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Utah State mailbag — Bowl projections, pass protection and more

Published November 25, 2013 8:52 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A slow week in Logan, eh?

All that's going on: Utah State football is in the running for a Mountain West title shot.The Aggie men's basketball team is facing in-state opponents BYU and Weber State this week. Utah State volleyball is finish up its regular season, and the women's basketball team is playing in a tournament.

So yeah, we're chock-full of Aggie sports, and you guys have a lot of questions. Here are just a few of them:

With a W this weekend, will USU be a lock for the LV bowl? With a W over FS we'd be Mwchamps and with a L they'd go to a BCS, right? - @Schamp12

Hopefully I can get a little more on this during the week, but for now, let me link you to this great story by Stefanie Loh on the Mountain West bowl picture.

Here's the key passages: "If Fresno State ends up beating Utah State for the Mountain West Championship and is selected for a BCS bowl, Hanneke said that while the Las Vegas Bowl doesn't necessarily have to select the loser of the league championship game, 'it's a pretty good assumption that would happen.' ... However, the Las Vegas Bowl is also considering SDSU (7-4, 7-1) and Boise State."

Basically, don't buy the tickets yet. First of all, Utah State still must beat Wyoming this weekend before people get too invested in the bowl talk. Second of all, Las Vegas is not a lock.

Bowl games can be political. Utah State should go to Las Vegas if it wins the MWC championship, but if it loses, Fresno could go if it doesn't make the BCS (which is still possible) or Boise State and San Diego State, two relatively large, well-traveling fanbases with a good national imprint, could also go. ESPN, which owns a bunch of the bowls, will likely have a say in how they want to mix these things up.

Personally, I think the odds are that Utah State gets snapped up by Vegas just because Boise might remove itself from going there due to fatigue, and I think that Fresno would still leapfrog Northern Illinois if it went undefeated. But there's still some flexibility.

Did Colorado St expose a weakness in the O-line, or were they just a lot better than what we've seen so far? - @cliff_warren

It's true that Utah State's offensive line is very experienced and has some terrific players, but the Aggies in general have had ups and downs in protection this year. Utah State has allowed 21 sacks this year, and at least four sacks in four games. Three of those games have been with Darell Garretson at quarterback.

Talking with a few linemen over the course of the season, they'll say they need to improve their technique, and I suppose that's somewhat accurate. But also Tyler Larsen acknowledged earlier this season that it takes some getting used to when protecting for a new quarterback, learning his habits and tendencies.

I think that's one factor in a host of factors rolled into each other, which include how long Garretson holds on to the ball, how well receivers have been getting open downfield and how well blockers have held up in match-ups. I also suspect losing D.J. Tialavea, essentially a lineman in his own right, hurts some of the protection schemes. There's really no one answer, I think, when you talk about pass protection.

Also worth noting: Colorado State is third in the Mountain West with 27 sacks, and Shaquil Barrett is fifth in the country in both sacks (12.0) and tackles for a loss (20.5). Between an outstanding pass rush and a wind that didn't allow USU to take accurate shots downfield, I think that covers just about all the bases.

Here's Wells on the passing game, by the way: "I would say there were three factors and they were all relative. The wind had a huge part in affecting the passing game of both teams, as well as the kicking game. It was just swirling. Number two, we weren't very efficient, whether it was protection, route distribution, spacing, Darell's (Garretson) eye control, whatever it was. There were factors on each one and you can't point it at one group or one individual. The third factor is that I pulled back the reins a little bit. We put a bit of a clamp on it."

While we're talking about the O-line however, here's the upswing: Utah State was reduced to a one-dimensional offense, and they still managed to run the ball. Joey DeMartino had his fifth 100-yard game. Even though Colorado State knew the run was coming, they could not stop it, and that's a credit to good blocking and running by the Aggies.

What will Danny [Berger's] role be on this team? - @woolf363

I think that's been pretty evident so far: He's kind of a glue guy who does a bit of everything. A few points here, a few rebounds there, maybe an assist or two. He's counted on to hold the rope off the bench, rebound well, defend well and maybe knock down a few shots.

I suppose why you ask the question is because Danny didn't have a great two games against UC Santa Barbara or Mississippi State. He had a combined three rebounds, no points on 0-for-4 shooting from 3-point range, and a turnover against no assists. No, that's not a good stat line.

But it's hard to get a feel for the game when you're not playing much. Berger had a good game in the opener against the Trojans playing 21 minutes, and didn't do as well playing nine in that last one. Since he was a starter before he went down last year, it's understandable that he's working on adjusting to his newer role. Also consider that he's playing two positions, the 3-spot and the 4-spot, which have very different demands.

I suspect Morrill will tighten up the rotation in the tougher games and for conference games and get Berger some more minutes as we get deeper into the season. I don't think he's shown his full potential in the regular season yet, but I think as a heady, lengthy, effort-giving player off the bench, he'll carve out a solid niche.

Thanks for playing guys. Keep tuning in for more coverage.

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon