Utah State mailbag punt team TD, Garretson's progress, hoops starting five and more
Matt Wells said Monday that wins heal a lot of hurt and heartache. Might add "heartburn" to that list.
In light of Saturday' big win in Albuquerque, Utah State looks well positioned headed into a bye week with only four games left in the regular season. Three of those games are at home, and the Aggies have another bye after going to UNLV.
Can the Aggies stay competitive to close out the season? That's for them to answer on the field. But I'll take some time to answer some of your other questions now:
was Jaron Bentrude's touchdown run part of the play? Were Aggie coaches upset? - @nickerson_m
I'm addressing this first because it seems to be a big point of discussion among folks, including my colleagues here at The Tribune.
Bottom line: The coaching staff called a rugby punt - not a fake. Jaron Bentrude took the snap, and saw the right side completely open. He ran, and New Mexico could not get to him in time to stop the 72-yard touchdown play.
That was the final score for Utah State, and some felt it was kicking the Lobos while they were down. Followers tweeted at me that Matt Wells looked upset on the sideline for the TV cameras. But on Saturday and Monday, Wells said that Bentrude made a call that he's practiced many times, and the circumstance had no effect on that call. If Bentrude had only gotten a first down instead of a score, it might've resonated a little differently.
Here's Wells on that: "Schematically, we're not taking shots down the field. I understood the complexity of the game and where we were. We were just trying to punt the ball. I can't apologize for trying to punt it and the kid doing what he was supposed to do. I was a little surprised by the final outcome of it, but I'm not going to ask a kid to not compete. He needs to trust what he's been coached to do."
It didn't come off as terribly classy, but I sympathize with Wells here. It's difficult for a coaching staff to drill a play into someone's head, then say, "OK, so do this everytime - EXCEPT ...". That doesn't seem like an effective way to coach. Bentrude made a gut read, and New Mexico's defense was bad enough that he could get 72 yards with it.
Bob Davie seemed to take that stance as well in his postgame comments Saturday: "We have a young guy who should have been rushing from the outside, protecting it and he didn't. He got burrowed down inside and the kid takes the ball and runs 70 yards for a touchdown. So there's some things that shouldn't happen. I take responsibility for that. That's what it was: We got humbled."
What did Garretson do best? In what area does he still need to improve the most? - @USUGeoAg
I went into this a bit on the blog on Sunday night. Garretson overall looked poised and efficient. He might have had a better night if not for a few drops, even. His arm looked good, his decisions looked much improved from his debut against Boise.
Wells said he was very happy with how Garretson practiced and prepared with starter's reps, and it showed Saturday. Overall, he needs to work on some footwork.
Wells on Garretson's needed improvements: "We're always cleaning up footwork and some things underneath center and in the run game. In the throw game, we've got to be a little more accurate and that comes with footwork. Mainly rookie issues with him right now."
For the third straight game Aggies have had a field goal attempt blocked? It didn't matter much in the NM game, but they were big momentum killers in the BYU and Boise games. (and big momentum boosts for BYU/Boise) Should we be concerned about field goal unit going forward? - Todd, South Jordan
I always start with my own thoughts, but this might be a good time to insert a Wells quote first: "Everything. Scheme, personnel, attention to detail, effort - everything is very, very average on that team. And I'm not happy with it."
Reviewing the play at New Mexico, a defender was able to come around the edge to get in front of the kick, which is a protection issue. But three blocks in as many games is definitely not good. I would expect that to be a focus during the bye week. I'm not sure if that will require personnel changes, but Wells and Dave Ungerer will definitely be stirring things up. The kicking game could be too important in the final weeks of the season.
Any chance the 4-3 becomes a little more common? - @USUGeoAg
Asked about this, Wells said the defense is multiple, and will incorporate a variety of looks into its schemes. So that doesn't really answer your question, I guess.
Here's my thought: Utah State doesn't face a team that's nearly as run-dependent as New Mexico is for the rest of the season. Hawaii has struggled to run, UNLV and Colorado State are more or less balanced, and Wyoming has been moving the ball in any way possible.
Utah State's base is mostly the 3-4, and it enables them to have their playmaking linebackers - their strongest pound-for-pound group - in position to make plays not only against the run, but against the pass. Air Force and New Mexico got the four-man-front treatment because they can't throw. I would think that while the 4-3 won't vanish altogether, it won't replace the Aggies' regular week-to-week scheme.
Who is gonna be the starting 5 on the floor for the exhibition this week? Any ideas? - @brady_d25
My gut tells me the exhibition lineup will be Marcel Davis, Preston Medlin, Spencer Butterfield, Kyle Davis and Jarred Shaw.
Medlin and Shaw are obvious. I'm pretty sure on Marcel, who held down the point guard starting job for most of last year. Butterfield has done enough to be a starter at the three, and I know the coaching staff loves his leadership and work ethic. Kyle Davis has earned some raves in camp for his hustle, and he's the most natural fit at that power forward position.
The biggest questions are at the three and four, though, and it should be a fluid situation thanks to all the depth there. Butterfield might be a better natural fit at two-guard coming off the bench, where he can be the primary scorer when Medlin is sitting. Danny Berger could then start at the three, which would give Utah State greater size at that spot.
Jalen Moore is an X-factor in all this - he's good and will definitely get playing time, but Stew Morrill isn't exactly one to hand a starting job to a freshman. He'll likely back up the three and four spots.
Keep in mind that just because we'll see a certain lineup in an exhibition doesn't mean we'll see it at all in the season. With that being said, I'll speak out of the other side of my mouth about an intriguing lineup I saw in the scrimmage: Medlin at point, Butterfield at 2, Berger at 3, Davis at 4, Shaw at 5. That's a heavy scoring set that might not be effective all the time, but might be a wildcard arrangement for Utah State.
That's it for this week's mailbag. Remember you can send your football and men's basketball questions in at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at me @kylegoon. See you next week.
- Kyle Goon