How One Game Forever Changed Utah State Football

Dec 11, 2018, 4:04 PM | Updated: 4:26 pm
USU coach Gary Andersen walks off the field after Utah State defeated Toledo 41-15 in the Famous Id...
USU coach Gary Andersen walks off the field after Utah State defeated Toledo 41-15 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Boise, Idaho. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

LOGAN, Utah – When Utah State introduced Gary Andersen as the next head football coach of the Aggies for the second time, he mentioned the game that he felt changed the program and made it what it is today.

When Andersen took over the first time in 2009 for Brent Guy, Andersen was tasked with changing the culture of a suffering football program.

In 2011, Andersen did that. During his introductory press conference, Andersen mentioned the game that changed the way that Utah State was looked at when it came to their football program.

HIGHLIGHTS: USU @ Hawaii in 2011

Andersen said Utah State football changed on November 5, 2011 when the Aggies visited Honolulu to play the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors. The team was 2-5 going into that game, but what happened sparked not only the second half of the season, but football in Logan for years to come.

“The belief when things weren’t so well, the fight was still there that, ‘Hey, we will keep this going.’ Then, all of a sudden on that magical day, I’ll never forget it. Down 28-7 (at Hawai’i). Chuckie Keeton gets carried off on a stretcher,” said Andersen at his press conference. “In walks Adam Kennedy. The locker room was a place of ‘Here we go, what’s going on here?’ And we go win that game. Why did that all switch on that day? I don’t know. But, it did,” Andersen added.

Star quarterback Chuckie Keeton was carted off with an injury and Adam Kennedy took over for Utah State under center in Honolulu, Hawaii. They were down 28-7 at the half before they scored 28 second half points and held Hawaii to just three points to pull out the 38-35 win.

How The Hawaii Game Changed Utah State

After the win over the Rainbow Warriors, Utah State beat San Jose State by one point, Idaho by seven in overtime, Nevada by four and New Mexico by three to put their record to 7-5 and 5-2 in the conference. It was the first time that Utah State became bowl eligible since 1997.

The Aggies lost their bowl game by one point against Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. But the future was bright for the program as Keeton would play at Utah State until 2015, given he received two medical redshirts for season ending injuries.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton #16 of the Utah State Aggies releases a pass against the Wisconsin Badgers on September 15, 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)

In 2012, Andersen and the Aggies set the school record for the most wins in a season with 11. They went 6-0 in conference play on their way to winning their first conference title since 1997.

When Andersen left to go to Wisconsin, he didn’t leave the cupboards empty for Matt Wells who would lead Utah State to three straight bowl games under his leadership. After just winning three games in 2016, the Aggies improved to six wins before their 10-2 record this season.

Andersen stopped the bowl drought in 2011 and since then, Utah State has been to a bowl game in seven of their last eight seasons.

  • 2011 Famous Potato Bowl: 24-23 loss to Ohio
  • 2012 Famous Potato Bowl: 41-15 win over Toledo
  • 2013 Poinsettia Bowl: 21-14 win over Northern Illinois
  • 2014 New Mexico Bowl: 21-6 over UTEP
  • 2015 Famous Potato Bowl: 23-21 loss to Akron
  • 2017 Arizona Bowl: 26-20 loss to New Mexico State
  • 2018 New Mexico Bowl: Dec. 15 vs North Texas

Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner (9) encourages the crowd to cheer during the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. USU lost to Ohio 24-23. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Before Hawaii Game

Utah State appeared in only six bowl games from 1916 to 2010, winning just one of them which was the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl. In that span, Utah State had 28 seasons of six wins or more in 94 years.

Since 2000, under Mike Dennehy, the Aggies went 19-37 in five seasons before Brent Guy was named head coach. During his four year tenure from 2005-08, Utah State was 9-38 when Guy was at the helm.

Andersen’s first two seasons as head coach, the Aggies went 4-8 in both seasons. In 2011, the season had the looks of improvement, at least being competitive in games.

They opened the season on the road against Auburn who just won the BCS National Championship in 2010 with Cam Newton at quarterback.

The Aggies stayed neck-and-neck with Auburn throughout the game and had the lead with 30 seconds left before the Tigers scored a touchdown and won the game by four points.

HIGHLIGHTS: USU @ Auburn in 2011

They won their next game against Weber State before losing to Colorado State by one point in overtime and BYU the following week by three points.

Utah State won the next game against Wyoming before losing two straight to Fresno State and Louisiana Tech by 17 combined points. Hawaii was the next game on the schedule and Utah State was 2-5 overall and 0-2 in the WAC.

Getting Players To The NFL

After the 2011 season, Andersen had three players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft that included linebacker Bobby Wagner going to Seattle in the second round.

Running back Robert Turbin joined Wagner in Seattle after being selected in the fourth round. Running back Michael Smith went to Tampa Bay in the seventh round.

Running back Robert Turbin #22 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on August 29, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Since Andersen stepped on Utah State’s campus, the Aggies have had nine players drafted in the NFL from 2009-18.

Before Andersen was in Logan, Utah State had four players drafted from 2000-10.

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