Nick Vigil is an Aggie beast; his performance was overshadowed
What Nick Vigil did last Friday got buried behind at least three other stories and that’s unfortunate.
The former Fremont High School star turned out a truly amazing performance as his Utah State Aggies shocked nationally-ranked BYU 35-20 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
He played on the offense and the defense, which is all but unheard of anymore in college football. As a running back, the sophomore carried 16 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. As a linebacker, he led the Aggies with nine tackles, seven of them unassisted.
And he did it all on a national stage, in front of a huge ESPN audience, knocking the unbeaten Cougars from their lofty perch.
Quite simply, he dominated the game and was the best all-around player on the field and that includes BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.
Don’t believe me? Check out what his coach, Matt Wells, had to say after the game.
Warning: It’s not graphic but it could very well make you a little queasy.
“What an athlete. What a player. Very, very natural,” Wells said. “A phenomenal performance tonight on both sides of the ball. The kid was cramping, the kid was throwing up on the sidelines and I think he threw up on the field once.”
Wait, there’s more …
“He came up to me and said, ‘Don’t take me out,'” Wells added. “Unbelieveable.”
For some reason I want to compare Vigil’s performance to something from the movie Rudy, but that wouldn’t be quite accurate.
The common thread, of course, is a heroic effort that will live on forever. But the comparisons end right there because Vigil isn’t a walk-on scrub waiting for his one moment to shine. He’s a bona fide college football stud and what he did last weekend was legendary.
On Monday, Wells was asked about Vigil’s emergence as a running back. Before Friday’s game he wasn’t even listed on their two-deep depth chart but he came out as USU’s leading rusher.
Will Vigil see more action Saturday against Air Force?
“You better tune in Saturday night, I’m not giving that one away,” Wells said. “I think we have to be smart as coaches. The kid could be a full-time running back, I’ll just say that. Three years ago when the kid was at camp, I remember Gary (Andersen) telling me to watch him.”
Wells was the offensive coordinator back then and he told Andersen he’d take Vigil on that side of the ball.
“I’d take him right then at halfback or tailback, didn’t matter. The kid is an athlete,” he said. “That was nothing short of a warrior effort the other night. It was an unbelievable effort by him. The kid played 108 snaps, counting special teams. We’ll be smart with him, but you may see him back there once or twice Saturday night. If they had the award, which they don’t, he probably ought to be the overall Mountain West MVP.”
We didn’t forget about Vigil’s performance last week; we didn’t downplay it because of some BYU bias. That’s silly.
Unfortunately, there were three other storylines ahead of him that night.
Hill, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, suffered a broken leg in the first half and was lost for the season. Like it or not, that was the prevailing feature of the game.
Secondly, BYU came into the game with an unblemished record and was ranked No. 18 nationally. When the Cougars lost, that became the headline.
Finally, there was the Jim McMahon theme. More than three decades after his last game, McMahon was finally being honored by BYU.
Known for his maverick ways, the former Super Bowl-winning QB, had been enshrined in BYU’s Athletic Hall of Fame the night before and a halftime ceremony had been planned to unveil McMahon’s retired No. 9 inside the stadium.
The game itself didn’t kick off until after 8 p.m. locally, so deadlines dictated we had only enough time afterward for a quick Associated Press write-up for the next day’s newspaper.
Look, none of this should take away from what Vigil did on the field … on each side of the ball. There’s no doubt, it was a first-line effort. Too bad it had to get buried behind those other storylines.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo