No. 14 Utah State vs No. 21 Boise State: The Big One
Buckle up, it’s finally here
Aggies face Broncos on college football’s ugliest field to complete 2018 revenge tour
It’s been seven years since Utah State stepped out of shadow and rejoined the college football landscape as a meaningful program. No one game in that time span, nor any game in the four decades preceding this triumphant resurrection, has meant as much as this. No. 14 Utah State vs. No. 21 Boise State, tonight, for the division crown, the right to host the conference title game, and the ability to trash talk on Twitter for the next calendar year.
A note on the road so far…
There’s a good chance this game was fated to happen from the moment schedules were first released. The Broncos have looked their typical selves, beating Fresno on their cursed home turf and ripping through conference matchups with a quarterback everyone knows is good but often forgets can be great.
Utah State spent most of the year embarrassing its fellow Mountain West squads en route to a 9-game winning streak which appeared to die Saturday night in Ft. Collins, then promptly rose from the grave and snatched every ounce of joy right out of Colorado State’s senior night celebration. Thanks to a MW officiating crew’s careful attention to detail — and Preston Williams’ cleat size — the streak is now 10.
Last week’s outing provided valuable insight into USU’s ability to perform under pressure — the biggest key to tonight’s matchup for either team. Utah State stared a tight situation right in the face, then deftly spun the wheel of chaos and found a way to ace this game’s final 96 seconds while doing a whole lot of things wrong.
Jordan Love took the field trailing CSU 24-23 and led a previously toothless Aggie offense into field goal range. With time running out, the plan was to throw on 3rd and six and earn a first down, but Aaren Vaughns would have none of it. Vaughns sprung open — like, really open — and Love capitalized with a signature high-arcing pass which collected its own layer of Colorado frost before finding its target. Vaughns juked a defender, stepped into the end zone, and for a moment Utah State appeared to confirm its ability to close.
A failed 2-pt conversion meant Utah State’s lead was only 29-24. A dangerous amount of time remained for a dangerous QB and his dangerous RB buddy Izzy Matthews. The Rams drove quickly, and with eight seconds remaining Collin Hill tossed a 30-yard prayer to Preston Williams in the end zone. He timed his jump perfectly, elevating above two Aggie defenders for a senior night miracle. CSU players mugged Williams, all-caps tweets were abruptly typed and sent, and the Aggies’ nine-game hot streak ended in a blustery outing in Ft. Collins.
Alas, ‘twas not so. The Rams’ application for a miracle had been denied. The football gods shrugged at a sleeveless Mike Bobo, informing him that Williams stepped out of bounds whilst streaking toward the end zone — his would-be game-winning snag nullified by an illegal touching penalty.
The game was over.
Utah State has faced a handful of pressure situations this season, but none quite like this. Tonight will be an epic clash between Utah State’s highest-flying offense ever and the Mountain West’s perennial bully. Every play of every quarter will bear the same weight as that final minute in Ft. Collins — and it is going to be awesome.