Utah State football is at a crossroads. The next game will have far-reaching effect, not just this year, but for the next two years, three years, even beyond. That's the wonderful thing about college football, though; that statement can be made about every single game, every single year. You see, in this sport, it's not just about who you play, but about how you play them that influences recruiting, booster funding, crowd support, and on, and on. And of course, the most important thing, at the end of the day, is who gets to count the game in the "Wins" column.
The season hangs by a thread, and with it, all that so many coaches and players have worked so hard to achieve: a winning mentality, a winning philosophy, an earn-your-respect-on-the-field work ethic. USU finally has earned the respect of the nation after years, and years, and years of playing big teams on the road and putting the fear of God into them. Not that they ever seemed to be able to close those game out, but they were gritty, they were tough, and it didn't matter who it was, they were going to hang with them and play to win. They would never be intimidated, and they would never back down.
And after earning that respect, it feels like they are content to sit on their laurels and bask in the glow of their own mediocre glory. They're no longer a door mat! They're someone teams think of as real competition, as something more than just another G5 school of the Poor Sisters of Santa Juanita of the Benedict. They're a somebody, for the first time in decades. Who cares that they always came up short in the big games? Who cares that they were so close they could taste it, and never quite made it? They were at least in the running, and that's all you can really ask.
With all of this said, it's probably redundant to say that the Aggies have had a rough start to the season. The thing of it is, it has felt like that fight to achieve more, the desire to excel, was gone. Win 8-10 games a season, and we're set. Yeah, we lost a few games, but we were expected to lose a few, so we haven't really done anything to get disappointed over, right? Okay, so we lost to an in-state rival, but they're the better team anyway, so what is there to be frustrated over?
But with the wealth of talent, the benefit of being the underdog against two PAC 12 teams, and the coaching acumen available to this team, the disappointment among fans is palpable. For us, it was as if the players weren't taking any pride in wearing the Aggie uniform; as if it were just a game, that didn't have any impact beyond the arena. Granted, the injuries and suspensions didn't help- props to Coach Wells for sticking to his guns, of course, I'd rather have a principled coach than a winning team with bad morals any day- but they felt like an excuse, rather than a reason. It seemed, from the stands, that there just wasn't any drive, any passion for the game anymore.
And then came the Colorado State game. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't completely dominant. But you could see the fire. And for this fan, it gave me more than just something to cheer about for one play, or even one game. It gave me hope for a season. It gave me hope for a program. If they can harness that passion and commitment, and play with that same intensity, the future will be bright. We'll have plenty more situations where we are beating ranked teams on the road, or pulling off upsets in the conference. We'll continue to grow, and maybe even start to dream again. Who knows, maybe we'll make it to a NY6 bowl game. Maybe we'll beat Auburn. Maybe we'll be the best team in the state.
Regardless, everything we dream of, everything we hope for, depends on one game: the next game. It doesn't matter who it is, it doesn't matter where it's played, it doesn't matter what they're ranked or what their record is. Personally, I think we have as good a shot as anybody in this conference does this year, despite a rough start. And the reason is because last Saturday, our boys in blue seemed to finally see it too.