Utah State stunned BYU last season, beating the Cougars for the first time since 1993.
But that game served as a rallying point for BYU. Coach Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and took over the job himself. Players came together, and slowly the offense did, too.
After the loss dropped BYU to 1-4, the Cougars ended up finishing the season on a 6-2 run with a bowl victory. The two meet again tonight in Provo, where Utah State has not won since 1978.
When asked whether last season's loss serves as motivation going into this season, Mendenhall said, "We have had so many changes and it was a pivotal point in the season where so many changes were made. It almost seems like five years ago so I’m not sure. The players might have a different perspective on that. I don’t, it just seems like a long time ago."
BYU (2-2) is having similar offensive struggles this season as Jake Heaps gets used to another offensive system. Fans are grumbling about the play calling the way they did last year under Robert Anae.
It was defense and special teams that helped BYU beat UCF last week. The Cougars are going to need another solid defensive performance against a Utah State team that has lost two heartbreakers already this season.
Utah State (1-2) dropped the opener to Auburn in the waning minutes of that game. Then last week against Colorado State, the Aggies saw a 21-13 lead late in the game evaporate after a muffed punt. The Rams scored a touchdown and got the 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime. The teams traded touchdowns but Utah State coach Gary Anderson decided to go for 2 in the second overtime to win the game.
Robert Turbin was stopped short and the Aggies lost. But there is no question Utah State is playing much better, and could even be better than last season, even if the record does not show it.
"We are playing better football than we have since I have been here for sure and I can’t judge it off of anything other than that," coach Gary Andersen said. "Nobody, nobody wants to win more than those young men in that locker room. It is going to come, it is getting closer every single week and I think that it is going to come on a consistent basis here real soon, it hasn’t yet but that is me just sitting here flapping my lips about wins. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t give us W’s.”