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Utah State football: Idaho State quarterback impresses Aggies
Logan • Rarely do coaches smile when discussing an opponent's key player, but Utah State coach Matt Wells couldn't help but crack a grin when he was asked about Idaho State's quarterback Justin Arias.
Arias was 21-of-40 for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening 56-14 loss to Utah.
"I like him," Wells said. "He's got a lot of moxie and made some really good throws early in the game. He does a nice job with the zone read."
A 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior, Arias had a strong 2013 campaign in which he completed the second most passes in a single season with 322 and attempted the most passes in school history with 574. His 24 touchdown passes and 3,547 yards were both the third most in a single season at ISU.
Utah State linebacker Nick Vigil said the Aggies had yet to study too much film of the Bengals, but Arias had impressed him in what he had seen.
"He makes good decisions and is mobile as well," he said. "He's somebody we're going to have to contain."
Advantage, Bengals • That the Bengals opened the season on a Thursday while the Aggies played on a Sunday wasn't lost on Wells, who said the extra rest and recuperation was a bonus for the Bengals. However, he said he would have been more concerned if the unusual schedule had occurred later in the year when there was plenty of film available on his team.
"They're going off our Tennessee game which they weren't going to have until Monday so from that standpoint, it's not a huge worry," he said.
Paying attention • While the Bengals suffered a lopsided loss at Utah, the performance of their running backs was not lost on the Aggies.
Xavier Finney and Daniel McSurdy combined for 34 carries and 193 yards as they averaged 5.7 yards a carry.
"I watched a little bit of the Utah game and they played them really tough through the first quarter," Vigil said. "Their offense was moving the ball up and down the field. They made a few mistakes, but their running backs looked really good. They look fast and athletic with good vision."
Idaho State coach Mike Kramer said this week he was relieved to see the production from the running backs.
"It makes us more multi-dimensional on offense," he said. "Our problem is defense. We have to get settled in as a unit."
Special teams had its issues against Tennessee, but punt returner JoJo Natson wasn't one of them, Wells said. Natson returned one punt return for six yards and brought in the others without a bobble or fumble, something that didn't get past Wells in his evaluation of the game.
"I know ti sounds funny, but that was one of the big, bright spots of the game for JoJo," Wells said. "That's the hardest job in college football, being a punt returner. Do it in the SEC with SEC guys coming down in front of 102,000 people with short and high punts. You've got your guys and their guys running right at you, it's loud and furious."