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Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Utah on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah State football notes: Aggies’ offensive line thriving
College football » Aggies rank 24th in country in offense.
First Published Sep 11 2013 08:20 pm • Last Updated Sep 11 2013 11:40 pm

Logan • Kyle Whimpey shaved at midseason last year, but this year he’s in for the long haul.

Beards are all the rage for the senior guard, his brother Kevin Whimpey, Jamie Markosian and Eric Schultz.

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"We made a goal as an O-line to grow them out all season," Kyle Whimpey said. "This year, I’m going all the way."

If the beards have something to do with the line’s recent play, expect the razors to stay out of sight. The Aggies’ offensive line has been among its best units, paving the way for 532 yards per game (No. 24 in the country) and being flagged only twice in two contests. And one, a high-low chop block against Utah, came on a questionable call.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton has been sacked three times so far, but Utah State has also given him time on a lot of downs to beat coverage. Against Air Force, they wore down an undersized defense that all but rolled over by the fourth quarter.

The Aggies are also ranked sixth nationally in third-down conversions (65.6 percent) and first downs (29.5 per game). Whimpey likes to think those numbers are what you get when you return five starters on the line.

"A lot of things you see in our game aren’t overly physical, they’re mostly mental," he said. "We’re just taking on pressures, opening up running lanes and let those guys do what they do."

Defense hunting for more turnovers

Twice already this season, Zach Vigil has clawed for a ball and felt it come loose.

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For the junior middle linebacker, that’s twice the production he had last year in that category. His forced fumble on Air Force’s first offensive snap helped swing a 14-0 lead before the Falcons knew what had hit them. He’d like to keep forcing fumbles — and see some others get a few more, too.

"We’ve got to keep forcing the issue," he said. "Turnovers are going to come when you execute at a high level. We’re going to keep trying to execute at a high level."

For the season, Utah State is down one in turnover margin, and the defense believes it can do better. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has emphasized getting strips since he joined the program, and the Aggies are still looking for picks from their pass coverage.

While turnovers do require a little luck, Vigil acknowledged, they’re also something Utah State should always be looking out for. Being aggressive can help get that extra edge to separate the ball carrier from the ball.

"That’s always a big key for us," he said. "If you can take away the football, it can change the game."

kgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon

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