Utah State pass rush looks to turn up pressure on Derek Carr, Bulldog offense
Logan • It's been coming non-stop since Wyoming. Freshman linebacker Nick Vigil has gotten an earful.
Sure, there's been the praise and pats on the back after putting up 3.5 sacks against the Cowboys. But he's heard more teasing from his brother, Zach Vigil, and fellow backer Jake Doughty. He's been used to it by now, but acknowledged that it's ramped up this week.
"They're always on me, calling me the Golden Child and all this stuff," Nick Vigil said, laughing. "They're giving me crap, just like they always have."
If the Aggies are to win the Mountain West championship Saturday, they'll need another big performance from "the Golden Child" as well as all their other pass rushers. Leaving Derek Carr untouched in the backfield is not an appealing option.
As good as Carr's numbers are, his protection's record is eye-grabbing as well: He's been sacked only eight times this year, and never more than twice in a game. Part of it is an offensive line that could have a few all-conference honorees on it, including tackle Austin Wentworth. Part of it is Carr himself, who doesn't hang on to the ball too long.
"He's very, very accurate and he has one of the quickest releases I've ever seen," Wells said. "I've seen enough of [Fresno State's offense] to know how good they are."
Utah State has had moderate success rushing the passer this year, with no one defender with more than four sacks - Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell both lead the team in that category. Pressure in the pocket could be just as valuable without the sacks, as long as Utah State can disrupt the passing game.
The Aggies' secondary has improved in the second half of the season, getting 25 breakups and seven picks in the last four games. They'll have to play a part as well in taking down Carr by being physical at the line of scrimmage and playing penalty-free coverage.
As much as Utah State's offense will need to be on point this week, the Aggies defense, which has allowed only seven points and less than 400 yards in its last two games, plans on doing what they can to win it as well. Everyone understands if Utah State gets caught up in a track meet like Fresno State had last week, it could be problematic.
"We don't want to get in a shootout," Fackrell said. "We want to slow the game down, bend but not break. The defense feels it's on their shoulders."
Quarterback pressure will likely be an issue for the Utah State offense as well. Freshman quarterback Darell Garretson has been sacked 10 times in the last three games, and the Aggies face a challenging pass rush this week which has gotten 31 sacks this year.
In particular, Utah State will have to guard against outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine, who is near the top of the conference with 10 sacks this season.
"It can get a little confusing with all the pressures they bring," senior center Tyler Larsen said. "We've watched a lot of film to make sure we can recognize what's coming."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon