Logan • Over the weekend, Matt Wells told Joe Hill he felt sorry for him.
Sure, Utah State's coach felt terrible that Hill had torn his ACL, having season-ending surgery that Friday. But that isn't what Wells meant. Chuckie Keeton had just been knocked out for the season, and Hill couldn't have picked a more determined recovery partner.
"I told Joe the other day that I feel sorry for him beacuse the wrong guy just got hurt next to him," Wells said. "He's going to drill Joe. That kid won't give up and they'll come back stronger."
Added Wells: "I'm sure there's going to be a silver lining in it somewhere. There's not today."
With Keeton out, the Aggies are using the week to refocus and rediscover their determination, much like Keeton himself. Keeton, Hill, Kyle Whimpey and Bryce Walker now have their own jobs to do: get healthy.
As much as Utah State is pulling for their recoveries, the season doesn't stop now. With three offensive starters down, the Aggies are pulling their confidence together for a run at Boise State.
That message was clear Monday, with Wells pointing out that Keeton wasn't the only one responsible for his rise as one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the country. For instance, Wells said, linemen Tyler Larsen and Eric Schultz have played "every snap" Keeton played. Other players, such as Jamie Markosian, D.J. Tialavea and Travis Reynolds have been around with him as well.
"Chuckie is Chuckie because guys around him have played well," Wells said. "I also think Chuckie has elevated their game. They have played well around him. Those kids are a bunch of individuals that collectively have played well as an offense because individually they've played well. Chuckie has played very well too. But to say he's the only leader, no way. There are other guys who lead."
In-house, the Aggies mantra appears to be that they are more than the sum of their parts. The veteran-heavy Aggies still have their defensive starters intact, the offensive line has performed well, and they're still playing Boise State at home. All that counts for something — even without Chuckie Keeton, they said.
Of course, while playing BYU, they didn't seem to have that confidence.
It was an admittedly emotional weekend: Utah State welcomed the comeback of Gary Andersen, were energized and pumped up for BYU, then had to deal with the loss of a star teammate and leader, and got crunched on the scoreboard.
"When Chuckie went down, I think everybody on the team and in the stands could feel how we felt, but we didn’t do a very good job of picking ourselves back up emotionally," Tialavea said. "We lost a lot of energy and it’s something that we all can learn from. You never know, every play could be your last play, next game we could lose somebody else, but we’ve got to learn from this Chuckie situation that we’ve got to bring some energy to win the games."
On Saturday, Utah State will be prepared to take care of business on the field, they said. Their goal of winning the Mountain West will be harder, but still attainable.
The Aggies need to focus on winning. Chuckie will take care of Chuckie.
"I hate it for Chuckie — I hate it bad for him," Wells said. "It's very unfortunate. He'll bounce back and grind. Him and Joe Hill will battle every day. They'll help each other."
— Kyle Goon
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