Utah State mailbag Football team's morale, RB play, basketball attendance and more
Logan • Here's my third crack at the mailbag, answering your biggest questions about Utah State football and now (can't believe it's already here) basketball.
This week may test my mailbag powers a bit, because unfortunately I don't have concrete answers to every one of this week's questions, but I'll try to get to them with hopefully the best answers I can muster. You'll see what I mean in a bit.
Remember, you can e-mail me at email@example.com or tweet at me @kylegoon with your questions. I'll be looking at my feed and inbox from right after the game to Monday afternoon. Please chime in - I'm here to help serve readers, so this is sometimes the best way to get feedback on what kinds of stories I should be looking into.
Without further ado:
Wells says no moral victories. Interested to hear the morale of the team heading into San Jose. - @elchapin92
It was definitely a tough game to swallow. The media has been able to talk to four seniors since the loss, and all of them said it was tough to know they'd never get another shot at a BCS AQ conference team like that. Nevin Lawson said he'd rather "lose by 100 than by 3."
That being said, it's probably positive for the Aggies to have a chance to face a Mountain West opponent this week, even on a shortened prep schedule. The team was back to talking about the goal of a Mountain West championship again on Monday, and that seems to motivate them. Like the Aggies did after the Utah loss, they hope to move fluidly into that next phase.
If you want more info on this, check out my blog on the team's adjustments this week.
why did the running backs only get the ball 14 times when they averaged 8.8 yards per carry? - @dylanjolsen
Joe Hill's injury certainly hurt after he was averaging 10.2 yards a carry, but Wells said Saturday that it didn't affect the game plan. He said the coaching staff tried a lot of different things on offense to put USC in a bad position, but never really commented much on the run game beyond that.
You look at the fourth quarter: Running backs got six touches, and Joe Hill got hurt early on. After, the Aggies ran three times on third down (once with Keeton) and another time on fourth and short. I think one explanation COULD be (can't strees "could" enough) is that the Aggies were simply often faced with 2nd and long and 3rd and long. The passing game wasn't going well at that point, but you might still think your best bet is to put the ball in Chuckie Keeton's hands and try to let him make a play at the end of the game.
I'm not necessarily criticizing or defending, merely thinking through in someone else's shoes. And if you try that exercise yourself, it's a tough call. Frankly, the runs at the end of the game were not that great: no gain, two yards, no gain, three yards, 1 yard, 6 yards. The yards per carry were somewhat skewed by DeMartino's big run and a few plays by Hill, who was injured at the finish.
I just wanted to say that I like the weekly mailbag you started and I had a question in regards to Chuckie Keeton. He looked liked he was limping quite a bit at the end of the USC game. He especially looked slower when he got tripped up by one of USC's D-Lineman in the 4th quarter. Is he going to be at full speed for the San Jose game this coming Friday? - Will
This is a question that I can't necessarily answer. Matt Wells doesn't comment on injuries that guys play through. I was very, very high in the pressbox, so I couldn't see "limping" per se, but the reason I'll address this question is because this is not the only person I've heard from who is concerned about Keeton's health.
That being said, football players take all kinds of injuries. Soreness, cramps, bruises, strains. It's likely he's wearing ice packs and visiting the training room like pretty much every other college football player. It's a tough sport. But Wells did say no one else - aside from Bryce Walker, who has been lost for the season - is expected to miss the game, so if Keeton is injured at all, it's probably not serious.
Also: What you saw may even have been momentary. I saw Marqise Lee limping off the field in the second quarter, and he came back and made three more catches. Limping doesn't translate into long-term injury. Of course, if there's any update on this, I'll pass it along.
will basketball attendance for games go back up because of #mwc games? - @D_rrell
I don't have any official numbers on ticket sales yet - should have some soon - but I'd have to imagine yes. As I wrote last year, attendance was down for the final WAC season. But are you more excited about UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico coming to the Spectrum than Texas State and Denver?
I am interested, though, in whether fans will waiver about whether Utah State can be competitive in the Mountain West. It will certainly be a step up in challenge, but it seems like most experts so far think the Aggies could be in the upper half of the league. Will fans be waiting for a winner or embrace whole-heartedly? Not sure, but I'd be willing to guess that the excitement of the new league will help drive some more people to the games.
Will the offensive coaching staff try to recreate some of the magic of last year's #USUatSJSU game by pounding the rock this week? - @andybobbaker
No doubt. Jamie Markosian talked about Kerwynn Williams being the key to that game last year, and given that San Jose State's defense is No. 102 against the run in the FBS, you'd think the Aggies would want to stuff more runs down its throat. Of course, the Spartans' losses have come against Stanford and Minnesota which have both impressed this year, but it doesn't help win when you give up a pair of runners over the century mark to the Gophers last week.
Running the ball helps control tempo and also gives the linemen a chance to run downfield and grind on the defense. If DeMartino is up to the challenge and Hill is healthy, expect the run game to play a major factor. Keeton should also get some room to run - Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner torched SJSU on Saturday for 154 yards on the ground, and he only threw for 71.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon