It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens or a tale of two Utah State football halves versus Wisconsin?
Last Friday got invariably ugly. The Badgers were far and away the better team and it was fairly miraculous that the Aggies were able to make a full half of the game competitive. Moving to this Thursday night versus Idaho State, the litmus test for this USU team will be if they can flip that script to their favor.
To be short, Idaho State is not very good. That’s not a shot at them simply being an FCS team; that’s a shot at them being dead last in the Big Sky Conference preseason poll by both the coaches and the media. The Bengals are rebuilding under first-year head coach Rob Phenicie after going 2-9 in both of the previous two seasons. Simply put, this is a game the Aggies should win handily. If not, then let the sirens wail.
The Bengals have faced four FBS teams over the past two seasons and have been outscored by an average of 50 points per contest. After being outscored by 49 against Wisconsin, this is the opportunity to right the ship and correct bad habits before heading into two “measuring stick” games against Wake Forest and San Jose State.
Last season, Idaho State allowed over 225 yards rushing per game and over five yards per carry. The Aggies’ stable of running backs should have a much easier time finding running room than last Friday. An offensive line that looked quite promising against Wisconsin will have a much easier time creating running lanes for the likes of Lajuan Hunt and Tonny Lindsay, as well as maintaining a clean pocket for much maligned quarterback Kent Myers.
This game will be huge for Myers heading into the next stretch of games for USU. After throwing for 219 yards with three interceptions against the Badgers, Myers’ confidence can’t be too high right now. For Utah State to have a decent shot next week against Wake Forest and heading into Mountain West play thereafter, Myers will have to be sharp and protective of the football. Any residue of the Wisconsin game need to be cleared from memory, and a game against an inferior FCS opponent should be an effective remedy. Expect Myers to rack up a decent completion percentage and a respectable yardage total in this game. Most important though will be Myers’ turnover total. Myers pressed the issue far too much in the second half versus Wisconsin, leading to two very poor interceptions. Those mistakes need to be avoided from here on out for the Aggies to have any hopes of returning to a bowl game.
Defensively, life versus the Bengals should also be much easier. The Aggies held up versus Wisconsin until their lack of depth took its toll and the Badgers were able to wear down the USU defense. Both the secondary and the front seven shouldn’t be nearly as tested versus Idaho State, allowing for invaluable experience to be imparted throughout the roster, especially for an inexperienced front seven still looking to form a cohesive unit.
If I’m making Thursday’s game versus Idaho State sound like a glorified practice, that’s because it virtually is. The Bengals shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Aggies, if any, allowing USU the chance to fine-tune systems and schemes in an in-game setting and prepare for tougher tests against Wake Forest next week and San Jose State to start conference play the week after.
And if Utah State is unable to prove themselves superior to the Bengals?
Well, it will definitely be the worst of times.