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Gary Andersen - Utah State Football
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Utah State HC Gary Andersen Preferred A Seven-Game Mountain West Season

Utah State Aggies head coach Gary Andersen claps as Utah State University and Toledo play football in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Boise, Idaho. Courtesy of Deseret News.

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State football is back in action after the Mountain West announced it was going to resume to play with an eight-game schedule beginning on Oct. 24 going through Dec. 19 with a conference title game.

This gives teams just about a month to prepare for the unique 2020 season and Aggies head coach Gary Andersen joined KSL Unrivaled to give his thoughts about the challenges. Of course, he is happy to have the opportunity for his players and has already started practices to get his team ready to play.

One of the biggest items regarding this abbreviated fall season was how many games to play. The College Football Playoff committee is pushing back their choices for the top four teams plus the New Year’s Six bowl participants to Sunday, Dec. 20. That allowed for the Mountain West to follow the Big Ten and Pac-12 to have their championship game on that weekend to be eligible.

The Mountain West decided to go with an eight-game schedule with no bye weeks, plus whatever teams make the championship game to give them nine.

Andersen shared his thoughts on the schedule. He liked that football is being played in the fall, but he felt that the Mountain West should have dialed it back and played one less game.

“I’m really happy it’s not the spring. I don’t want to ruin two seasons for one season. We’ve given ourselves a chance to play in 2020 and 2021, hopefully as normal, so that that is a good thing,” Andersen said. “You know if I sit back and I say, ‘how do I like the eight-game schedule?’

“I think eight games is maximum in our league. It’s eight plus one if you’re in the championship and everybody right now hopes they get to play nine games. So it’s good. I would rather have seven games in the championship.”

The one less game would allow for some wiggle room if games need to be postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, but the way the Mountain West schedule is set up, there is no room for error. Commissioner Craig Thompson even said that he expects games to be canceled with not every team playing an eight-game schedule.

What Camp Challenges Are There?

There are plenty of challenges in getting a team ready to play. His players have been working out mostly on their own or in small groups when allowed on campus. So, the challenge at hand for coach Andersen and his staff is to get everyone in the right type of shape for football and avoiding injuries.

“I say the most challenging things is to get something accomplished in the weight room that you usually don’t during camp, not just to maintain and sustain the strength that you’ve gained throughout the whole offseason and through the summer programs, but to actually gain some strength,” Andersen said. “There’s a challenge at school during camp, which is another challenge that you usually don’t have during your training camp cycle.”

Keeping the players safe from the coronavirus is by far the top priority for this football team and the player’s health and safety. In addition to adhering to those protocols, these athletes have not actually played football since the few days in spring camp that were allowed, with some even longer.

“Then there’s the COVID-19 piece, obviously, and then there’s the soft tissue piece, which scares me, hamstrings, you know, groins, quads, all those things that these high-end athletes can get when they go out and run,” Andersen. “So, I don’t think it’s one of those that is the most concerning, but it’s all of those together and just kind of managing that and make sure we’re structurally putting together a plan.”

This fall camp will be like none other that Andersen and his staff have seen in their decades of coaching experience. It will take all of their knowledge to make sure this fall camp gets the team ready for its upcoming stretch of eight games in eight weeks starting on Oct. 24.

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