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After a bye week, three big high school commitments, and a few injured players getting healthy, Utah State returns to actually playing football.
Against Hawaii on Saturday in Logan, the Aggies will face one of the most explosive offenses in the Western Athletic Conference, a team that can easily turn a tight game into a rout.
Winning would be important for a Utah State team that's four wins away from bowl eligibility with six matchups left. And since two of those games are on the road at Nevada and Boise State, common sense says the Aggies will need to be perfect against the four opponents on their schedule that present more favorable matchups.
It's not, however, as if Hawaii is one of those teams. The Warriors have been a surprise of sorts in the WAC this season, combining its powerful offense with a stingy defense. Hawaii's abilities on both sides of the ball led to a home win against Nevada last week.
"I don't see a weak link to Hawaii," Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. "They are obviously an explosive offensive team. They have a tremendous receiving corps, they have a quarterback who runs their offense very well and an offensive line that is experienced and works well together. I think it's a challenge for our guys. They are excited about returning and have played fairly well at home this year. I expect our kids to play well. This will be a big-time challenge for us, without question."
A big question will be which USU team shows up.
Will it be the team that was good enough to beat BYU, or the team that turned in a lackluster performance against Louisiana Tech?
The inconsistent performances by the Aggies this season have been well-documented, and it's something that's been a sore topic around Andersen's team in the past few weeks. Andersen knows the only way to iron that out is for his team to be healthy mentally, and that will only come with consecutive wins.
"When it is said and done, we are doing this with a group of kids who haven't had success in a long time," Andersen said. "Nobody in this program has consistently had success at Utah State. There is only one way to have success and we're struggling with that remarkably. It is my job to educate them and put them in position to have success."
The Aggies feel the key to beating Hawaii is stopping the Warriors' running game and putting them in difficult passing situations.
"Last year, their running game killed us," Senior defensive lineman Sean Enesi said. "Once they started to run, it set up their passing, and we can't let that happen this time."
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Hawaii at Utah State
P Where • Logan, Romney Stadium
When • Saturday, 3 p.m.
Radio • 610 A.M.
Television • Altitude
Last meeting • Nov. 7, 2009, Hawaii won 49-36
Series record • Tied at 5-5
About Utah State • The Aggies will be looking to win their first conference game … A ceremony to unveil the statue of Merlin Olsen will be held at noon … USU has five players and two coaches from Hawaii … The Aggies have lost four of the past five meetings.
About Hawaii • The Warriors are 3-0 in the WAC … Hawaii leads the nation in passing yardage … The Warriors are one win away from being bowl eligible … Hawaii's beaten Fresno State and Nevada the past two weeks.