Utah State missed a golden opportunity to stake claim to being the best football team in the state Friday night.
The Aggies are well aware of that fact.
Having already defeated Utah on the season, USU was on the cusp of capturing the Beehive Boot — the symbol of gridiron supremacy in the state of Utah. A victory over BYU would have sent the Beehive Boot back to Cache Valley. However, the Cougars had other ideas and eked out a 6-3 victory over the Aggies at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
“This game had a different feeling,” USU wide receiver Matt Austin said. “We came in this game knowing we could win the game. Everybody has a different mindset this year, but we just didn’t come out on top.”
Despite the loss, the Aggies (4-2) still feel as if they are the state’s elite team.
“We believe that we are the best team,” linebacker Kyler Fackrell said. “We believed that we could and should have beat BYU. It just didn’t happen.”
Dave Schulthess, former sports information director at BYU, was the brainchild behind the Beehive Boot in 1971, and was agreed upon by SIDs from USU, Utah and Weber State.
The boot is awarded annually to the Utah school with the best record against its in-state opponents.
In case of a tie, the winner is selected by a vote of the media who cover the schools. Such an event has happened just three times (1973, 1997 and 2010). The Aggies have been awarded the trophy in each year.
USU also beat Southern Utah this season, while BYU beat Weber State, but lost to Utah. The Utes’ lone in-state win came against the Cougars.
“All three teams may come back and say they’re the best team in the state now,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “Obviously, we did have that opportunity. I think we’re the best team, BYU will probably think they’re the best team, Utah may come back and say they’re the best. But, somebody will decide that and we’ll see where it goes.
“It was an opportunity that was presented in front of ourselves. I’m very proud of my football team. Our coaches worked their tails off, these players worked like crazy and I’m just very happy to be associated with them. They’re a tough-minded group of kids and will continue to play hard.”
Playing hard certainly wasn’t the Aggies’ downfall against the Cougars.
Missed opportunities were, however.
Not only did USU miss a 38-yard field goal, but it had a pass intercepted near the goal line on a trick play, passes were dropped and balls were overthrown when receivers appeared to be open.
“We just didn’t execute our game plan as planned,” Austin said. “If we would have executed our plays and didn’t have a few dropped balls, the outcome of the game would have been on our side. Again, we just didn’t execute. BYU played good and they got the win.”
BYU fan incites Andersen
Though he wouldn’t go into great detail about the incident, Andersen was not pleased with a BYU fan following his team’s tough loss.
“My hat goes off to the crowd ... all except for one guy,” Andersen said. “There was one guy out there that doesn’t carry himself the way that this university carries itself from what I’ve seen in the past. Other than that, it was a tremendous crowd, a great place to play, unbelievable environment. I thought we handled that part of it very well.”
Andersen was asked specifically what happened, but he declined to comment.
“It’s not worth talking about,” Andersen said.
He did offer this, though: “It’s just not what this university is about. I’ve been here how many times in my life, and I’ve never seen anything like that from a BYU fan.”
Ready for the WAC
With its loss to BYU, USU completed the non-conference portion of its schedule.
The Aggies can now turn their full attention to the next task at hand: Winning a WAC title.
“We’ll let (the loss to BYU) burn in the back of our minds, but at the end of the day, what we wanted at the beginning of the season was a WAC championship, and to go to a bowl game and win a bowl game,” Fackrell said. “All of that is still in front of us, so we’ve got a lot to play for still.”
“Like Kyler was saying, we’ve got something bigger to look forward to, a WAC championship,” Austin said. “That’s what we break our huddle for. We’ve just got to come out and move on to the next (game). We can’t keep thinking about the BYU game.”
No, USU can’t.
The Aggies open WAC play next Saturday at San Jose State, which has given the Aggies everything they could handle the past two years.
“We started way back when in January when we broke the huddle with winter workouts,” Andersen said. “All summer, all fall camp, the No. 1 goal for us was when we broke the huddle was to be WAC champs and that’s still out there. We’re going to have a tremendous test next week in our conference against San Jose and it will be a tough battle.
“We’re excited to get back to work on Monday and away we go. We’re halfway through the season and have had two tough losses and four tremendous victories. I look forward to the next opportunity to get the kids back on the field on Monday and we’ll continue to get better.”