Offensive line among big adjustments for Utah State
Logan • In wins and losses, after blowouts and nail-biters, the Aggies have strived to keep their post-game analysis the same.
It just isn't always perceived that way.
Coach Matt Wells emphasized that point Monday morning at his weekly press conference, saying he had positives and negatives from the 17-14 loss at USC. Just like he did after Utah, just like he did after Air Force, just like he did after (yes, really) Weber State.
"They know the standard we set, and if it's not met, they know it will be professionally and directly communicated," Wells said. "It doesn't matter if it's a win or a loss. When I come off the Air Force game and say that Chuckie Keeton's got to do these four things better, I have everybody looking at me like, 'Are you kidding me?' And when I come off the USC game and say he has to do these four things better, everyone's like, 'Oh yeah, because you lost.' No, it's the same. It's a consistent approach to teaching and preparing these kids every week."
One area that was exposed Saturday was the offensive line. Blown up by the likes of Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard, the five returning starters could not consistently keep pressure off Keeton, especially on third down. It was a big factor that hurt Utah State's fourth quarter effort, and for the game, Keeton was sacked four times and couldn't find any room to run.
Senior guard Jamie Markosian copped to it on the line's behalf Monday, chalking up the protection breakdowns to flaws in technique. The flaws had appeared in previous games, Markosian said, but against a team as athletic as USC, they stood out more.
"Playing against top-quality opponents exposes your flaws in technique," Markosian said. "Especially on O-line, it's imperative that we're spot on with our technique and those assignments. Those miscues in our technique can really be exposed and hurt. It's not all that much, but that little bit's gonna help."
The offensive line will need to rebound with a strong performance against the Spartans, especially with match-ups against linebacker Keith Smith and defensive lineman Travis Raciti, who are standouts on San Jose State's defense. The run game will be a huge factor, as the Spartans have been porous on the ground this year.
Last time Utah State had to make adjustments after a loss, they torched Air Force 52-20. In fact, Utah State hasn't had back-to-back losses since 2011, when it fell to Fresno State and Louisiana Tech.
Wells said he expects the way his team handles its criticism to play a big role this week if the Aggies are to beat San Jose for the fifth straight time.
"That's who we are, that's who this program is, that's who we've been since I've been here," Wells said. "[Utah State is] a program that prepares well, they're tough-minded mentally, they're junkies in the film room. They go above and beyond. The short week won't bother our players one bit because of how they prepare."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon