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Defense strong in Utah State's 36-24 home win over Wake Forest

By Sean Walker | Posted - Sep. 13, 2014 at 9:54 p.m.

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LOGAN — Wake Forest became the first team from the Atlantic Coast Conference to visit Romney Stadium on Saturday night, but the Utah State defense didn’t give the Demon Deacons a warm reception.

The Aggies’ defensive domination started early with Zach Vigil’s pick-six to open the scoring for Utah State, and it continued through three turnovers, four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Hunter Sharp also had a breakout game for the Aggies — but he was one of the few bright spots for an otherwise pedestrian Utah State offense.

The Aggies are three games into the 2014 season, and they appear to be establishing a trend among good, bad and improvement-needed focuses.

The Good --------

The defensive front seven

Zach Vigil earned his first career touchdown, returning an interception 35 yards for a score in the first quarter. The senior was one of two dominant Vigils in the Aggie front seven, totaling 4.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, a pass break-up and the pick-six alongside younger brother Nick’s nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble. B.J. Larsen had his best game of the young season with four tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

Hunter Sharp

The junior college transfer had 138 yards on 12 receptions spread out among two quarterbacks to lead all receivers. Sharp had the most catches in the first half by a Utah State receiver since Tony Pennyman caught 10 balls against UNLV in 2005.

Needs Work

The run game

Joe Hill finished the game with negative-4 yards on two carries, leaving the game after losing a fumble in the second quarter. For the second-straight game, wide receiver JoJo Natson was the Aggies’ leading rusher, this time piling up 49 yards on eight carries.

The kicking game

It’s the hardest job in college football, according to Matt Wells and several other Division I coaches. But Utah State’s kicking game was erratic against the Deacons. Nick Diaz had a 26-yard field goal in the second quarter but missed a short kick in the fourth quarter that would’ve given Utah State a 15-point lead with nine minutes left in the game. The Aggies also missed two point-after attempts, including a blocked PAT in the second quarter.

The Bad

Chuckie Keeton’s injury

The quarterback left the game on the final drive of the second quarter, limping off the field and returning to the sideline wearing street clothes and with a noticeable limp. The senior signal caller finished the game with 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 20-of-27 passing, as well as -5 yards on four rushing attempts. After returning from offseason knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Keeton could be facing missed time in his final campaign as an Aggie.

Wells said the extent of Keeton's injury is still unknown, but the coaching staff held him out of the second half because it was the same knee as his previous surgery, and for other precautionary measures.

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Sean Walker


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