Logan • It will be a little different, Matt Wells acknowledged, when he finally walks through the familiar halls and corridors at New Mexico later this week.
Utah State’s head coach did two stints in Albuquerque as a Lobo assistant, but Wells said he’ll brush that aside and focus on the issues at hand when his Aggies visit New Mexico on Saturday in search of a much-needed win.
“It’s a business trip,” Wells said. “We’re going there to compete, to win a ballgame and stay on track for some of our goals here.”
Utah State (3-4) has wandered off that track with back-to-back lopsided losses to BYU and Boise State, thanks in part to four season-ending injuries to offensive starters. The whipping at the hands of the Broncos was as hard as any, since taking control of the Mountain Division and a potential conference championship berth was in the Aggies’ grasp.
Boise State now holds the tiebreaker head-to-head with Utah State, so the Aggies’ challenge will be to win their remaining five games — all against Mountain West foes — in case the Broncos slip up.
“That’s our objective this week: to win out,” receiver Travis Reynolds said. “We’re going into this New Mexico game with high intensity, and we’re preparing to execute the right way.”
The Aggies have some lingering questions after being outscored 65-37 the last two weeks. Wells answered one on Monday: Freshman Darell Garretson will be the starting quarterback Saturday, and presumably going forward.
Garretson struggled early against Boise, throwing two picks after entering in the third quarter, but finished the game with a 91-yard touchdown drive. After reviewing the film from Garretson’s 9-for-14, 116 yard night, Wells said he saw enough to believe his rookie quarterback will improve with a starter’s reps.
“He struggled a little bit with the first couple series, and then I thought he kind of got his composure and played well down the stretch,” Wells said. “Obviously, the last drive, there’s a lot of pluses to take out of that for him.”
Monday brought the news that cornerback Nevin Lawson was the Mountain West’s defensive player of the week, an honor reflecting his two-pick performance against Boise State. But the rest of the secondary was putty against Joe Southwick, who had 335 yards passing. Wells said he spotted several problems rooted in the team’s zone coverage against the Broncos.
Perhaps fortunately for the Aggies, they’ll be matched up with one of the least proficient passing offenses in the nation this week. But the Lobos run the ball better than almost anybody else, ranking No. 2 nationally with nearly 350 rushing yards per game.
Wells said his defense will be tested against New Mexico and star running back Kasey Carrier. And Wells would know — he coached him.
“I think he runs with balance,” Wells said. “His lower body is strong, he’s shifty, he’s got a good first step, and he runs with balance. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield.”
Utah State at New Mexico
P Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT