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Instant Analysis: Utah State-Utah

Staff Columnist
Posted Aug 30, 2013


Head coaches at programs in middle-tier or upper-tier conferences (the Mountain West certainly qualifies) need to hire assistants for the sole purpose of improving game management. That's an important point to be gleaned from Utah State's loss to Utah on Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

FBS head coaches at the upper-tier programs (any of the seven top conferences plus Notre Dame and BYU) need to hire assistant coaches who specialize in game management and nothing else. This is something the coaching fraternity and athletic directors really need to think about after Utah State rookie head coach Matt Wells mismanaged the final 2:30 of his team’s loss to Utah On Thursday night.

Here was the situation Utah State faced with 2:30 left: The Aggies trailed Utah by one point and had two timeouts. Wells used the first of those two timeouts with 2:23 left on third and one. When Utah converted that third down, the Aggies had little more than two minutes on the clock with only one timeout. The only way to have a realistic chance at victory was to allow Utah to score. Utah State would have fallen behind by eight, sure, but the Aggies would have gained possession with a lot of time left. Instead, Wells refused to let Utah score. Utah State got one shot at a Hail Mary in its own territory on the final play of the game. Down by four at the time, USU needed a touchdown, anyway. It was obvious that Utah State needed to let Utah score. Wells didn’t necessarily cost his team a win; however, he did deny his team a reasonable chance of sending the game into overtime and winning in the extra period.

E-mail Bart Doan
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Thin line to heartbreak in Utah win over Utah State

The Beehive Boot might be walking somewhere else (we’ll have to counsel BYU about all that at some point in the future), and the line between heartbreak and jubilation is as thin as those terrible nylon socks department stores make you use to try on shoes.

When USU kicker Nick Diaz missed a first-half extra point, it seemed innocuous enough. When Utah couldn’t punch it in from the USU 1-yard-line in the 4th and settled for a field goal, it didn’t. But the Utes showed what’s more of a thick line between the haves in college football conferences, and the have-nots. They won the trenches late, and glaringly.

Dual stops of white-hot USU QB Chuckie Keeton gave coach Kyle Whittingham the chops to try an onside kick, which completely changed the football game complexion as a deflated Aggie defense went sieve on the drive and relinquished the lead.

Untimely cramps to Keeton inside the Utah five forced a flaccid, obvious run-play and ultimately set up a field goal instead of a touchdown. The difference? Four points. Utah won by? Four points. A key drive with over four minutes remaining saw the Utes just throw the ball down the USU throat at the line of scrimmage, really sealing the deal. A third and one with just over two minutes left forced a miracle, and there was none to be had. There were a lot of thin lines in this game. The result is Utah getting revenge in a game their coach admitted he thought about every day after last year’s loss to the Aggies. Now, Matt Wells will most assuredly stew until next year, all the same. Campus Insiders