Notes and quotes from Utah State's loss to Utah
Since we can't fit all the discussion points in the newspaper, here's more Aggies coverage on the blog from the 30-26 loss to Utah on Thursday night.
I suggest checking out our stories from the paper, including Gordon Monson's column on Chuckie Keeton's fantastic game last night, but here are some other thoughts and quotes from postgame:
Utah State played tight after getting the lead. Two 3-and-outs really hurt the Aggies in the end while they were still leading by nine. It seemed the team was relying on its run game to grind some time off, but the offense was working best when Chuckie Keeton was able to take shots down the field. Later in the game, Utah State punted on 4th down in their own territory with 6:38 to go. Wells said he thought the defense would turn up a stop and the offense would get the ball back with a few minutes and timeouts left. None of these calls were unreasonable, but it will surely be something the coaching staff looks at in game review.
Travis Wilson and his receivers shredded the secondary. The sophomore finished with 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns for good measure, not far behind Keeton as far as those categories were concerned. The Aggies had a tough time matching up with Anthony Denham, Sean Fitzgerald and Jake Murphy. The Utes seemed to target the middle of the field, when receivers were matched up with linebackers or safeties. Maurice Alexander made some great plays in the backfield, but was also in the middle of some of Utah's most explosive offensive plays.
Said linebacker Zach Vigil: "Big thing is they were hitting us in the middle, and they were just killing us. We were getting the run pretty good, but then we had to soften our coverage and they were getting yards on us like that. They were just throwing the ball on us too well tonight. We weren't able to get the quarterback quick enough."
Chuckie Keeton played through his cramps. It was a postgame talking point after Keeton came out of the game for a brief moment in the second half after cramping up. Keeton said afterward that he needs to take better care of his body off the field. Wells, for his part, said what most people saw: The kid played great anyway. Whether his cleats were on or off.
Said Wells: "He got a little bit humid and hot. That's a little unlike him, but the kid played his heart out. He gave it everything he had and left it all out on the field."
The Aggies need to clean up penalties. Five penalties for 74 yards in the first half just won't cut it, Matt Wells said afterward. Some were silly, some were just close calls, he said. Vigil said he wasn't aware of the helmet-off rule that got BJ Larsen flagged, and he thought he was finishing out the play in progress when his helmet was dislodged. The late hits, of course, were just not smart plays.
Said Wells: "We can chalk it up to early season football, but we can't those mistakes if we want to win the Mountain West."
The new offensive skill position guys looked legitimate. The Aggies have been talking up the new starters at receiver and running back, and they came to play Thursday. Joe Hill had 75 yards rushing, and caught seven passes for 39 yards. Jojo Natson was the most reliable target with nine catches, while Travis Van Leeuwen was the vertical threat with 107 yards. Brandon Swindall could be developing into a red zone target. The Aggies had to feel pretty good about that group in general, although it could be said that Keeton's dazzling escapes and pass protection by the line were also a big reason they were open on several plays.
Said Wells: "Seeing some young receivers step up and make plays in the early part of the game, those were high points."
Utah State now moves onto the Mountain West. Onto Air Force. Just like that. That's how Utah State is going to have to think if the Aggies want to win next week. Wells, Keeton and Vigil all said they were looking forward to next week. Vigil said he would value the extra day of film study for the game.
Said Vigil: "All of our goals are still there. We still want to win the Mountain West Conference, and that's the main objective. So we've got to get in the film room and fix what happened tonight."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon