"Utah State isn't doing well, but still, it's a rivalry," said senior tight end Daniel Coats. "For some reason all of those guys dislike us a lot and they're going to bring their game just so they can say they beat BYU. They can have a losing season and beat us and that can be a great season, so we definitely have to prepare for this game and not take it lightly."
"It seems like some people may say we're better players than them, but this is their chance to make a statement," said BYU tailback Fui Vakapuna. "We can't let up and so we have to take it them with no mercy and just have to pound them. I can't wait because it's an instate rival and I don't care who it is, there will be no mercy."
After the Utes held the Aggies scoreless in Logan, Utah fans will surely be watching to see how well BYU will perform.
"Oh yeah, I think there will be some that will look at this and make some comparisons," laughed Coats. "We're always in a rivalry with them no matter what we're doing. They can talk all they want and try to make comparisons, but once we play them, all the talk will have to be done on the field."
The Utah State offense has been shut out for three straight games, and BYU's revamped defense will look to continue the trend. Utah rushed for 161 yards and threw for 240 for 401 yards of total offense, granted the second and third teams played a lot of minutes in the second half. Against 23rd ranked ACC Boston College, BYU racked up 547 total yards of offense in their double overtime loss in Chestnut Hill.
The one statistical advantage the Aggies have over the Cougars is penalties. Utah State has been penalized 16 times for 128 yards while BYU has been penalized 31 times for 233 yards.
"They're very well coached," said Coats. "They have few mental mistakes, so we have to make sure we have our game plan right because they'll be coached up well to come at us as best they can."
In their first three contests, Utah State has rushed for a total of 289 yards averaging 2.4 yards a carry, and had passed for a total of 252 yards averaging 3.6 yard per pass and 9.3 yards per catch. Although they may have been more disciplined in their assignments than their opponents, the Aggies have also given up 657 passing yards, for an average of 13.4 yards per catch, and 661 total rushing yards on the season.
"We definitely have to run the ball," Coats said. "I feel if we run the ball we can kill anybody, so once we get the running game going, I would like to get at least one touchdown. Once we get the run established, then we need to definitely air it out a little to our outside guys or give me and Jonny [Harline] some love."
"We're going to ground and pound them," said an intense Vakapuna. "We're going to give it to them and that's about it. It's going to be smash mouth football."
The Cougar team feels that they have the talent and the coaching to be 3-0 and possibly ranked within the top 25. The fact the season has not played out like many thought it would has only furthered their resolve to show that they are a top caliber team.
"We're better than any team we've played this year and we should be 3-0," said a confident Vakapuna. "We're better than any team we've played and now everything is going to come out this weekend, and from there it's going to roll on to TCU and towards the rest of our games. That's how we feel, and we're driven. We want it and we want it bad."
BYU has a chance to be 2-2 heading into their conference opener with TCU. The Aggie defense will not be facing John Beck, who currently ranks 25 in the nation in passing efficiency, 3rd in total offense (310.3.3 yards per game) and 2nd in the nation in total passing yards. Beck aggravated an ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of the Boston College game and will be replaced by senior quarterback Jason Beck.
"We have tons of confidence in Jason Beck," said Coats. "Jason is a gamer and a lot of us feel that if John wasn't here, Jason would be starting. He's good enough be starting somewhere else if he wanted to. He's a playmaker when plays break down and somehow he finds a way to make things work.
"Jason has been here for awhile, and really there isn't much of a step down at all. He brings leadership to the quarterback position. I'm sad to not see John in there, but I have full confidence in Jason and know he'll get the job done."
The question on everyone's mind is, will BYU use this game as a way to prepare for their first conference game against MWC defending champions TCU.
"You definitely can't do that because if you do you'll end up losing," Coats said. "We have to go out there and play them like it's just this game, but I can tell you that once the clock ends everyone will be thinking TCU.
"Sure, in the back of our minds we all want to get to the TCU game because they're ranked, they're in our conference and at the top. We want to go over there and show them that they're not the top team, but we have to face Utah State right now and focus on them first before anyone else."
However, running back Fui Vakapuna has a slightly different take on how one game helps to prepare for the next.
"Games help us progress both individually and as a team," said Vakapuna. "We're able to see what teams bring to us and at the same time it helps us to correct our own mistakes and make adjustments to capitalize and get that W. That's the main thing for us is to get that win. The ball has to bounce our way someday and that's going to start this Saturday."
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