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Boise, Idaho • Walking off the blue turf at Bronco Stadium last year, Will Davis couldn't shake the empty feeling of Utah State blowing an opportunity against Ohio at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The senior cornerback, along with some of the other Aggie upperclassmen, has talked about that game and the many missed chances. They all agreed on one thing: Saturday afternoon, in the same stadium, in the same bowl game, represents an opportunity for a redo of sorts for USU.
It won't be enough for the Aggies to just show up against Toledo. Nothing short of a win against the Rockets will suffice.
"We have a second chance," Davis said. " We've waited a year to get back to this point. Last year, I think we were just happy to be here. We had gotten to a bowl game by winning a bunch of games down the stretch, and we were living off that. This time, we really want to come out on top. As a senior, this is my last shot, and I know a bunch of the seniors feel the same way. We don't just want to be here. We want success this time."
Coach Gary Andersen made a point of saying Saturday's result won't take away from what his program has accomplished this season.
But it's clear that an Aggie victory can greatly enhance the program's accomplishments. With a victory over a nine-win Toledo team, No. 18 Utah State might move up in the national rankings. A win would be the 11th in a season for the first time ever, adding to the already set school record. A victory would go a long way toward ensuring USU starts 2013 with a national ranking. A win would help recruiting, and would be the first bowl victory for the school since 1993.
The players, for their part, are putting some pressure on themselves. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton said this week a loss would dampen what the Aggies have done this season. Running back Kerwynn Williams spoke of capturing an opportunity.
"We all want to go out on a positive note," Williams said. "We want to represent our conference well, and we want this for ourselves. This is a big game for us. We know what's at stake, so we're going to have to go out and play our best game."
Much like Ohio last season, Toledo will present stiff competition. And much like Utah State, the Rockets are a rising program looking to make a splash on the national stage.
In his first season as an FBS coach, Matt Campbell has guided Toledo to a 9-3 record with an offense ranked among the top 30 schools in the country.
The Rockets are led by running back David Fluellen, who averages more than 130 yards rushing per game. One of seven MAC schools making a bowl appearance this year, Toledo scores plenty of points, kind of like WAC foe Louisiana Tech.
But much like the Bulldogs, Toledo surrenders plenty of offense as well. The Rockets are ranked 108th in the country in total defense. They have registered just 24 quarterback sacks this season, which shows a weak pass rush, and they haven't played that well against the run.
Against Utah State, that imbalance could prove costly. The Aggies were able to beat high-powered WAC offenses in San Jose State and Louisiana Tech this season because of their defense, which ranks 15th in the nation. If USU has proved anything in 2012, it's that you have to beat the Aggies on both sides of the ball.
"We know the numbers, but we've also seen the film," Andersen said. "We know that we're going to be in for a challenge, and we have to be ready for it. Toledo is a very good team. They are here for a reason."
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Utah State vs. Toledo
P What's at stake • A bowl victory for the first time in 19 years; a potential improvement on national ranking; an 11-win season
Kickoff • Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Where • Bronco Stadium, Boise
TV • ESPN. Radio • 97.5 FM
Records • Utah State 10-2, Toledo 9-3
Series history • First-ever meeting
About the Rockets • Toledo is playing in its third consecutive bowl game. … With 132.7 yards rushing per game, Toledo running back David Fluellen is fourth in the FBS. … The Rockets were ranked on Nov. 4 for the first time since 2001.
About the Aggies • Kerwynn Williams can become the all-time WAC career leader in all-purpose yards Saturday. … Utah State is on a six-game winning streak. … McKade Brady is probable with a broken jaw.