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Turnovers, special teams are key in Utah State's victory formula

Published September 20, 2013 9:38 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Logan • Interception? Is that you?

It's Nevin Lawson. He's waiting for you. He'd like you and a bunch of your friends to come on by this weekend against USC.

It may not require appealing to a higher power, but Utah State's secondary is starting to get a little antsy about not having one pick yet this season. Part of that is playing pass-light teams Air Force and Weber State, but the Aggies would still like to get ahead in turnover margin, which is even after three games.

"We gotta get turnovers, that's the emphasis," Lawson said. "When an opportunity presents itself, hopefully we'll be able to make that play. The turnovers will come. We just have to be ready."

If Utah State is to break out against the Trojans and finally get a win against one of their major conference foes, it will need some big plays to go its way. That means turnovers, particularly in the passing game: USC quarterback Cody Kessler has already thrown a pair.

The Aggies could also use a boost on special teams. Matt Wells said he thinks special teams could be a big storyline of the game, and he's said previously that the Aggies will need to block a kick to win at least one of their games this year.

Is USC that game? The Aggies have made special teams an emphasis this week, practicing blocks and putting the punting unit in uncomfortable situations, such as in the back of the end zone. There can't be any mistakes.

"We haven't punted a heck of a lot this year, but I think they're going to come hard against our punt protection and test it," special teams coordinator Dave Ungerer said.

There is a Trojan who could upset both phases: Marqise Lee.

Lee is the top returner on kickoffs and punts, and the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner is big, shifty and fast. He has the power to take one to the house on a return. He can do the same on offense if a corner gets overaggressive and jumps a route.

If Utah State wants to overcome USC in the Coliseum, they'll have to figure out ways to hold Lee in check while coming up with a few big plays of their own.

"Winning the turnover battle, the field position battle with the punt game and punt return, I see all that stuff as being key when you go on the road and face a marquee team and a team that is going to present a huge challenge to you," Wells said. "The hidden yardage, the hidden things like that will always play a key part."

— Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon