects look good for Gary Andersen's team.