Breaking down the Utah State Aggies

The Cougars head to Logan for a Friday night contest with instate rival Utah State.  The game is the 83rd meeting between the two schools with BYU holding a 45 to 34 edge with three ties.  BYU has won 22 of the last 24 match-ups including the last two.

The Aggies enter the game with a 3-2 record after an impressive showing in a 40-12 road victory against San Jose State last Friday night.  Their two setbacks on the season came against two PAC 12 schools in Utah and USC.

Utah State is in their first year in the Mountain West Conference after winning the Western Athletic Conference a season ago and is off to a good start with a 2-0 record.

The Aggies are coached by Matt Wells, who is in his first season at the helm after being promoted from offensive coordinator.

Here are some of his thoughts from the Aggies’ Monday football press conference, “As I look at them, it’s stop the run and run the ball. We’re going to have to find ways to run the ball on offense and stop the QB run game. Taysom (Hill) is an extremely talented young man, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a very good athlete, very tough-minded kid who has a lot of intangibles you like to coach. He’s the key to that offense; he makes it go.”

“As I look at them from an offensive perspective, looking at their defense, I think they are a very Bronco Mendenhall-coached defense. I have a lot of respect for him and his defensive staff. I’ve played against him at Tulsa, at New Mexico and every year here. Some things don’t change. Schematically, they’re very sound in what they do. They run to the football, they tackle well in space, and they play with high-level energy. They’re high-effort guys. That is stuff that I don’t believe is born into players, it’s coached into them. I’ve got a lot of respect for them and what they do on defense. It’s always been a challenge and a tough defense to go find points, find seams, and find advantages. I think they do a great job.”

The Utah State offense is led by junior dual threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton.  Keeton is in his third season as a starter and has led the Aggies to back to back bowl games.

In 2012, the Aggies won 11 games for the first time in school history as Keeton was first team ALL-WAC.

So far this season, Keeton has thrown for 1362 yards and 17 touchdowns as well as rushing for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries.

A good part of Keeton’s success comes because of the Utah State offensive line.  They are a deep and experienced bunch led by the center Tyler Larson who is a three year starter and two time All-WAC first team selection.  Larson is joined on the line by returning starters Kevin Wimpey, Kyle Whimpey, Jamie Markosian and Eric Shultz.  Kyle Whimpey won’t play against the Cougars after a season ending injury and will be replaced by Sini Tauauve’a.

Shultz had this to say about the Cougars from the Utah State football new conference on Monday, “As far as this coming week with BYU, It’s an exciting week for everyone here at Utah State. Everyone gets amped for this game and I do too. Even being from Washington, I grew up in a fairly Mormon community and everyone seemed to like BYU, I never have liked BYU, so it’s big for me. They look good and they’re a good defensive team. As I look at the front, they have Kyle Van Noy and a lot of returning guys. Eathyn (Manumaleuna) came back from an injury last year and he’s a good player, they’ve got good players.”

Besides Keeton, the Aggies have a few other weapons in the running game.  Both Joe Hill and Joey DeMartino have had success this season.  Hill has 53 carries for 252 yards and a touchdown as well as 13 receptions for 94 yards and another score.  DeMartino has 47 carries for 353 yards and four touchdowns, including 17 carries for 120 Yards in the Aggies last game.

Utah State really likes to spread the ball around in the passing game and already six players with 13 or more receptions and eight players who have caught touchdown passes.  Keeton’s favorite targets so far on this young season are Bruce Natson, Travis Reynolds, Travis Van Leeuwen and Brian Swindall.  They have a combined for 87 receptions for 1002 yards and eight touchdowns.

The defense is also loaded with stand outs at every position.

The front seven is led by linebackers Kyler Fackrell, Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil.  Doughty and Vigil were last season’s two leading tacklers and have picked up right where they left off.  Doughty has registered 50 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss while Vigil has accounted for 46 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  Fackrell has 28 tackles to his credit while leading the team with six TFL’s and four sacks.  Defensive linemen Jordan Nielsen and B.J. Larsen do a great job absorbing blocks to leave the linebackers free to make plays.

Here are some of Larsen’s thoughts about the match-up from Monday’s press conference, “It’s big, it’s really big. I kind of have a sour taste in my mouth from last year and hoping to get rid of that. This is why you play sports, for rivalry games. I grew up around BYU and the University of Utah, I’m from Logan, my dad actually went to BYU, but I’ve converted him to an Aggie fan. I bleed Aggie Blue and I want this win more than anyone.”

The secondary has some very impressive players as well, led by Nevin Lawson.  Lawson is a great cover corner who has registered 16 tackles and an interception.  Lawson is joined in the secondary by Tay Glover-Wright, Maurice Alexander and Brian Suite.  Glover-Wright leads the team in pass break-ups and also has 15 tackles.  Alexander is third on the team with 32 tackles and has also tallied 3.5 TFL’s, 1.5 sacks and an interception.  Suite has 25 tackles to go along with 3 pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

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