The 2020 college football season has been a whirlwind for Utah State, but the program received some stability Saturday when Blake Anderson was officially announced as the new head coach.
Reports that Anderson would take over the Aggie helm surfaced Thursday, mere hours before the 51-year-old resigned as Arkansas State's head coach. The news was first reported by CollegeAD and was later confirmed to The Herald Journal.
The Herald Journal learned Anderson and USU Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell meet with the team on Saturday morning. The university officially announced Anderson as the 29th head coach in program history a few hours later.
"On behalf of Aggie nation, I am thrilled to announce Blake Anderson as our new head football coach," Hartwell said, per the press release. "I have watched his Arkansas State teams over the past seven years, first when I was at Troy and then here at USU, and I am excited for our fans to witness first-hand his high-octane offense and championship brand of football.
"Blake is an outstanding football coach and an even better person. His emphasis on total development of his student-athletes in the classroom, on the field and in preparation for life after football, will be a great asset for Utah State University."
The Aggies will hold a press conference formally introducing Anderson on Monday at 11 a.m. and it will be streamed live at UtahStateAggies.com/watch. Additionally, USU will stream a question-and-answer session at noon, which will allow fans to interact with Anderson. The long-time collegiate coach will also make his first appearance on the Utah State Coaches Radio Show on Monday at 6 p.m. and that will take place at Old Chicago.
"I am beyond excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead the Utah State football program," Anderson said, per the press release. "This is an unbelievable place with a great tradition and history of success, both on and off the field, that we look forward to building upon. I can't wait to get started with the guys and I look forward to a packed Maverik Stadium next fall. GO AGGIES!!!"
Anderson just finished up his seventh season at the Arkansas State helm. The 51-year-old guided the Red Wolves to six straight bowl games and winning records, although that streak came to an end this fall. Arkansas State went 4-7 in 2020, including 2-6 in Sun Belt Conference play. The Red Wolves did beat Kansas State on the road early in the season.
During Anderson’s time at the Jonesboro-based university, the Red Wolves posted a 51-37 record, including 38-18 against conference foes, and went 2-4 in bowl games. The Red Wolves captured back-to-back Sun Belt titles in 2015 and 2016.
Arkansas State has struggled defensively this season, but shined on the offense side of the ball. Case in point: The Red Wolves averaged 489.7 yards of total offense an outing, including 364.36 through the air, which currently ranks third nationally among FBS programs, and 32.91 points per game. A pair of ASU quarterbacks combined for 3,921 yards passing and 37 touchdowns, vs. eight interceptions, during the 2020 campaign.
In 2017, Anderson helped guide the program to single-season schools records in total yards per game (494.8), yards passing (4,106) and TD passes (38). In Anderson’s first season in charge of the program, the Red Wolves racked up a school record 6,174 yards of total offense. ASU ranked fifth nationally in passing offense in 2017 and 10th in 2019.
Anderson ultimately provided some stability to an Arkansas State program that lost its previous three head coaches to higher profile programs after just one season. Anderson replaced Bryan Harsin, who bolted for the same position at Boise State after his lone season at the ASU helm.
The native of Hubbard, Texas, started his collegiate coaching career at Eastern New Mexico from 1992-93. Anderson has also coached at Howard Payne (1994), Trinity Valley Community College (1995-98), New Mexico (1999-01), Middle Tennessee (2002-04), Louisiana-Lafayette (2007), Southern Mississippi (2008-11) and North Carolina (2012-13).
Arkansas State was Anderson’s first head coaching job, although he gained valuable experience as an offensive coordinator at North Carolina, Southern Miss, Louisiana-Lafayette and Trinity Valley, where he helped guide the Cardinals to a junior college national title in 1997. In his first of two seasons as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator, the program broke 35 school records, finished eighth nationally in scoring offense and averaged 485.6 yards an outing.
The former Baylor and Sam Houston State player has extensive experience coaching quarterbacks. He was a quarterback and wide receiver in college.
Anderson, who is close friends with former Aggie head coach Matt Wells, has experience coaching against Utah State as the two programs squared off in 2014 and 2016. The Red Wolves beat the visiting Aggies in overtime, 21-14, in 2014. USU missed a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. The Aggies got revenge at Maverik Stadium in 2016 by prevailing 34-20.
Anderson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sam Houston State in 1992 and a master’s degree in sports administration from Eastern New Mexico in 1994. Blake and the late Wendy Anderson have three children in sons Coleton and Cason, and daughter Callie. Wendy Anderson passed away after a valiant battle with breast cancer prior to the 2019 season. Anderson also lost his father that same year.