"Guys were focused, you could really see that during our practice week," McGiven said. "And when we went to San Jose, guys were really dialed in. They prepared really, really good, and they went out there and executed and it showed."
It's been a characteristic of recent Aggies teams: Since 2011, Utah State is 4-0 on the week after a loss, averaging 43.0 points and 505.5 yards of offense.
But against a No. 23-ranked BYU defense, the Aggies are trying to summon another big day. Last year, the team was held without a touchdown, to only 243 yards of offense, and gave up a fumble and an interception. The coordinator who presided over the offense in that game is now McGiven's boss, so the coaching staff knows what's at stake.
The progress against San Jose State has to be the start of a trend, not a one-week wonder.
"Those guys are all over the place," McGiven said. "They're really, really good, and they have been a long time. Coach Mendenhall does an unbelievable job with that defensive unit. Even though personnel changes all the time, for some reason you get the same production from them year after year."
There's a lot to worry about for Utah State. Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills, who each have a pick this year, can cause problems in the secondary. Bronson Kaufusi and Eathyn Manumaleuna can swallow up the run and get penetration. Linebackers Alani Fua and Uana Unga are confident players who don't miss many tackles.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy deserves a gameplan on his own.
"We're going to have to try to sustain blocks on him, because he does a good job of getting out of them," McGiven said. "We're going to have to lock into him and try to buffer that all over the field."
Matt Wells said early in the week that establishing the run will be a key for the Aggies, so Joey DeMartino and Joe Hill, if the latter is ready to play, will need to have big days. The offensive line is also looking to continue steady play even with the loss of Kyle Whimpey. The unit let up one sack and drew only one hold after getting blitzed at USC. For the year, Utah State has given up nine sacks - BYU has six this year.
Wells also stressed efficiency: The Aggies look to improve their third-down conversion rate from the 6-for-16 mark last week, and also be more successful in getting touchdowns when they get into the red zone. Utah State kicked three field goals last week of 24 yards or less.
"We need to be better in the red zone, we want to score touchdowns every single time and that didn't happen," Wells said. "There's frustration as players and coaches when that doesn't happen because we know we left stuff out there. We're always looking for that utopia performance on offense. We'll always be happy with excellence and we're always striving for perfection, which is hard to obtain."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon