Kragthorpe: Former USU star Bobby Wagner in middle of Seahawks' surge
Whenever he's reviewing a game film and enforcing the standards of defense set by his former star player, Utah State linebackers coach Kevin Clune likes to invoke the name of Bobby Wagner.
"Bobby would have made that play," Clune will say, in what's become a running joke with his players.
They'll respond good-naturedly, "Bobby's not here anymore."
Somehow, Wagner is making a huge impact in two places at once. USU's defense is ranked 12th nationally, continuing the tradition he established. As a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks, Wagner is one of the NFL's leading tacklers, the anchor of a defense that kept the New York Jets from scoring offensively in Seattle's 28-7 victory Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
"We really rode the defense today," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "They did a great job; gave up next to nothing."
Seattle's defense dominated the Jets, who posted 185 total yards and scored their only touchdown via a fumble return.
An outside linebacker at USU, Wagner has moved smoothly into the middle linebacker spot with the Seahawks as a second-round draft choice. "At the end of the day, as a linebacker, you've just got to tackle," he said. "I'm used to doing that."
That's for sure. Wagner led the Western Athletic Conference in tackles for three straight seasons and entered the weekend in the NFL's top 10. His game-high nine tackles Sunday improved his average, in a continuing performance that makes Clune marvel, "I knew he would be successful ... but I didn't know it was going to be this fast."
Wagner is living up to everyone's expectations in Seattle, including his own. "I just wanted to make an impact to the best of my ability. I wanted to start, I wanted to get on the field, I wanted to make a lot of tackles," he said. "So far, I'm doing that."
The result is a major contribution to Seattle's surprising 6-4 record, as the Seahawks go into a bye week threatening San Francisco (6-2-1) in the NFC West.
Wagner and running back Robert Turbin, a fourth-round pick, in April became the highest-drafted pair of Aggies since Rulon Jones and Eric Hipple in 1980 and they landed with the same team, remarkably.
As the backup to veteran Marshawn Lynch, Turbin plays regularly as a third-down back because of his pass-blocking ability. He gained 17 yards on seven carries Sunday, mostly when the Seahawks were working the clock in the fourth quarter.
Wagner and Turbin already were good friends, known to kid each other when they appeared together in postgame news conferences at USU. In Seattle, they're even more strongly bonded.
"It's good to have each other, to be here for one another in case something's not quite right," Turbin said. "We can kind of go through the same things as a rookies and throughout our whole careers, hopefully."
They're also loyal to the Aggies. Wagner returned to Logan for USU's game with New Mexico State in October, impressing his former position coach with his humble demeanor. "He's done a great job of really staying true to who he is," Clune said.
He's somewhat in awe of the NFL atmosphere, but he's not playing that way. Wagner approached New England quarterback Tom Brady after a game last month, having admired Brady while growing up in California. That meeting came after Wagner recorded 14 tackles in a Seattle victory.
"I'm just going out and having as much fun as I possibly can," he said.
Twitter: @tribkurt Seahawks 28, Jets 7
Seattle • Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes, receiver Golden Tate found Sidney Rice for a 23-yard TD on a reverse pass midway through the fourth quarter, and Seattle improved to 5-0 at home.
Marshawn Lynch added 124 yards rushing and a 1-yard TD plunge for the Seahawks.
N.Y. Jets 7 0 0 0 7
Seattle 7 7 0 14 28
Sea • Tate 38 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 8:01.
NYJ • Wilkerson 21 fumble return (Folk kick), 2:50.
Sea • Lynch 1 run (Hauschka kick), 2:04.
Sea • Rice 31 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 13:33.
Sea • Rice 23 pass from Tate (Hauschka kick), 7:59.
Attendance • 67,841.
First downs 11 20
Total Net Yards 185 363
Rushes-yards 22-84 43-174
Passing 101 189
Punt Returns 2-6 3-40
Kickoff Returns 3-81 1-17
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 12-25-1 13-20-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-31 4-22
Punts 7-45.9 6-42.5
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-2
Penalties-yards 6-35 7-45
Time of Possession 23:49 36:11
Rushing • N.Y. Jets, Greene 15-58, Tebow 4-14, Powell 1-7, Kerley 1-5, Hilliard 1-0. Seattle, Lynch 27-124, Wilson 7-34, Turbin 7-17, Washington 2-(minus 1).
Passing • N.Y. Jets, Sanchez 9-22-1-124, Tebow 3-3-0-8. Seattle, Wilson 12-19-0-188, Tate 1-1-0-23.
Receiving • N.Y. Jets, Kerley 5-57, Keller 3-47, Gates 1-10, Hilliard 1-9, Greene 1-5, Powell 1-4. Seattle, Miller 5-37, Baldwin 3-42, Rice 2-54, Tate 2-51, Lynch 1-27.