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Across the Cougar sideline: Scouting the Utah State Aggies

Across the Cougar sideline: Scouting the Utah State Aggies



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

PROVO -- After coming off of a satisfying victory over the Knights from the University of Central Florida, BYU turns to their in-state rivals from Logan.

Utah State has beat BYU one time (last season, 31-16 in Logan) in the last 11 meetings dating back to 1994, twice in the last 22 meetings dating back to 1983.

The first time these two teams in blue played was October 7, 1922; the Aggies won 42-3.

Recently Utah State has struggled to present much of a challenge to anybody. They haven't had a winning record since 1997 when they lost to Cincinnati in the Humanitarian bowl 35-19. The Aggies have only been to two bowl games since 1993 and before that they last played in a post-season game in 1961.

Their overall bowl record is 1-5.

Gary Andersen was named head coach of Utah State in 2009 after leaving his job as defensive coordinator for the Utah Utes (2004-2008) where he was a part of two BCS bowl wins over Pittsburg (2004) and Alabama (2008).

Andersen is still trying to turn the corner as Aggies head coach with two 4-8 seasons in a row. This season looked promising after a near-win versus Auburn and a convincing win versus Weber State, but then the Aggies suffered a heart-breaker against Colorado State, 35-34.

Now Andersen and his Aggies are looking to right the ship and reclaim the promise this season began with and avoid a collapse like in seasons past. It all begins Friday against bitter rival BYU.

OFFENSE

Running back Robert Turbin is the name to remember when it comes to Aggie football this season. This hard-nosed player is a great north/south runner that hits the hole hard. His speed also gives defenses plenty of headaches.

So far Turbin, who leads the fifth ranked running game in the nation, has run for 364 yards on 64 touches, putting him at 5.7 yards a carry. He also already scored eight touchdowns in just three games; more than BYU's entire offense has scored through four games.

Due to injury, Turbin missed the entire 2010 season, but in 2009, Turbin amassed 1,296 yards on 207 carries averaging him out at 6.3 yards a carry.

So far Turbin has been on a lot of watch lists for the 2011 season. Sporting News College Football Preview dubbed him as the "most elusive running back" in the WAC conference, along with plenty of first team honors in the conference.

"I think he is a great running back. In fact I was just telling our offensive staff I would love to coach him," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He plays hard and runs physical, runs for power and doesn't back down. He is fun to watch; I really think he is a great player."

Freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton is another head-turner who leads this Aggies offense ranked 16th nationally in total offense and 14th in scoring offense. He is in the same mold as UCF's Jeff Godfrey- fast, athletic, elusive, instinctive and he's got a good arm, although he hasn't thrown a lot this season.

Keeton's only attempted 60 passes, completing 40 of them, in three games for 465 yards and two scores. He has yet to throw an interception. However, against the Rams he only threw 15 passes (nine completions) for just 86 yards as the offensive staff pulled back the reigns and relied on Turbin and the running game, which includes the freshman QB.

Keeton has carried the ball 30 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns and his elusiveness has kept a number of plays alive and has turned negative plays into positive gains.

"They have a couple of really good running backs, a mobile quarterback in multiple formations that is fun to watch," said Mendenhall. "I think they have recruited the type of athlete that allows them to be competitive which they are so far this year. They have lost a couple of really close games is all."

If there is a go-to guy for Keeton to throw to, it would be senior wide receiver Matt Austin, who has 151 yards on 10 receptions. So, it's likely that Austin will be Keeton's primary target on passing downs.

DEFENSE

The Aggie defense is led by senior linebacker and play-maker Bobby Wagner, who ended the 2009 and 2010 season as a First Team all-WAC selection and is on the Butkus Award watch list which is given to the nation's top linebacker.

With 20 solo tackles, and 38 total tackles Wagner is the clear leader for the Aggie defense, but receives plenty of help from his teammates.

Junior linebacker Maurice Alexander and senior defensive end Levi Koskan, effective on both running and passing plays, are constantly in the opponent's backfield disrupting. Each player has 3.5 tackles for loss and combined have 4.5 sacks. Koskan has also hurried the quarterback three times in the season.

The Aggie defense doesn't force many turnovers (just two in three games, both fumble recoveries), but is allowing a paltry 270 yards per game this season, ranking 12th nationally, and an average of just under 83 yards on the ground (ranked 17th nationally).

SPECIAL TEAMS

If there is a weak spot in the Aggies' game its special teams. Utah State is ranked 118th (out of 120 teams) in covering kick returns giving up over 30 yards per return. Against Auburn the Aggies allowed a 97-yard kickoff return for a score and lost an onside kick that set up the Tigers game-winning touchdown.

However, kick returner Kerwynn Williams is considered a top notch return man. He is currently ranked 6th nationally in punt returns, averaging almost 20 yards a return, and averages 24 yards per kickoff return.

This Friday look for Utah State to try and establish the run game early behind Turbin and getting Keeton out of the pocket to take advance of his speed and shiftiness. While Keeton looks confident and has a good arm, the coaching staff has yet to open up the play book for this freshman, relying on what has been a very effective running attack. However, if BYU's strong front seven can contain the Turbin and company, the Aggie coaches will have to turn to the pass, which they've tried to use sparingly so far this season.

If Utah State is able to gain momentum with the run and eat up the clock it could be a long game for the Cougars. On the flip side, if BYU is able to sustain drives with a consistent and effective run/pass distribution chipping away at an untested defense and avoid turnovers the Cougars should prevail. While Keeton looks confident and has a good arm, the coaching staff has yet to open up the play book for this freshman, relying on what has been a very effective running attack. However, if BYU's strong front seven can contain the Turbin and company, the Aggie coaches will have to turn to the pass, which they've tried to use sparingly so far this season.

If Utah State is able to gain momentum with the run and eat up the clock it could be a long game for the Cougars. On the flip side, if BYU is able to sustain drives with a consistent and effective run/pass distribution chipping away at an untested defense and avoid turnovers the Cougars should prevail.

Email: onlinesports@ksl.com

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Harper Anderson

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