There’s no question Utah State’s football team is still smarting a bit after last Friday’s nailbiting 38-35 road loss to Wake Forest.
The Aggies are anxious to get that painful taste out of their collective mouth, and will get that opportunity in their home opener. USU welcomes FCS program Stony Brook to Maverik Stadium on Saturday evening. The non-conference game — the first-ever meeting between the two teams — will be streamed live on Facebook and is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m.
“As a team, it makes us hungrier,” USU running back Jaylen Warren said of the Wake Forest lose. “We can’t mourn about it. Nobody likes the feeling we felt after the game, so I feel like it makes us want to go even harder, so we don’t have that same feeling, so it’s not repeated.”
The Aggies are aiming for their 11th straight win in their home opener and their eighth consecutive victory overall on Merlin Olsen Field. Additionally, USU hasn’t lost to a FCS team since its season finale against Idaho State on Nov. 18, 2000. The Aggies have defeated 12 consecutive FCS opponents.
However, Stony Brook is one of USU’s best FCS foes in recent memory. The Seawolves have made back-to-back appearances to the FCS Playoffs and are coming off a pretty impressive 35-10 triumph over Bryant in their season opener.
At Monday’s press conference, Utah State head coach Gary Andersen asserted the Seawolves “do create some problems with what they do.”
“Just every week, we need to be focused going into the game, because it doesn’t matter what level it is or anything like that,” USU All-American linebacker David Woodward said. “Any team can beat anyone on any given day, so we’ve just got to be prepared and prepare like it’s any other week.”
Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore is looking forward to testing his team against a USU program that has gone bowling in seven of the last eight years. However, Priore’s primary focus is on his squad and not worrying too much about the Aggies.
“You’ve got to take care of yourself,” said Priore, who is in his 14th season at the Stony Brook helm and has posted a record of 85-66 during his time at the New York-based university. “College teams show their best improvement between one and week two because ... you don’t scrimmage in college football, so we had a chance to actually tackle live, go through all of the game simulated situations, sideline management, game planning and stuff like that. So I want to see progress for this game that way, all the little things.
“Certainly they’re going to be a very tough opponent, but we’ll prepare correctly and we’ll make it a lot more about us than we will about them.”
Saturday’s game could provide a pretty good test for an Aggie defense that is still reeling a bit after giving up 579 yards of total offense — 401 through the air — against Wake Forest. The Seawolves don’t throw the ball nearly as much as the Demon Deacons, but they did complete passes of 50 and 47 yards against Bryant. Stony Brock racked up 443 total yards in its 10th straight victory at home.
“Stony Brook is a team that shows you different personnel groups on the offensive side of the ball and it will be something we haven’t seen this year,” Andersen said. “Substitutions will be key in that setting and they go from a spread offense to a smash you around with bigger people, with a couple of tight ends in the game.”
The Seawolves showcased a balanced rushing attack last weekend as four players gained at least 49 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the Aggies did a solid job of defending the run in their season opener, especially in the second half. The Demon Deacons only gained 80 of their 211 rushing yards after halftime, and only they needed 28 attempts to reach that mark. USU limited Wake Forest star tailback Cade Carney to 28 yards on 14 carries during the final two quarters.
USU’s next opponent, San Diego State, also relies on its rushing attack, so Stony Brook should provide a valuable tune-up.
“I think it will definitely get us ready for a game like that, playing against a team that likes to run a lot,” Woodward said. “That also plays into our favor a little bit because we like to stop the run and get after the run early, so I think that will be good for us.”
USU’s defense did suffer some injuries against Wake Forest. For starters, standout defensive tackle Fua Leilua, a honorable mention all-Mountain West selection a year ago, announced on Twitter that was his final game of the season. Leilua went down with an apparent knee injury, but did return and play.
Starting cornerback Cameron Haney didn’t play at all against the Demon Deacons, and Andersen said following the game that two of USU’s other top corners were banged up. One of those athletes appeared to be Arizona State graduate transfer Terin Adams.
Will any of those cornerbacks be available against Stony Brook?
“That’s up in the air,” Andersen said during Monday’s press conference. “We’ll have to see where that all lies. We’ll know more in the next couple of days. Right now, we’re prepared with the healthy kids we have.”
Andersen did say later in the week that true freshman Cam Lampkin, a wide receiver at the beginning of fall camp, will start at corner against the Seawolves. It was Lampkin who deftly hustled down the field and tackled Wake Forest wideout Sage Surratt at the Aggie 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
“You have to evaluate to make sure that you have the best 11 kids that are healthy,” Andersen said Monday. “After game one, it’s more important, probably, than any other time of year to be able to do that.”
Stony Brook’s veteran defense could also test the Aggies. The Seawolves welcomed back eight starters from last year’s defense that only yielded 315.3 total yards and 20.3 points an outing.
Notes: Stony Brook is 1-9 all-time against FBS programs. ... The Seawolves have experience playing teams from the Mountain West as they lost at Air Force last season, 38-0.