Utah State football: Aggies back on track headed into bye
Albuquerque, N.M. • Even a win over New Mexico is not to be taken lightly, Utah State coach Matt Wells said Saturday night.
Especially with how Utah State struggled the last two weeks to get back to their winning ways, each one is valuable.
"It's hard to win games in Division I football," Wells said. "Every win is big. I always say you can't just go down to Wal-Mart, row 8, third shelf up and pick up a bunch of wins."
A 45-10 pounding of the Lobos was like a cold rush of water for an Aggies team thirsting for victory. With a consistent offensive attack and a stifling defense, Utah State for the first time since losing quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury looked like the team that beat conference opponents Air Force and San Jose State.
The program suffered big losses at home to BYU and Boise State as it tried to piece itself together. Injuries both season-ending and nagging didn't help that effort. But by steamrolling New Mexico on the road, Utah State hopes that chapter has closed.
Senior defensive end Connor Williams said the back-to-back losses, the team's first since 2011, were unsettling aberrations, but now the Aggies feel back on track.
"It felt like normal Aggie defense to be honest with you," "That's what we've gotten used to over the last couple years. Those last two games were a bit of a shock."
Utah State's adjustments this week stood out, particularly on offense.
Joey DeMartino, who has been nursing an ankle injury, broke out for a career-high 144 rushing yards as the Aggies leaned on him and their advantage with their offensive line. Tyler Larsen, Jamie Markosian, Sini Tauauve'a, Eric Schultz and Kevin Whimpey had their best game since rolling past the Spartans.
With freshman quarterback Darell Garretson at the helm, the offense found some balance. He made quick, tight throws, and might've had a bigger night if not for a handful of drops, including one on a spot-on 50-yard pass to the end zone.
DeMartino said the coaches "simplified" the game plan for Garretson this week, but that the freshman did his part to get prepared and play well.
"Very poised," DeMartino said. "He's got flashes of Chuckie."
Defensively, Utah State used a four-man front to stop the run, a tactic that worked well against Air Force's zone read scheme earlier in the fall. Running lanes closed up quick, and tackles were very even across the defense.
The defensive line might've had its best game, getting 3.5 sacks out of the front four.
"We have a lot of guys who are able to do multiple things," Williams said. "A lot of the ends can play inside, our inside guys can play outside. We're really flexible, so we were pretty pumped when we found out we would play in a four-front defensive line, get more of us out there."
A win is rewarding any week, but the Aggies get to go into their first bye with the bitterness of losing expunged. As they rest and nurse their bumps and bruises and readying for a home-friendly close to the season, they'll be able to feel a bit more upbeat.
Joey DeMartino's eyes shined as he talked about his bye week plans.
"Maximum treatment," he said. "Treatment all week."
Hawaii at Utah State
P Nov. 2, 2 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network
Aggies work way back to .500
• USU evens its record at 4-4 with a smashing of New Mexico.
• The Ags sit in 2nd place in Mountain Division.
• Quarterback Darell Garretson wins first start