The Utah State Aggies have suffered potentially their biggest blow of season.
Aggies junior linebacker David Woodward, who has been the anchor of the team’s defense all season, will miss the remainder of the season. He missed Saturdays 42-14 loss to BYU, and coach Gary Andersen said after that game that the team knew “for a time” he would not play.
A team spokesperson said it’s an “undisclosed injury” that will keep Woodward out for the rest of the year.
Andersen addressed the loss Monday in his news press conference, calling it a “big blow for every Aggie, at every level.” Woodward had amassed 93 tackles alone and recently recovered a fumble he forced and took it in for a touchdown.
“It’s the hardest for him, trust me, it’s the hardest for the kid,” Andersen said. “He’ll go through it, but it’s a devastating blow for a young man to be in that spot.”
USU (4-4) could have used Woodward against BYU, which took advantage of poor tackling by the Aggies. Tackling has been an issue for Utah State lately, with or without Woodward, and Andersen seemed to take some responsibility for that.
“It’s disappointing, but the bottom line is we need to coach it better,” Andersen said. “That’s always been my philosophy. When something’s not good, we need to look at and take responsibility. And the players will, too. We’ll make sure we do, and we’ll work on it.”
Andersen also pushed back on the idea that tackling has been the team’s biggest defensive weakness of late. He said there is “a lot” that goes into USU’s defensive struggles.
Andersen said physicality was a focus going into the BYU game. It appears he will harp on that more in the near future.
"Last week, our goal was to play fast, physical and smart,” Andersen said. “We need to be more physical. We need to put the players in a position to be more physical, also. We can help them do that.”
After experiencing some offensive struggles that permeated throughout many positions on that side of the field, the Aggies flipped that narrative against the Cougars, at least for one game. But they’re now in the midst of a two-game losing streak in which they’ve given up 73 total points.
With Woodward sidelined, Andersen said the younger players on the depth chart will have to step in and make an impact, and that the coaching staff will need to help them do so.
“We need to continue to help Elijah [Shelton] and AJ [Vongphachanh] to get better and to work out there as a unit,” Andersen said, “and make sure that Kevin [Meitzenheimer] doesn’t feel like he has to just take care of the freshmen all the time, and get him lined up so that Kevin can do his job as well as he can.”
Woodward is now the second linebacker to be considered out for the season with an injury, after Fua Leilua suffered an apparent knee injury in USU’s season opener against Wake Forest.