Sep 11, 2013

A much belated Air Force recap

Well la-dee freakin da!!! Turns out Google finally decided to let me log into my own account that I use to run this here website after a few days of issues that wouldn't allow me to do but two things; Jack and Shit... and Jack left town.

I promise that soon these recaps will start coming after games, or at least the next day, rather than half a week later...

Anyway, let's just get right at it.

Matt Wells gets his first win in emphatic fashion, going into a tough place to play against a tough team and demolishing them. He may have been outcoached at Utah, but Wells was the guy doing the outcoaching in this one. Every adjustment that needed to be made for the second half was indeed made. 

Most impressive is how much the Aggies dominated the third quarter. That didn't happen much last year, and certainly didn't happen against Utah. The pass coverage in the first half was clown shoes at best, but it at least got its shit together in the second half. Still very very concerned about what they're going to do moving forward, because if they continue like the trend has been through two games, a few teams are going to torch them in a bad way.


 - Penalties... Those need to be cleaned up. There were some pretty god-awful calls out there, because apparently a team's welcome present to the Mountain West Conference is a middle finger and a bunch of yellow flags. Still, they could do much better.

 - Speaking of penalties though, that whole "Illegal Snap" call was an absolute lifesaver for USU. The defense was gassed as could be after two long drives by Air Force, the second of which came on an Aggie turnover. That gave them much-needed extra rest as the offense sustained a lengthy drive into the quarter break.

 - Wide receivers were great again. Blow away by this unit so far.

 - Also, that Chuckie Keeton kid is alright.

 - Jake Doughty had another monster game, as did Zach Vigil.

 - A sneaky great game from Eric Schultz too. Seemed like every third play he had his guy buried in the dirt.

 - Still waiting for Joe Hill to mercilessly slay opposing defenses... Also still believe that he will

AH HELL!!! You saw the game. Blame Google for this taking so long to come. Weber State this week. Be there.

Sep 2, 2013

After taking time to make sense of it all...

I had myself prepped to deal with a loss against the Utes. Hell, I pretty much predicted it. Still, that one stung, and that sting kept me from wanting to write any kind of post game.

But in honor of me finally putting on an actual shirt for the first time since Thursday night, I figure it's time to recap things from last Thursday.

Both of these teams are good. Very good even. Utah's defense was about as good as expected, while their offense executed fantastically. Travis Wilson showed all kinds of flashes of the potential that made him such a highly rated recruit. And along with him was a receiving group that was also as good as advertised, as were their tight ends. I'm not sure USU is going to face another team this year that has an all-around passing attack possessing the quality of quarterback, receivers, and tight ends that Utah has.

Still, the USU defense wasn't as great as they should have been. I can understand Utah getting a few of those deep passes like they did, but not THAT many. Before this game I had concern about the pass coverage abilities of the USU safeties, but that was really only due to having not seen them do it very effectively yet, mainly Mo Alexander. After that game, the concern is now due to having seen them struggle in that area. In Alexander's defense, he still had 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two pass breakups. So imagine if he locks down that pass coverage aspect of things?

But the safeties were not the only concern. The pass rush wasn't quite what I'd hoped it would be, and Wilson made full use of that. Also, how did Rashard Stewart not get more snaps? I'm not sure I saw him on the field once. After that camp he had, that blows my mind.

The pass coverage and pass pressure was bad. The run stopping was as good as advertised until the later end of the fourth quarter when the defense had to have been gassed as hell from spending the entire second half on the field.

Three things really shot this game in the foot for the Aggies though...

3. Chuckie Keeton's cramp deep in the red zone
The Utah defense took the field on that play with Craig Harrison in at quarterback knowing with 100 percent certainty that they could sell out on the run. And they did. And it crushed that drive for the Aggies. A touchdown there might have broken their backs, instead the Utes kept USU out of the end zone and themselves in the game.

2. Nick Diaz's missed PAT
Seriously, how the hell does this keep happening? The later minutes of that game are a totally different story if the game is 27-27 and Utah has to play FOR the lead rather than to KEEP the lead. That is piss f***ing poor to miss a PAT in that situation. Not to say the Aggies would have surely won, but the way both teams would have played things out in a tie would have been different than if one has a late lead at home.

1. The onsides kick...
The USU offense was absolutely rolling from the start of the second quarter all the way into the third. So when the Utes finally broke through for a score of their own, they had a little bit of the momentum back. Whittingham has the balls to try an onsides kick in situations to swing momentum heavily his direction. He went for it and got it, and that momentum was completely in the hands of his team after that. 

The Aggies got outplayed when it mattered, and outcoached for the early and late parts of the game. Not entirely unexpected with a rookie coach in one of the toughest games of the year. Utah is very good and USU should be able to take plenty from this game, just not a win unfortunately.

We saw how good USU can be in certain areas, as well as where they need to improve.


 - Chuckie Keeton was simply spectacular... He did everything we knew he was capable of and more. That was probably one of the three toughest defenses he'll face this year, so go ahead and be excited about what else he'll do this year.

 - The wide receivers stepped up. Huge even. Major props to them as an entire unit for what they did last Thursday. Travis Van Leeuwen was the reliable target all over the place that Chuckie needed, Jojo Natson was like USU's own personal Wes Welker and a first down machine, all while Brandon Swindall stepped up as the red zone threat this team needed. Fantastic work by this bunch. If the running game gets going, this offense will be stellar all over again.

 - The top three linebackers lit up the stat sheet like you'd expect... Jake Doughty racked up 16 tackles, Zach Vigil had 10 tackles, half a sack, and a forced fumble, and Kyler Fackrell had eight tackles, two TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble.

 - Terrell Thompson however, did not register any statistics... That's not okay.

 - Joe Hill was okay, but didn't really make a significant impact. I want to believe he can be close to as good as Kerwynn Williams, but I still haven't seen Hill's ability to bounce off tacklers like KW could. And while I believe Hill has better top-end speed than Williams does, he doesn't accelerate nearly as quick as Kerwynn. In fairness to Hill, Williams also struggled to get big yards against some of the better defenses faced last year, so I'm eager to see what Hill can do against Air Force. 

Aug 27, 2013

Utes are still an uphill battle for the Aggies

Poke your head around the internet. It seems like a whole lot of Utah State fans have got a win on Thursday for the Aggies written in ink. After an 11-2 season in 2012, returning a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, and a win over the Utes in the second game of last year, you can understand where that excitement is coming from.

If you ask me though, this is still an uphill fight for the Aggies. Here's why...

Not going to dive any further back than last year with the history of the series. Neither team's current state is at all reflective of where they were even just three years ago.

Aug 26, 2013

Post-training camp grades: Defense

Part 3 of 3: Defense

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships, yada yada yada...

Look at USU football in the Andersen/Wells era though. The offense was very good from the start back in 2009 with the likes of Robert Turbin, Diondre Borel, and Stanley Morrison racking up stellar numbers and putting up points. 2010 wasn't as great with the injuries to pretty much everyone who mattered. But in 2011, the offense was back at it.

As good as the offense was though, USU only racked up a combined record of 15-22 from 2009-11. Put in an elite defense, and the 2012 Aggies win 11 games and a WAC championship. No other evidence is really needed. So let's get at the grades after camp.

Aug 24, 2013

Post-training camp grades: Offense

Part 2 of 3: Offense

Where it all begins for the offense, and USU has five returning starters. This unit is anchored by a trio of stars in Jamie Markosian, Eric Schultz, and Tyler Larsen; all three guys earned all-WAC honors last season. Kyle and Kevin Whimpey took huge steps forward as the season rolled on in 2012, and while both might be better suited as interior linemen, Kevin still was solid enough at left tackle by season's end.
Depth is still a big question here, and I'm still crossing fingers that Kevin Whimpey can handle some of the bigger guns around the edge that the early part of the schedule will test him with, but there's no doubting the prowess of five returning starters.

Preseason grade: A-

Aug 23, 2013

Post-training camp grades: Special teams

Training camp is wrapped up and game week is upon us. There's a crazy amount of excitement going around, and why the hell not? But sometimes it's easy to get caught up in excitement when you see an impressive product in practice.

Seeing weaknesses and imperfections gets a little bit harder though. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try and give an honest critique of what I've seen through camp and break down every position group and give them a preseason grade. So let's get at it!

Part 1 of 3: Special teams

This one worries me a little bit, simply because it seems that Nick Diaz hasn't solidified the job he had locked down to finish last season. Diaz was 10-of-13 last season with one blocked kick and two misses appearing to be centered, just without enough leg. He still hit 5-of-7 from beyond 40 yards, including a season-best 53-yarder.
Josh Thompson seems to always perform in practice, but has connected on just 10-of-16 field goals for his career, including only 8-of-14 from inside 40-yards. He's also missed two PATs in his career, which is concerning as to why Diaz hasn't been dubbed the clear-cut favorite. Younger brother Jake Thompson could very well be the guy for kickoff duties with his strong leg.
We've seen Diaz excel before and the job should remain his. The uncertainty hurts the grade for this position though.

Preseason grade: C+

The only name you need to know here is Jaron Bentrude. The job is his and he's looked solid in camp just like he did during spring practice. There's been a few flubs here and there, but his kicks have been booming at times. Now it's all about consistency.

Preseason grade: B

This one is full of intrigue. A whole bunch of guys took reps in this role during camp and based on what I saw, I think this team has plenty of people capable of filling in for the fine job done here by Chuck Jacobs last season. The two I liked the most were Tay Glover-Wright and Travis Reynolds. We all know about Reynolds' athleticism and if he has room to run, he's a safe bet to produce.
Glover-Wright is who I like the most here though. Watching him run I feel like he has the potential to be the Devin Hester of the Mountain West Conference. His athleticism is just freaking ridiculous.
Kennedy Williams is one other X-factor here, and considering the success his brother had as a kick returner early in his career, it's not outlandish to think Kennedy could thrive too after the camp he's had.
Any of those three would be good bets, but I like The Hyphen best. Regardless, the outlook here seems bright.

Preseason grade: B+

Cam Webb was the perfect possession-oriented punt returner last season. With the right protection on punt returns, this season could see a higher average return than 8.8 yards from the team's go-to punt returner. This is another role where a handful of guys saw reps, but the three that stood out to me most were Jojo Natson, Travis Van Leeuwen, and Kennedy Williams. Van Leeuwen would be the safe bet kind of guy, much like Webb was, and that's not a bad thing at all. Natson and Williams are similar in that they accelerate quickly, have good speed, and crazy agility.
If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Natson, just because his hands seem more proven in catching the ball. Any of the three would do fine though.

Preseason grade: B-

This one is completely on lockdown by Nate Needham. Not really any question about things here either. Dude is solid all-around.

Preseason grade: A 

Aug 14, 2013

Separation starts showing in second scrimmage

Felt good to be back at the stadium watching the Aggies after a weekend getaway for this guy. Without being able to see the first scrimmage, I can't really speak to what improved since then, but I can comment on plenty more that I saw and liked.

So let's get right to it...

  • Not that this was a secret to anybody, but Chuckie Keeton is good. He's really good. And he's getting better playing against this defense. He sees the field so much better than he did even a year ago, he adjusts to throws with defenders crashing in on him, and he still knows when to tuck it and run. He was spectacular on Wednesday.
  • Wide receivers looked as good as they have all camp. Jojo Natson looked like Keeton's favorite target, consistently getting open and doing things with the ball once he had it. His size will always be a disadvantage, but he still looks very much like he knows what he's doing out there. Hayden Weichers had a few nice grabs too, including the longest catch of the day when he broke loose over the middle for a 42-yard catch. This unit still has a ways to go before I could say I'm fully confident in them, but the improvement is quite noticeable.
  • The second team defense had Jeremy Morris and Tay Glover-Wright at cornerback. From that, you can take it that Rashard Stewart currently has a hold on the spot opposite Lawson on the first team. Still, for how well Morris has performed in camp, and with Tay Swoosh being Tay Swoosh, that position is really damn good!
  • Hadn't really heard or seen much from sophomore linebacker Torrey Green, but he had a pair of plays that stood out pretty well. On one, he hulked his way through the line for a tackle for loss, and on the next chased down the ballcarrier all the way to the sideline with some pretty good speed. Somebody to definitely keep an eye on in the future.
  • Tyler Larsen didn't play much, and it's not tough to imagine why. Without him though, Jamie Markosian was the backup center of choice, with Sini Tauauve'a sliding into his spot at left guard... just in case you're curious about the actual two-deep on the offensive line.
  • This year's camp has seemed like it's had a lot more downs than ups for Jeff Manning, but Wednesday he looked totally dialed-in! His throws were pretty on point, and were it not for one drop and a deep ball that Brock Bird should've had but seemed to kind of just give up on, Manning would have 5-of-5 passes. Been saying it all along about the kid's potential, and today he finally showed a little bit of it.
  • Darrell Garretson on the other hand was all over the place. The speed of a college practice seems to still be overwhelming to him, and it shows.
  • Three sacks for Kyler Fackrell... Kid ain't bad.
That's all for Wednesday's scrimmage. Let's do it again on Saturday!