The Utah State Aggies football team rumbles into Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo. on Sat. Oct. 18 with designs on winning a third straight game–its second in the Mountain West Conference this season. In the way are the Colorado State Rams who at 5-1 overall, 1-1 MW are a huge threat to the 4-2 Aggies.
CSU’s only loss this season came at Boise State–yet it defeated Boston College–who beat USC–and Colorado. Knowing that the Rams are as much of a threat going forward as any team the Aggies have played will certainly help in this critical conference battle.
CSU can hit you a number of ways on offense, particularly in the passing department. Averaging 317 yards per game, the Rams have thrown a whopping 17 touchdowns against just five interceptions–completing 63 percent of their passes.
But, the Rams aren’t just tough in the air; they’re solid on the ground too, rumbling for 172 yards per contest. CSU is led by Dee Hart, who gets about 90 yards rushing per game on 6.5 yards per carry. In order to have any chance of winning on Saturday (5 p.m., CBS Sports Network) Utah State will have to find ways to slow down Colorado State’s offense.
Above all, Utah State will need to do more in several areas to win its first road game on the season. So far this year, it’s oh-fer, having lost at Tennessee in a blowout and at Arkansas State in overtime. Nope, Provo doesn’t count. (Just kidding on that one.) Of course, that BYU win set Utah State on a course towards its current streak, in which it’s won its last two. So here are 5 things Utah State must do to win at CSU.
Utah State hasn’t started fast against any team–except BYU. The Aggies need to get back to what helped them put the Cougars away early–force turnovers. CSU has committed turnovers this season–5 interceptions and four fumbles lost in six games–so Utah State should have opportunities to create problems. If it does cause issues early on, watch out because the offense is beginning to catch up to the defense.
Stay the course
Since Darell Garretson replaced Chuckie Keeton due to the Heisman candidate’s unfortunate injury woes–again–Utah State has played inspired football. Garretson has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and tossed eight TDs against two interceptions. He’s also completed 66 percent of his passes, averaging 252 yards per game. in four games–three the Aggies won–Garretson has been the man, and his confidence only seems to be growing with every game.
Utah State has been unable to run the football in conventional fashion this season, forcing Matt Wells and Co. to become more resourceful. And so, the Aggies coaches have installed trick plays like fly sweeps and end-arounds to their speedy wideouts.
JoJo Natson has been known to throw teams off with an occasional end-around, and Bruce Natson has been known to try flea-flickers, throwing the football down field to some effect. But, the biggest play the Aggies have used to great success is a fullback dive by linebacker turned running back Nick Vigil. 21 carries and 71 yards later, Vigil has found the end zone twice.
Keep the family togetherness
When Utah State is able to control the line of scrimmage, the results have been amazing. In the last three games alone, the Aggies defense has given up 21, 20, and 16 points. Two of those games were wins and one was an overtime loss. There is a common thread through all three games though. The linebackers Vigil–or Nick and Zach–played out of their ever loving minds. In game one, at least one or more Vigil had 10 or more tackles. In game two, Zach had nine tackles–coming up one shy. In game three though, both Vigil brothers had insane games. Zach had 22, Nick 11.
Make field goals
Normally this isn’t a big deal. But, if you’ve missed as many field goals as Utah State has. 5 makes out of 11 FG attempts is not good enough at any level. From short range, the Aggies kickers–Nick Diaz in particular–are OK. But from 40 yards and beyond, Utah State has been horrible.
Only one make in five attempts–thanks to Diaz and no thanks to Jake Thompson–from 40-plus will not give you a chance unless your offense can move the football inside the red zone. The problem is, Utah State is only scoring touchdowns 58 percent of the time once it’s inside that area. Will it keep connecting on FG’s at CSU?