LOGAN -- Funaki Asisi will not deny the facts.
No Aggie football team has carried conference championship or postseason implications connected to their Senior Day game since 1997, when the club played in the Humanitarian Bowl against Cincinnati.
They have not even played for similar goals going into their second-to-last regular-season game since 2001. That year, USU was 5-5 heading into their contest against at Boise State. The Aggies lost 66-38 that day, a defeat that led the Aggies to a surprising skid the following week, against Idaho State on Senior Day. With a chance to at least avoid a losing season, USU lost to the Bengals 27-24.
That's not a pattern this year's football version of USU (5-5, 3-2 WAC) plans on replicating when they face Nevada (6-4, 4-1) at noon at Romney Stadium. With a win and a Louisiana Tech loss to New Mexico State, the Aggies will travel to Las Cruces, N.M., next weekend to play the southern Aggies for a share of the WAC title.
"To me, it's like a feeling of accomplishment -- not that we've accomplished anything yet, but that we want to take the next step," said Asisi, a senior offensive lineman. "We've always been that team on the backburner, but now we are being recognized. It's something driving us after practice and every day."
While the Aggies' late-game play behind Adam Kennedy over the past three games has made such a condition possible for Asisi and the 19 other seniors, receiver Eric Moats said that Saturday's contest concerns much more than the current class.
"I keep in touch with seniors in the past," Moats said. "I know Austin Alder often talks with (former receiver) Xavier Bowman. I was (former punter) Peter Caldwell's roommate last year, so I talk to him on a weekly basis. I haven't said anything to him yet, but I don't think he needs to be told to know (the implications connected with the game). I think all the alumni understand that."
It's a matter of gratitude for defensive end Levi Koskan.
"It goes so quick, in the blink of an eye, but it's been such a blessing," said the Smithfield native, who currently ranks fifth in the WAC in sacks. "I just thank everyone, thank God for all this. To have this game really matter in a huge way, not only personally but for this program and my family and the valley, and to get the win would be something really special."
Star linebacker Bobby Wagner is one of just four teammates from the Brent Guy era who will be playing their last home game Saturday. Kellen Bartlett, Oscar Molina-Sanchez, Quinn Garner and Chris Harris join Wagner in that category.
"We just stayed focused and stayed positive throughout everything," Wagner said of the shift the program experienced when current USU coach Gary Andersen was hired in Guy's stead. "It has just been a long road for us. This senior class had been through a lot and it is showing."
Andersen agrees with his player, who leads the WAC with 11.9 tackles per game.
"Respect as a football program both on and off the field has gone up, and they should be really proud of that,"Andersen said. "I think there's a level of accountability that in my opinion is much higher than there was and that's a credit to the kids. We say the level of accountability to carry yourself off the field is more important. We're not perfect, but it's pretty impressive."
GAME NOTES: Junior running back Robert Turbin received several accolades after the Aggies' 49-42 win in double-overtime against Idaho. Turbin was named the WAC player of the week and the national running back of the week by collegefootballperformance.com, among other distinctions, after rushing for 208 yards. Turbin also scored two touchdowns against the Vandals, the second being the game-winner.
"I just feel very blessed to be able to accomplish some of the things that I have been able to accomplish," said Turbin, who has also broken USU's single-season rushing touchdown, single-season total touchdown and single-season scoring records in recent weeks.
"Coming off the injury last season, Coach (Evan) Simon (the team strength and conditioning coach) really did a great job, just did a lot of one-on-one training, taught me a lot about my body. He prepared me for this season to be able to do some great things." ...
Andersen said that placing the doubtful label on offensive lineman Phil Gapelu is an "understatement" in expecting the senior to be healthy enough to play against the Wolfpack. ...
Receiver Stanley Morrison is questionable, though Andersen expects him to be ready. For the second straight week, quarterback Chuckie Keeton will be suited to play, but will be on the sidelines in favor of Kennedy.