Given what happened to the Utah State football team in its last meeting against Wake Forest, it would be fair to say that quarterback Jordan Love has mixed feelings.
On the one hand, the Aggies were getting worked over pretty good in what would turn out to be a 46-10 defeat back on Sept. 16, 2017. On the other hand, the beatdown was so severe, the USU coaches decided to throw Love out there in the third quarter to see what he could do, and he responded with his first career touchdown pass on a 77-yard strike.
So, naturally, with the Aggies opening their 2019 campaign this Friday in Winston-Salem, N.C., the role the Demon Deacons played in getting things rolling in the heralded signal-caller’s collegiate career was very much on his mind during Monday’s news conference in Logan.
“It was cool when I got to come into the game and throw that touchdown to (Gerold Bright). That was a really cool first college touchdown pass. It was fun, but at the same time, we were getting smacked, so it wasn’t too much fun,” Love said. “… It just played a huge role in my career being able to go and do that. … It really jumped-started my career and showed me what I could do.”
And after his fireworks-filled sophomore campaign, he feels plenty confident in assuring, “It’s going to be a different story this time.”
That much is true, of course — regardless of the game’s ultimate outcome, there will be no shortage of differences.
For starters, coach Gary Andersen is back running the Aggies again.
Andersen previously led USU from 2009-12. When he joined the Aggies back then, they had just completed an eighth straight losing campaign — their 26th such sub-.500 season in the program’s last 28 years.
Now, things have changed a bit. Since leaving to become the head coach at Wisconsin and Oregon State, respectively, and an assistant at Utah, the Aggies have now appeared in seven bowl games in the past eight years.
On Monday, however, he wasn’t there to wax philosophical about things coming full-circle in Logan — his focus was squarely on those areas that will factor into deciding Friday’s matchup.
• What was his toughest spot in terms of deciding starters? “Probably wide receiver. There was a lot of competition at wide receiver and there still is. … That will become more clear as you play a game, to see exactly when the ball gets in certain kids’ hands, what takes place, who the playmakers are. That’s the challenge … to make sure you get the playmakers a chance.”
• How is he feeling about an offensive line that will feature four new starters? “We were all-in with these kids in January and we’re still all-in with them. I’m excited to see them play.”
• And what of a D-line unit that was often banged up during camp? “Getting the defensive linemen back on the field was great. A bunch of them had injuries. A lot of them are staying healthy and have been in good spots. That’s the real bright spot, because we haven’t seen them live.”
Speaking of which, one of those defensive linemen, senior tackle Devon Anderson, noted that with the new coach came a new defensive scheme — but it’s one he feels will better enable USU to handle the Deacons’ run-pass options that bedeviled them last time around.
Anderson said he and his teammates are as confident as Love that things will be different this time.
“Scheme-wise, this is better for how we fit as a defensive front and back,” he said. “Toward the second part of fall camp we all came together as far as completely learning the defense, not many mistakes were made, everybody knew their assignments and we finished strong.”
UTAH STATE AT WAKE FOREST
At BT&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Kickoff • Friday, 6:05 p.m. MT
TV • ACC Network