COURTESY OF THE WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Utah State coach Brent Guy knows the obstacles in front of him, but believes his school can be another Boise State.
Fans indifferent to 1-7 Aggies
LOGAN, Utah » "The Marketplace" is incredible. If more high school students knew about "The Marketplace," applications for Utah State would quadruple.
"The Marketplace" is where the Aggies dine. It rivals Las Vegas casino buffets, with dozens of choices of good, tasty, fresh stuff to eat, and that's just the salad bar. There are also four different lines for hot foods, everything from a taco bar to custom stir fry. The only things missing are shrimp (and the other kinds of) cocktails, grilled-to-order steaks and a keno runner.
Plus it's warm in here. It's a clear, pretty night with just a touch of snow lingering on the Wasatch Mountains. But the temperature is on the wrong side of 50 degrees for a visitor from the tropics.
Aggies football coach Brent Guy is a smart man. That's why he holds his weekly radio show at "The Marketplace." He has a captive, if somewhat inattentive, dinner-chomping audience. That's how it is when you're 1-7.
It's a call-in show, but no one calls. There is no controversy. No local TV anchor has called him arrogant. No one questions his play-calling. If disinterest is indeed worse than dislike, someone hurry up and serve up a plate of hate to Brent Guy.
But Guy remains undaunted. He and the veteran voice of the Aggies, Al Lewis, soldier on, talking about tomorrow's game against Hawaii. They are joined by safety Antonio Taylor and receiver Kevin Robinson. They make no boisterous claims of what they and Mr. Freeze will do to the visitors. They acknowledge that the Warriors, 27-point favorites, stand as an awesome challenge. Guy encourages his listeners (what few there are out of earshot of "The Marketplace") to come to the game to see UH, because it has the No. 1 offense in the nation, and this is not something you get to see everyday. This is something you get to see because Utah State is in the WAC, Guy says with pride.
Taylor is asked what it feels like when he gets beaten to the end zone by an opposing receiver.
"It's like losing a girlfriend or something," he says.
Robinson is asked if there's a way Utah State can upset Hawaii.
"Just play our normal game and try to control the clock," he says with a shrug.
Robinson says this seemingly without much conviction, like he's answered this way a hundred times, which he probably has. But it should be remembered that it actually worked in the Aggies' last home game, nearly a month ago against Fresno State. Utah State hung around and hung around. Guy likes to say how Logan has been officially recognized as the safest city in America. Well, it wasn't that day for the Bulldogs. They were mugged, 13-12.
It was huge. The students heard the Aggies were in the game, and they showed up at halftime.
"It was great, we had a lot of fun," says graduate student Spencer Cheshire of nearby Layton.
Remember, this was when Fresno State was still Fresno State -- before the Warriors crushed 'em, 68-37, before the Clovis High School JV stole the Bulldogs' uniforms. Here's a sad thing for Utah State: With every Fresno loss, the Aggies' big win loses a little more luster.
While it was a great time for Cheshire, maybe not great enough to go again. He's undecided about attending tomorrow's game. The man wearing an Aggies' student fan club shirt is asked if they have a chance against Hawaii. "Cold and altitude could be factors," then Cheshire reflects, like a good grad student does. "But no, not enough."
The show is winding down. Lewis solicits phone calls again. No one calls. Maybe because this is a basketball school, maybe because the Aggies are bad and they've been bad so long any interest in berating the coach or the players has long since faded away.
Guy has reason to believe he can turn things around. He was an assistant here before, when things were better. They actually won a bowl game, in 1993, when Guy was on John L. Smith's staff. Then he went to Boise State and Arizona State, places where they usually win, before Utah State hired him for his first head-coaching position last year. He's 4-15 so far, but Lewis says he's on the right track.
"He knows everything about the situation, and he's seen the mistakes made by others," says Lewis, who has been the voice of the Aggies more than 20 years, and went to school here. "Most guys tried for the quick fix of JC transfers. He's gonna build with young kids."
Young kids like true freshman quarterback Riley Nelson, a record-setting star at Logan High School who decided to stay home, and is starting already.
Guy believes Utah State can be another Boise State. One similarity is the need for a wide recruiting base.
"Utah is not heavily populated. There's about 10 kids in this state we're recruiting. We can't generate enough Division I players," says Guy, who must battle with Utah and BYU for all of them. "So we go to California, Texas, Nevada."
He knows he has to go after certain kinds of kids -- the kind who want an out-of-the-way place where they can focus on school and football.
"We don't have the airport and the malls, but we don't have traffic and crime," Guy says.
Freshman defensive end Jon Overton, a Punahou graduate, says he likes the remoteness.
"When I first came here I noticed it was really laid-back, even more than Hawaii. It's a small town, a nice place to be. If I need to go to the city I can go to Salt Lake."
He also gets to play as a true freshman. According to Overton, if he had agreed to UH's terms, he wouldn't even be on the team yet.
"It was kind of confusing. I was offered (a scholarship) at first, then I came to Utah State for a visit," the 2005 Star-Bulletin All-State defensive player of the year recalls. "While on the trip, UH told me they wanted to grayshirt me. It didn't sound like something I wanted to do."
Defensive line coach Danilo Robinson counts on Overton as a cornerstone for future success.
"We'll go anywhere in the country to get a player like that," Robinson says. "Jon Overton is a great character kid on and off the field. He's becoming an every-down guy. He's already a great pass rusher."
As his radio show ends, Guy pleads with the students one more time.
"Don't wait to see if we're going to play good, help us play good from the beginning. Come out and help us win it."
They continue to eat. A few clap as the show ends.
Is there a way they can transplant "The Marketplace" to Romney Stadium?