The Utah State partisans, the only ones still braving the dropping temperatures at Bronco Stadium on Saturday night with the outcome of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl long decided, werent leaving early.
Gary, Gary, they chanted in the final moments, an endorsement of the coach who has brought the program to unprecedented heights and, gasp, pledged to stay for a while longer.
They rushed OK, more like orderly proceeded onto the field after the game, taking photos on the blue turf, hugging players and soaking in a 41-15 victory against Toledo that capped the most glorious season in school history.
All the kids, all the fans, I dont like of any ya, said Gary Andersen, the former Utah player and assistant coach who has become an Aggie in every sense, right down to the Utah State tattoo on his right shoulder, I love you.
The love affair in Logan might just be getting started.
The Aggies record-setting season most victories in a year, most home wins, first road win over a ranked opponent, first outright conference title since 1936 is not the end, not the culmination of a process, but just a step forward.
The Aggies are trying to buck a college football trend: Non-AQ program reaches unprecedented heights one season usually with the aid of a rising coach and a senior quarterback and then gradually (or suddenly) crashes back down. Think Hawaii in Colt Brennans senior season and its current post-June Jones troubles. Think Southern Miss, which went from 12-2 in 2011 to 0-12 without its coach or quarterback in 2012.
But unlike the teams that finished behind them in the WAC (San Jose State and Louisiana Tech), other upstart non-AQ teams in the BCS Standings (Northern Illinois and Kent State) or even the champion of the Sun Belt (Arkansas State), the Aggies are keeping their coach.
They are keeping their quarterback, a junior-to-be with two years of starting experience. They are keeping the majority of their starters and an even larger portion of their two-deep depth chart.
The cupboard is not bare, said Andersen, who spurned opportunities at Pac-12 schools California and Colorado to remain at Utah State.
Which means the future is very bright.
We want to be a team to remember, said quarterback Chuckie Keeton, a first-team All-WAC selection. Its definitely exciting just seeing that we can take steps in order to become an elite program. Its an amazing thing.
Particularly when you consider the Aggies history, which contains very few highlights. Many of the records this years team broke were set in 1960 or 1961. Utah States seniors tied a school-record with their 26th victory Saturday. By comparison, Boise States Kellen Moore won 50 games in his career.
A couple staff guys told me they almost got rid of our program at one point, Keeton said.
Now the program is riding a wave of success and optimism as it heads to the Mountain West, where it likely will be considered one of the favorites for next years conference title.
Andersen and the Aggies have won 16 of their past 19 games, the programs best stretch since, you guessed it, 1960 and 1961. The three losses are by a combined six points. A missed field goal with 6 seconds left in a 16-14 loss at Wisconsin may have been the only thing that stopped Utah State from crashing the BCS this year.
The bowl victory, something Keeton said the team had been on a manhunt for since last years 24-23 loss to Ohio in Boise, is the final goal of the season. But not a stopping point for the program, which hopes to use the victory as a springboard into the new league.
It just starts everything off right as we continue to move forward, Andersen said. You get more and more recognized as you win.
Other things happen, too.
More fans show up for bowl games. They stay longer. They cheer your name louder.
The love grows.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph