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What to watch for: Utah State at Fresno State

What to watch for: Utah State at Fresno State

By Matt Harris, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Oct. 13, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.



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 Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information.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.

LOGAN -- The Aggies responded to a two-game losing streak with an old-fashioned whipping of the Wyoming Cowboys 63-19 last Saturday.

With the victory, Utah State moves to 2-3 on the season as they now begin the WAC conference portion of their schedule.

First up: Fresno State.

The Bulldogs are coming off a whipping of their own, albeit on the losing end of a 57-7 decision against Boise State. The key question that almost everyone seems to be asking: when will these dominant performances become more of the norm?

What we saw from the whole Aggies team last Saturday (minus the first three minutes of the game) may be a glimpse into the greater future that Utah State can have if they can be more consistent.

Here are five storylines to watch for against Fresno State:

  1. The resurrection of the Aggies' passing game: will it continue on Saturday?
    Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin opened up the passing game against the Cowboys and those in attendance at Romney Stadium got to see quite the fireworks show.

USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton fight's off BYU's Hebron Fangupo. (AP Photo/George Frey)
USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton fight's off BYU's Hebron Fangupo. (AP Photo/George Frey)

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton threw five touchdown passes in the first half. The rushing game tacked on four more touchdowns overall as a result of the Wyoming defense being spread apart to cover the aerial attack. The Aggies racked up 548 yards of total offense against the Cowboys.

Keeton showed what kind of a player he can be and his performance last Saturday most likely has the USU coaching staff giddy about all the possibilities his abilities bring to the offense. Watch for the USU air show to continue on Saturday against Fresno State.

  1. Utah State's overall offense against a lacking Fresno State defense.
    The Aggies high-octane offense will take the show on the road to a defense that ranks 84th nationally against the run, giving up 171 yards per game on the ground. However, a more telling stat may be the Bulldogs scoring defense, where they rank 113th out of 120 FBS college football schools at 36.5 points against per game. Utah State's offense ranks 16th overall, including 6th nationally in the rushing game at 309.6 yards per game and 11th overall in scoring at 42.6 points per game. This game could be a very high scoring affair in favor of the Aggies.
  2. USU's defense against a young, but talented, Fresno State offense.
    Bobby Wagner, Kyle Gallagher, and the rest of the Utah State defense shut down the Wyoming Cowboys this past weekend with punishing force against the quarterback by forcing rushed decisions. The Aggies get another young quarterback this week in David Carr, who has thrown for 1,417 yards at a 60.5% completion clip with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Running back Robbie Rouse is an effective runner while receivers Jalen Saunders and Josh Harder are flat-out playmakers.

Fresno State's Jalen Saunders runs past Mississippi's Uriah Grant. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
Fresno State's Jalen Saunders runs past Mississippi's Uriah Grant. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

However, Fresno State will not be facing a young Utah State defense. Wagner and Gallagher have been around for a little while and know what style each team in the WAC plays. Look for those two players to propel the other Utah State defenders to big games while slowing down the Bulldogs offense.

Utah State is ranked 34th in run defense at 115.4 yards per game while the pass defense is ranked 53rd overall at 215.4 yards per game. It could be a tough day for the Bulldogs trying to move the football this Saturday.

  1. Will this be the week of a full 60-minute coast-to-coast victory?
    Utah State has had some pretty good games this season with variable outcomes. The common denominator: the Aggies dominated each game for about 50-55 minutes. If you look at the Auburn game, it was in the last four to five minutes that things unravelled while the Weber State game was more of a first half affair. Colorado State and BYU were last minute losses while Wyoming was a three minute mental breakdown in the first quarter. Regardless of the domination of the Aggies, their record stands at 2-3. They could easily be 5-0, we all know that. However, in order for the culture to continue to change in Logan, the team is going to have to turn yet another corner. The way to turn that corner is to dominate a game for the full 60 minutes. This week could be a big statement to all USU fans and to the entire WAC conference that the Aggies of Utah State are a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
  2. Utah State's chances at the WAC crown and eligibility to go "bowling."
    The Aggies are 2-3 on the season. They still have six games after this weekend's tilt against Fresno State. This game is pivotal for Utah State to keep their hopes up for a chance to play in a bowl game this year. If the Aggies win, they improve to .500 on the year at 3-3 with very winnable games against WAC competition for the remainder of the season. In fact, not only does Utah State have a good chance at going to a bowl game this year, but they have a good chance at winning the weakened WAC conference as well. With perennial powerhouse Boise State now in the Mountain West Conference and last year's champion Nevada in a rebuilding year, the Aggies should be feeling good about the opportunities that lie ahead of them. Of course, that is if they win their game this week against Fresno State. If last week's game was a must-win to save their season, this week's game is the sequel.

    Email: onlinesports@ksl.com

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Matt Harris

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