The last time most Boise football fans watched Utah State, the Aggies looked like they could beat just about anyone.
They stomped Boise State 52-26 on Oct. 16 in Logan — a game that was over by halftime.
Instead of pushing the Aggies to new heights, that win seemed to become the height of the program. They lost 48-14 the next week at San Diego State — part of a 2-4 slide to end the regular season that leaves the Aggies (6-6) in need of a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22 at Albertsons Stadium to avoid a losing season.
They’ll face Akron (7-5), which finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
“It’s an opportunity for us to go out and play again and hopefully put our best out on the field,” Utah State senior linebacker Kyler Fackrell said. “I don’t think we have this whole year. We’ve had good games. We’ve done good things. But I don’t think we’ve put together a complete, full game the best that we can. That’s what we’re trying to do in our last game.”
This season could have gone much different for the Aggies, who have risen from one of the worst teams in the West to a consistent winner. They’ll play in their fifth straight bowl game.
The Aggies would have won the Mountain West Mountain Division and qualified for the championship game if they had beaten Air Force. They lost 35-28 after failing to score inside the Falcons’ red zone late in the game.
They also lost to New Mexico 14-13, missing a late field goal that might have won the game, and needed to rally from 20 points down to beat Nevada on a defensive fumble recovery in the end zone.
Like Boise State before it, Utah State has converted its on-field success into improved facilities. Bowl games are expected.
And perhaps, Fackrell and senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton said, players need a little of the “hunger” that pushed the program to the WAC championship in 2012 and Mountain Division title in 2013.
“The biggest thing is to continue to push,” said Keeton, who expects to start against Akron in his final college game. “I’ve seen guys who literally have only been to one bowl game. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve gotten to go to five. Being able to see how hungry those guys were who only went to one bowl game their senior year kind of resonates in my mind. It serves as an example every day when I come into work that there’s always something bigger to push for.”
That’s a lesson Fackrell and Keeton hope the players coming up behind them understand as the Aggies put more distance between some woeful teams — a little over a decade ago, the program was lost in independence — and the present.
Maverik Stadium is going through an upgrade that will make it one of the nicest venues in the Mountain West.
“It has been a great transition since I’ve been here,” Fackrell said. “With success comes a lot of nice things. ... You have to put those facilities to use and work hard in those facilities to be able to sustain success.”
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
- Who: Utah State (6-6, 5-3 Mtn. West) vs. Akron (7-5, 5-3 MAC)
- When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22
- Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
- TV: ESPN
- Series: First meeting
- Tickets: $20-$90, at ticketmaster.com; $24 for FitOne Family Field Day (pre-game NFL combine-type event at 10:30 a.m., lunch and game ticket)
- Notable events: Team arrivals and bowling, Dec. 18; Humanitarian Awards dinner, Dec. 19; Winter sports or go-kart racing day, Dec. 20; Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast, Mash Bash at The Village, Dec. 21