Despite season-ending injuries to quarterback Chuckie Keeton, running back Joe Hill, tight end D.J. Tialavea, offensive lineman Kyle Whimpey and wide receiver Travis Reynolds, the Aggies have kept fighting. They captured the Mountain Division title last week after beating Wyoming, and are now one win away from a conference championship.
"There's a lot of buzz around here right now," said head coach Matt Wells, who is 8-4 in his first season.
There should be. Utah State has dreamed of this moment all season long. Even with all the adversity, they always believed they would be in the position. The Aggies take on #23 Fresno State in the first ever Mountain West Conference championship game this Saturday in Fresno.
"Why even compete if this isn't your goal," said Wells. "You break every huddle, you say 'Mountain West Champs.' You talk about it in January, you talk about it in training camp. We've been talking about it and they're have been a lot of people laughing at us. But, here we are."
"It's obviously the biggest game of most of our lives," said linebacker Zach Vigil. "It's probably the biggest game of my life. I'm probably never going to be in this position again."
This game is going to match strength against strength. The Aggies defense is ranked 7th in the country, and has allowed just one touchdown in its last two games. But Fresno State has the country's top passer in Derek Carr, and the Bulldogs average 47 points per game. So, something has to give.
"I think it's going to be real exciting," said Vigil. "I think we're going to come to play and they're going to come to play. I don't think they're going to score 70 on us, but I don't think we're going to shut them out either."
The Bulldogs may be suffering a bit of a letdown, after their BCS dreams were dashed after losing to San Jose State last week.
Utah State knows the way to beat the Bulldogs is to keep their high-powered offense off the field. That means expect a heavy dose of Joey DeMartino and the Aggie rushing attack.
"That's our deal, we're going to have to run the football," said Wells. "We know that. It's not a secret. That's been the recipe for success for the last five weeks and that's not changing."
Since losing to Boise State, the Aggies have reeled off five straight victories to become bowl eligible for the third straight year. Despite being the heavy underdog, the team has it's swagger back, and is looking to continue to defy the odds.
"I think we've gotten our swagger back," said Vigil. "We didn't have the swagger in the beginning of the season for whatever reason. We're just playing at a higher level right now. That's how you want to be playing going into the tail end of the season. You want to be peaking right about now."
Utah State and Fresno State will play for the Mountain West Conference championship Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. mountain time.