Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Aggieville: USU Sports
Steve Luhm and Lya Wodraska
Steve Luhm and Lya Wodraska cover Utah State athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. Lya Wodraska is on twitter at @LyaWodraska, Steve Luhm is on twitter at @sluhm

» E-mail Lya Wodraska

» E-mail Steve Luhm

» Subscribe (RSS)




Utah State wide receiver Brandon Swindall scores against San Jose State during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
USU-BYU gameday thoughts — running the ball, O-line test, red zone stands and more

We've arrived at the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel today, and the madness really starts at the 6 p.m. kickoff. Before all that happens, here's some pre-game thoughts, observations and just a few questions sprinkled in to set up the game and its most important match-ups.

I thought this might be a good alternative to "five keys" since it's a more freewheeling, open format, but feel free to let me know what you think of our features.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

• It's all about the run. Running the ball and stopping the run - really, that will be the key for both teams tonight, but particularly Utah State. The 41 yards on the ground wasn't good enough last year, and limited what the Aggies could do on offense. Chuckie Keeton will have to find some holes like he did last week, and Joey DeMartino will need to keep the defense honest with his run. It's important particularly because the Cougars have such a strong safety in Daniel Sorensen, and Utah State wants the middle of the defense to have to account for the run and the pass. On the other side of the ball, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill hasn't proven he can be a prolific passer yet, especially in the end zone, and the Aggies will try to force him to test out his arm. If Utah State can't bottle him and Jamaal Williams on the ground, it will set up BYU's offense nicely. If Connor Williams can return for the game, that might be an edge.

How does the line hold up? In the last two weeks, Utah State saw its offensive line blasted and then watched it dominate a preseason-all Mountain West defensive tackle on pass rush last week. Is this offensive line the one that got rocked against USC? Or the one that punished San Jose State? Consider this week a gut check. Coach Mark Weber said the line has worked on its fundamentals and technique since its game against the Trojans, and he's seen progress. Kyle Van Noy and Alani Fua, among the other dangerous front-seven playmakers at BYU, will test that claim. Sini Tauauve'a is expected to slide in fairly cleanly on the offensive line, but it would not be surprising to see BYU try to target him in their blitzing schemes.

Red zone, blue zone, USU zone, BYU zone. Whatever you want to call it, a key for the Aggies will be converting on drives that reach inside the 20 yard line. Although Utah State put up 40 points last week, many offensive players - and Matt Wells - were dissatisfied with getting three field goals out of drives that were in the red zone. If this is a close one, the Aggies could be kicking themselves over missed points. On the flip side, Utah State's defense has been excellent at keeping opposing teams out of the end zone when they get close, allowing only five touchdowns on 13 red zone possessions, a 38 percent mark. The Cougars have scored touchdowns on eight of their 19 red zone (or blue zone, I guess) possessions, for a 42 percent mark. As long as the Aggies can hold true to their numbers, this may be a key advantage for Utah State.

Keep the flags hidden. One of the uglier trends for the Aggies is their propensity for getting knocked by penalties. They've had 37 flags this year, and are giving up an average of 74.4 yards per game. One of last week's saving graces was that San Jose State committed more penalties for more yards, which is crazy considering Utah State had 10 flags. There will be some penalties for aggressiveness and others in coverage, but Utah State can help itself by limiting those as best as they can. Against a defense like BYU's execution will be key.

My own thought here: Beating BYU would loom large on the year, but also would be the biggest win to date for the Aggies this season. Boise State or Wyoming might be more critical, but there's no doubt a win over the Cougars is more impressive than any other Utah State victory this year (so far). The Aggies have only beaten one-win teams Air Force and San Jose State, who arguably are not the teams they were expected to be this season. BYU may be having an up-and-down year thus far, but beating a team that upset a nationally ranked opponent? That would look good stacked against the teams that Utah State has beaten in 2013. Not to mention that whole "rivalry, and Aggies have won once in 20 years" thing. A three-point loss shows the teams are competitive, but Utah State needs a win if it wants to keep this rivalry interesting.

See you at 6 p.m. tonight, or you can catch the game on CBS Sports Network.

— Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
 
Football
Basketball
USU Football Schedule
USU Basketball Schedule
Jobs
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.