UTAH STATE AGGIES

Utah State Fans Have Basketball Hope, Touching Football Moments To Be Thankful For

Nov 28, 2019, 6:00 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2020, 12:20 pm

Jordan Love #10 of the Utah State Aggies rolls out against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the...

Jordan Love #10 of the Utah State Aggies rolls out against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the second half of their game at BB&T Field on August 30, 2019 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest won 38-35. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – This week is one of reflection, one of thoughtfulness, one of gratitude, and most importantly, one of lots and lots and pie. Before you go spiking your blood sugar to levels comparable to Craig Smith’s winning percentage, take a moment and reflect on what you should be thankful for as a fan of the Utah State Aggies.

The Jamaica Classic

Utah State entered this season with lofty expectations; ranked 17 in the AP preseason poll (first time since 1970), picked to win the Mountain West Conference, Neemias Queta returning after a brief flirtation with the NBA Draft, and an all-American and preseason conference player of the year in Sam Merrill.

It left outsiders, and some Aggie fans, to wonder if the team could live up to the hype after their Cinderella season a year ago.

A close contest with Montana State to open the season didn’t help quash the haters. The Aggies ripped off four straight wins with an average margin of victory of 38 points, including a 55-point win over Weber State. Still, were the Aggies really a top 20 team?

We got our answer in Jamaica.

In their first game, they faced an LSU team that won 22 games in the season previous, ranked number 22 in the nation to start the season, and returned 4 of their 6 players that tested the NBA Draft waters, without their own NBA prospect, Queta.

The Tigers looked like the team described in the aforementioned paragraph.

The Aggies trailed by as many as 19 in the second half but used a 22 to 8 run to cut the lead to 5. LSU responded by extending the lead to 12. Utah State made another run, outscoring LSU 14-2.

Merrill hit a go-ahead 3 in the final minute, turned out to be the game-winner, and Utah State had their first defining win of the season.

Why should we be grateful?

Because this game answered a handful of questions about the team. They have stellar leadership from both their coaching staff and players such a Merrill. Their bench is deep and able to score.

Alphonso Anderson scored a game-high 24, along with Merrill, and Diogo Brito added 12. They can get defensive stops against a quality opponent.

Does this mean they’re guaranteed to win the Mountain West and head to the Sweet Sixteen? No. But this game went a long way in validating our optimism for what this team could accomplish in 2019-20.

The 2018 Football season

Sure this sounds strange but here is my reason: Winning is hard in college football and winning like the Aggies did in 2018 is extremely rare.

The 2019 football season has shown Aggie fans just how fast things can change and why it’s important to appreciate accomplishments like the 2018 seasons. The team set 34 (!) school records including, to just name a few: four 60-point games, seven 50-point games, nine 40-point games, seven wins by 30-plus points, and 700-plus yards of total offense twice in the season.

Would you like to know how many times the Aggies have score 60, 50, and 40 points in 2019?

Once.

One time against Liberty.

The number of times they have surpassed 700 yards of offense in a game?

Once.

Against Liberty.

How many times have they beat a team by 30-plus points?

Once.

Against Liberty.

The number of times the 2019 team has been beaten by 30-plus points?

Twice. LSU and Boise State (almost 3 times, they lost by 28 to BYU).

Am I trying to bash this year’s team? Absolutely not. What I’m trying to do is provide perspective on how quickly things can change and just how special last year’s team was.

Even with the quarterback that engineered that earth-shattering offense returning, the team hasn’t been able to replicate any of that success.

As someone who attended Utah State from 2003-2007, when Utah State went a combined 10-36, never winning more than 3 games in a season, I feel a need to point out context when I see it. Understanding how much fun and how special winning is from year to year is something Aggie fans need to be thankful for.

Eric Munoz

Finally, not to be a complete Debby Downer on the football team, we should all be extremely grateful for linebacker Eric Munoz.

On November 9, with all-American David Woodward (or Woodley depending on whom you read) out for the season, Munoz got his first career start at Utah State. All he did was lead the team in tackles (13) and pick off Wyoming quarterback, Tyler Vander Waal, twice; returning one interception to the 1-yard line and clinching the game with Wyoming driving in the final minutes.

Munoz became emotional in the postgame press conference, outlining the difficult journey he’s had to get to this point; a culmination of patience, hard work, and previous disappointments.

Little over a week later, the walk-on was given a full-ride scholarship.

His story tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us why sports are great. The impact they can have on individuals and help us remember how much these athletes endure, not only physically, but emotionally as well.

For that, we should all the thankful.

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Utah State Fans Have Basketball Hope, Touching Football Moments To Be Thankful For