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Utah State Turns Heads in West DIA

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Utah State Turns Heads in West DIA

Utah State recorded their first DIA win in beating Wyoming 27-20 on Saturday, giving the program a nice boost in their first season in the new level.

USU opened their West DIA season with a very competitive 29-17 loss to Air Force, and considering Air Force’s wins over Utah and Navy of late, that result was not a bad one.

In the Wyoming game, the Cowboys ran out to a lead of 8-0 with a penalty from flyhalf Connor Rezzonico and a try from wing Joe Adams. And that lead held well into the first half, but Utah State eventually replied with a try from No. 8 Marty Johnson, with a conversion from flyhalf Jeffrey Clark. Then, crucially, just before halftime center Conner Peterson went over just before the break to put Utah State ahead 12-8. Right after the break, flanker Konisi Hosea scored to make it 17-8. Wyoming replied, scoring through center Elliott Lance. That made it 17-13 for about 15 minutes. Then Utah State center Ian Newton was yellow-carded, and right after that, Wyoming struck - Lance scored his second, and Cody Wichman’s conversion made it 20-17 for Wyoming.

Utah State responded with a try from wing Elijah Toa and USU led once more 22-20. With Wyoming pressing, Utah State sealed it with a try at the death from Clark to make it 27-20. 

Prop-lock and club president Chris Irvine said this is exactly what the Utah State team wanted. 

“The idea was that we wanted to make the move to DIA and play at a higher level,” said Irvine. “Air Force kind of caught us on the back foot, but it feels really good to get that win.”

The entire team - players and coaches - participated in the decision to move up to DIA, looking in part for consistent, good competition.

“We want to compete at a high level, and we’ve got the opportunity, so how can we not take it?” explained Irvine. “We wanted to play tough games, and we have always been willing to travel. But it’s good to be in this league.”

Leading the way for Utah State is most of their try-scorers from the weekend. Clark is a leader and smart playmaker at flyhalf or center. Johnson is the captain and holds it all together at No. 8. Hosea is a talent at flanker, and Peterson tests defenses repeatedly.

The future looks bright for Utah State, too, as they sit in one of the best states for producing high school rugby players. And in fact, Irvine said a very high percentage of the USU team is from Utah, and a similarly high percentage have high school experience. 

“And the more we play and the more we win, the more high school rugby players will want to come here and play,” said irvine. 

So you’ve got a team that has rugby experience, with access to high school talent, that has the desire to play at a high level. Remember that name - the Utah State University Aggies.