LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – It was simply the greatest turnaround in college football history. From one win in 2020 to 11 last year and a Mountain West Conference championship, Utah State is hoping to build on that momentum headed into the 2022 season.
“When you win the last game of the season, you always carry that over into the off-season,” head coach Blake Anderson said at Mountain West Conference Media Day Wednesday. “But winning a championship and then a bowl game, you have tons of energy going in. For us, the focus has been to re-focus. Don’t worry about the past. It was fun, we celebrated, rings are great, trophies are great. But we’ve got to go out and prove it again.”
Utah State went 11-3 last season and set several school records in the process. As for the pressure to repeat? Well, the bar has definitely been raised in Logan.
“The environment is a little different,” Anderson said. “No expectations a year ago and now we have high expectations. That’s obviously changed. The standard has been set by the previous team that this team has to continue to carry. But we put more pressure on ourselves than anybody.”
Some 12 starters are back from last year’s team including quarterback Logan Bonner, who threw for 3,628 yards and 36 touchdowns last season after transferring from Arkansas State. Bonner should be recovered from a knee injury he suffered in the bowl game.
“I expect Logan to be completely healthy week one,” Anderson said. “It’s Logan’s room. Year seven, he’s a grown man. He knows the system well. He played his best football at the end of the season. Hopefully he picks up where he left off and we’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the country.”
Picked to finish third in the Mountain Division behind Boise State and Air Force, Utah State will be battle-tested headed into conference play with the likes of BYU and Alabama on the schedule.
“Yeah it’s tough,” Anderson said about the schedule. “And finishing up at Boise the last week of the season, I hope that game means a whole lot. But it’s a tough league and a tough schedule.”
As joyous as Anderson was at the end of the season, his world was rocked by the death of his 21-year-old son Cason in March.
“It becomes part of who you are,” Anderson said. “No parent wants to get that phone call. You’re not supposed to bury your kids. But it’s also life, and it’s the path that God has got us on.”
Anderson said being a coach has helped him deal with this tragedy.
“Football helps me through it,” he said. “It has it’s place. I’m doing the best that I can to be the person that I need to be everyday. Winning and losing doesn’t become any less important to me. It’s just put in perspective in its right place because you need to value every second that you get with the people that are put in your path.”
While the biggest names in college football scramble for the most money and power, Utah State and the Mountain West are on the outside looking in more so than ever now. But even if the MWC loses schools to conference realignment, Anderson said he can’t be concerned with what he can’t control.
“Realignment is still ongoing,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect next. I didn’t anticipate UCLA and USC going to the Big Ten. I do think there’s still more maneuvering that’s coming in the future. For us, all we can control is us and our league. So I feel like we’ve solidified the Mountain West in a place that regardless of what continues to happen, we’ve proven that this is a really good league.”
Utah State kicks off the 2022 season at home August 27th against UConn.