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What to watch for: Utah State vs. San Jose State

What to watch for: Utah State vs. San Jose State

By Matt Harris, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Nov. 10, 2011 at 12:42 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 Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information.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 Utah State Aggies are coming off of a wild win on the road against Hawaii and are looking to string together their first win streak of the season this Saturday against San Jose State.

Both teams come into the game with three victories on the season. But it's the home team that will have a different look come game day.

Adam Kennedy will start under center this weekend after incumbent starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton suffered an extreme stinger to his spine in a scary collision near the end of the second quarter against Hawaii.

Kennedy led the Aggies to a 35-31 come-from-behind win against the Warriors last Saturday.

Here are five storylines to watch for against San Jose State:

1. The offense's turnaround against Hawaii moving forward

Utah State QB Adam Kennedy
Utah State QB Adam Kennedy

Last week, I wrote that the play-calling and game-plan execution needed to be flawless on the offensive end of the football.

The first half of the game was less than stellar, but the second half when Adam Kennedy stepped in was one of the better halves of football we have seen from the Aggies all season long.

There were a few different factors contributing to it, including Kennedy's ability to throw the deep ball, offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin's trust in Kennedy's arm, with probably the most important factor being the team's desire to win the game for Chuckie Keeton.

Whatever it was that the Aggies did to play the way they did against Hawaii in the second half last weekend, they need to do it again this weekend. This includes Kennedy looking downfield for the receivers and Baldwin not calling plays too conservatively for the offense. If the Aggies had the mentality that they were down 21 points each week and needed to fight back, we might be talking about this Utah State team leading the WAC standings.

Regardless, the Aggies must find the motivation that propelled them to the comeback victory against Hawaii and then use it to knock out the San Jose State Spartans without allowing them back in the game.

2. Can Utah State win two in a row?

The Aggies are looking for their first two game win streak of the season and first since November of last year, when they beat New Mexico State and San Jose State.

The Aggies could easily have had a two game win streak this year already, but with several miscues at critical junctures of the game, their record stands at 3-5.

This week's game is much bigger than many people probably think it is. Believe it or not, Utah State has a chance to go to a bowl game. But they have to win at least three of four games to get there. The margin for error is very small right now, but the Aggies may have finally gotten on track after their big win against Hawaii this past weekend.

The question that remains: which Utah State team shows up to play?

San Jose State's quarterback Matt Faulkner. (AP 
Photo/George Frey)
San Jose State's quarterback Matt Faulkner. (AP Photo/George Frey)

3. Stop Matt Faulkner, stop the San Jose State offense

San Jose State's Matt Faulkner has been the catalyst for the improvement of the Spartans team this season.

Faulkner came into the season as the backup quarterback and was thrust into action after starter Dasmen Stewart was ineffective. Since that time, Faulkner led SJSU to wins over New Mexico State and Colorado State and a wild victory on national television against Hawaii.

If there is something wrong with San Jose State's offense, it may be that they rely too much on Faulkner. After the Spartans ranked near the bottom of the passing rankings in FBS college football, Faulkner has improved them to 40th overall at 252.7 yards per game.

In comparison, the SJSU rushing attack ranks 104th in the nation at 109.7 yards per game on the ground, including a 68-yard performance against WAC bottom-feeder Idaho this past weekend at home.

With the rushing attack struggling these past few weeks, the trend has been to rely more on Matt Faulkner. If Utah State can play like they did in the second half against Bryant Moniz and Hawaii, they should be able to shut down Faulkner and set themselves up for a good chance to win.

4. Which San Jose State team shows up to play?

The Spartans are coming off of a disappointing 32-29 loss at home against the Idaho Vandals. SJSU led the game 20-0 before allowing Idaho to get back into the game and eventually win it.

It has been hit or miss all season long for the Spartans, who currently sport a 3-6 overall record. Their defense has been spotty at times and the overall offense outside of the passing game continues to be a question mark going into this weekend's game.

If the Spartans team that beat Hawaii shows up to play, this game will be extremely fun to watch with expectations of a high scoring shootout.

However, if the team that lost to Idaho in a mistake- filled game shows up, it could be a long day for San Jose State on Saturday and Romney Stadium.

Utah State running back Robert Turbin
Utah State running back Robert Turbin

5. Utah State must play flawless football the rest of the way

The Aggies currently sit at 3-5 on the year, including a 1-2 mark in WAC conference play. They are definitely not out of the bowl picture just yet, but will need to play flawless football the rest of the way.

Here is how it shapes up:

The Aggies have four conference games remaining, including contests against San Jose State, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico State. To become bowl eligible, they must win at least three of these games.

The benefit of this schedule is that winning three of four games is very possible. San Jose State, New Mexico State, and Idaho are currently fifth, seventh, and eighth in the overall WAC standings.

The detriment of this schedule is that the Nevada game is sandwiched right in the middle of it. Nevada is currently ranked first overall in the WAC and has hit their stride these past few weeks.

Hopefully, the Aggies will not make the mistake of looking too far forward and focus on each game as it comes one at a time. Any slip-ups before the Nevada game could hurt their bowl chances. Utah State needs to put all of their concentration and effort into this Saturday's game against San Jose State.

Anything less could prove costly.

Email: onlinesports@ksl.com

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Matt Harris

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