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Utah State football: Air Force presents thorny challenge for Aggies

Published September 3, 2013 9:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • On film, split-second game decisions slow down. Coaches can stop, rewind and relive key moments over and over. It's easy to second-guess and pose hypotheticals after the fact.

Reviewing his first game as a head coach, Matt Wells took the long weekend to break down his 30-26 loss to Utah in the season opener. And even though Utah State missed some opportunities — particularly on two three-and-out possessions in the third quarter — he's not looking back asking "what if?"

"As I go back and look at those calls, I wouldn't have changed one thing," Wells said at his Monday news conference. "We didn't make the first down and we didn't finish it."

Instead, Utah State will look ahead to its first-ever Mountain West game and try to get to a better start than it did against the Utes. Although the Utah loss had some players still feeling "bitter," linebacker Jake Doughty said, the Aggies are choosing to look forward rather than dwell.

Air Force (1-0) will require Utah State's full attention. Though the Falcons have a smaller team and not as many elite athletes, they are regarded as a tough out, especially when playing at home. Discipline, toughness and awareness — all valuable traits for Air Force cadets — are the defining characteristics of the program.

"Everyone that goes to those military academies, they're tough guys," he said. "You can't just hit them and expect them to kind of wilt. They're gonna come back for more."

There are lessons to take from the Utes game, Matt Wells said, namely that the defense can't miss assignments. At least one of Utah's big plays in the first quarter came when a defender "lost eye control" as Wells termed it.

Although Air Force runs an unconventional option, the same discipline will have to apply when Utah State tries to defend the Falcons on Saturday.

"If they catch the safeties losing eye control, it's going to be six real quick," Wells said. "I've seen it happen over and over."

Offensively, there's a lot to stand on from the Utah game. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton racked up 399 total yards and three touchdowns, and the Aggies answered some questions at the receiver and running back positions. Wells said he was proud that his five returning starters on the offensive line protected well and didn't give up one false start in a hostile and loud road environment.

Air Force surrendered 13 points and 300 yards to Colgate, which plays in the FCS. Utah State is expecting to do better.

However, Travis Van Leeuwen said he saw some good adjustments from Air Force in the second half defensively. The Falcons play disciplined assignment football on defense as well, which could limit Utah State's big play potential.

"They're not really gonna give up anything deep in my opinion," Van Leeuwen said. "They're really good in the run game, so we're going to have to do a good job blocking them."

Briefly

Matt Wells said Connor Williams' foot injury is still being evaluated this week, and he is getting MRIs on it. Williams was wearing a walking boot on his right foot after the Aggies' game at Utah. … Wells lauded Tay Glover-Wright's first start at cornerback, saying he respected his ability to adjust to the position in only his second year playing defensive back.

kgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon —

Utah State at Air Force

P Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

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