Utah State football: Defense looking to restore pride
College football • Aggies run defense could not stop Utes down stretch.
Published: September 3, 2013 10:03PM
Updated: September 3, 2013 11:41PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Utes running back Kelvin York (13) goes down as the University of Utah hosts Utah State, college football Thursday, August 29, 2013 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Utah State Aggies linebacker Jake Doughty (51) and Utah Utes wide receiver Kenneth Scott (2) at top.

Logan • Stopping the run is a point of pride for any defense, including Utah State.

So when the Utes were able to pound away six minutes in the fourth quarter of last week’s 30-26 loss, it hurt. The Aggies were hoping for a stop with a few minutes left to score, but Utah was able to burn most of the clock and Utah State’s timeouts.

That will stick with Jake Doughty for a while.

“We don’t want anyone running the ball on us,” he said. “As soon as that fourth quarter hit, that’s what they went to. It worked for them, so it was disappointing. Those first downs on runs, they weren’t making any huge plays, but it was demoralizing for sure.”

The Aggies enter week two with work to do on the defensive side of the ball. The team allowed 450 yards of offense in the defeat, as pass coverage in the middle was shaky and the run defense had trouble on the last drive of the game.

Matt Wells said he thought the Aggies were “solid” in the run game. He liked how they settled down in the second and third quarters, and praised the unit’s goal line stand in the fourth quarter that kept the game in reach. But some of the mistakes Utah State made in the season opener can’t happen against Air Force, a program that can exploit breakdowns as well as any.

Although the Falcons will be starting a new quarterback this week, Jaleel Awini, running backs Broam Hart and Jon Lee both went over the century mark and should be ready to go.

“You’ve got to have really good eye discipline in the back end and you’ve got to know what your keys are,” Wells said. “If not, those two will slip right by you and it will be a touchdown.”

The Falcons will be undersized going against Utah State, but the offensive line excels in cut blocking, which is a low block at the knees to take out defenders. Against that kind of set-up, it’s easy to lose focus on an assignment or just drop a step behind.

Doughty said that can’t happen this week.

“Everyone needs to do their job, and if someone doesn’t they’re going to find that hole and capitalize on it,” he said.

Receivers feeling confident after Utah game

Utah State’s biggest area of need coming into fall camp seems to be settled one week into the season.

Going into the year, the team was looking to replace its top five receiving leaders in 2012. There hasn’t been a lot of questions about the wide receiver position since the Aggies managed to put 314 passing yards on Utah last week.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton didn’t have a lot of trouble finding his targets in a 31-40 performance. Jojo Natson had nine receptions, while Brandon Swindall had a pair of touchdown receptions. Travis Van Leeuwen led the team with 107 yards Thursday evening.

Van Leeuwen, a senior, said he always felt the group had potential.

“There were a lot of question marks about us going into the season, but I knew my guys in that room,” he said. “We’ve got a tough group of receivers and we’ve been working all off-season, putting in a lot of extra work, and I feel like this is one of the best receiving corps Utah State has had because we have so many weapons.”

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon