Oregon State Football: Previewing the Utah State Aggies

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OMN Sports

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

After eight long years, the Oregon State Beavers will play in a bowl game for the first time since 2013.

This Saturday, on December 18th, the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl will feature the Oregon State Beavers (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) and the Utah State Aggies (10-3, 6-2 Mountain West) as the two team will play against each other at the newly built SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

The Aggies emerged as one of the top football teams in the Mountain West Conference this season, finishing first in the conference and the mountain division. This was the first time this has happened for Utah State since they joined the conference in 2013.

After posting a record of 1-5 last year, the team had their fourth ten-win season in school history in 2021. First year Head Coach Blake Anderson was named a finalist for the FWAA National Coach of the Year award for his immediate turnaround of the football program and leading the team to their first conference championship since 2012.

The Aggies with their 46-13 win over the San Diego State Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference Championship game earned them a bowl berth to the LA Bowl. This bowl selection marks the ninth post season appearance in the last eleven years for Utah State Football.

Coach Anderson and the Utah State team are looking forward to the challenge of playing Oregon State on Saturday.

“We had a chance to watch them a couple times this season,” said Anderson when asked about the Beavers during a media session. “Our guys are getting geeked up.”

Football teams in the Mountain West Conference this year went 5-5 against the PAC-12 conference during the regular season, one of those was Utah State’s first win of the year against Washington State, which they won 26-23. The Beavers played one Mountain West Football team early in the season winning 45-27 over Hawai’i, who Utah State beat in conference play, 51-31, on October 20th,,  2021.

“You’re playing great ball teams in that league; we’ve already seen Washington State up close and were fortunate to win that one. Several teams in our league play throughout the Pac-12. We know what kind of challenge it will be,” said Coach Anderson.

The commonality of playing a familiar opponent will give Coach Anderson and the Aggies a lot of film to prepare for the Beavers on Saturday.

In addition to film, Utah State’s preparation for Saturday could be aided by a former Beaver on the Utah State team. Utah State junior running back Calvin Tyler Jr. played four seasons for the Beavers appearing in 14 games before transferring to Utah State ahead of the 2021 season.

“This will obviously be a strange matchup for him having transferred from Oregon State, but I know he appreciated his time there and appreciated the coaches that he knew, and it will be fun for him to get to see a lot of guys he cares about,” Anderson said about Tyler facing his former teammates in the bowl game.

Tyler has provided an immediate impact on offense since his arrival to Utah State, leading the team with 170 carries, 764 rushing yards, and 6 touchdowns.

Anderson raved about Tyler explaining, “We need a guy that could come in and kind of calm the room down and show some experience and be every down back; With the exception of injury, he’s done that all year and continually felt more and more comfortable with what we’re doing playing his best ball down the stretch. A couple of huge runs when we had to have them most.”

Now, the Beavers will be tasked with slowing down Tyler, which could pose a challenge as Utah State features many playmakers on both sides of the football. Other key players for Utah State include senior wide receiver Deven Thompkins and senior linebacker Justin Rice, who had standout seasons this year.

The Utah State defense along with the offense has been dominant this year creating many issues for opposing teams that they’ve played this season. The defense created 19-turnovers this season, which was the best out of all the football teams in the Mountain West conference this season.

Offensive line coach, Jim Michalczik, said,  “They play amazingly hard, these guys run to ball, rally, they’re a penetrating defense. Attacking downhill, fast flow defense, they’re dangerous… they can make you look bad in a hurry, and so we have to match their intensity level, the way they play, the effort they play with, it’s a solid defense, they’ll get after you.”

A win on Saturday would mark the third 11-win season for Utah State, the most recent 11- win season for the Aggies was back in 2018. The first one came under former Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. A win for Oregon State would be the first bowl game victory in eight years for the football program, which coincided with their last bowl game appearance.

The Beavers take on the Aggies on Saturday Dec. 18 at 4:30 p.m. at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, with the game will be broadcasted nationally on ABC network.