3 plays, 4 yards - punt
3 plays, 0 yards - punt
3 plays, 5 yards - punt
11 plays, 97 yards - touchdown
3 plays, 45 yards - touchdown
9 plays, 98 yards - touchdown
I mean, I guess if we're reaching for positives for SUU, their punter did a great job of pinning the Aggies deep, but it really didn't matter with USU's first unit in there. And the whole game saw a lot of USU's guys from the two-deep getting some serious reps out there.
To put it plainly, Chuckie Keeton was just about perfect tonight, and when you factor in how lights out Joe Hill and Matt Austin played along with him, the Thunderbirds never had a prayer against that. We'll talk about them more a bit later though.
On the whole, USU's offense seemed to be keeping things a little bit close to the chest and not letting too many cats out of the bag for opposing teams to break down in the film room. They came out swinging, built a comfortable lead and set the cruise control (which nobody apparently informed Hill of). Every position seemed to be clicking, with enough guys stepping up in different spots to give plenty of encouragement looking ahead.
LET'S TALK ABOUT DEFENSE
First impression about the defensive line, I was not impressed. Brad Sorensen had way too much time to throw early on, and even though he was missing his targets, the pressure didn't seem to be there. But that was not the story, because things all came together as the game went on.
The evidence for how the D-line performed is solidly measured by SUU's running game. Granted it's not a big time running game we went against tonight, but only averages 2.1 yards per carry, you're doing something right. Utah State was stuffing the run all freaking game, with the longest run by any SUU running back topping out at just five yards. And as the game went on and SUU's offensive line wore out, USU's defensive line did not, putting a ton of pressure on Sorensen later in the game. Solid finish by that unit today, but it's only going to get more difficult from here.
The linebackers had a lot of rotation throughout the game, so nobody racked up eye-popping stats, but the starters were solid, as were the first line of backups. La'Bradford Harold got the team on the board with its first turnover of the year with that game-ending interception in the end zone. All in all, it was a solid, but not spectacular night for the linebackers.
Defensive backs were the victims of some flag-happy, no defense allowed officiating. But the tough thing is, that's kinda the nature of football these days. A receiver can put his hands all over a DB while he's waiting for the ball to come down and that's fair game, but if a DB tries to defend that pass, refs are flagging that almost every time. Avoiding those situations is the challenge for the USU DBs throughout this year, and hopefully they'll improve on that aspect of things by next week.
Other than the pass interference calls, the defensive backs were like glue on SUU's receivers.
ON THE WHOLE
Solid start to the season for Utah State. Apparently it's the first time USU has been 1-0 since 1997, which blows my mind because I'm old as shit and I wasn't even a teenager yet back then. This team looks very solid, despite a few things that need improving on, but that's always the case this time of year. A 34-3 win, when it looked like the offensive playbook was kept relatively closed is a promising start.
Things get progressively difficult the next two weeks, and in big ways. Being even just 2-1 would be amazing, but won't come without playing pretty much a perfect game against either Utah or Wisconsin.
- Joe Hill... HOLY CRAP!!! I take back everything I said about USU only being one stud deep at running back. He found every hole he needed to find, hit it hard, burst through with the awesome speed we knew he had, and took it to the house. 11 carries, 119 yards and three touchdowns. Also had one catch for 17 yards... FREAKING GET SOME!!!
- Chuckie Keeton was every bit as good too. 22-for-26, 304 yards, two touchdowns. He got 27 more yards on six carries in the ground game too. He doesn't really look like a superstar in the making anymore, more just a superstar!
- And Matt Austin... Holy crap he is good! Five catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. About the best I can say about SUU's defensive backs against Austin, and really Chuck Jacobs for that matter, is "Good job! Good effort!"
- That punt return was not what I had hoped though, and needs to get locked the hell down. No more muffs please.
- Robert Marshall had him a nice fourth quarter tonight, anchoring USU's drives late in the game and really just not letting the SUU defense stop the Aggies at all.
- Hope like hell that Adam Kennedy is OK.
- Big ups to Terrence Alston, tying for the team-high in tackles with five, all solo. He also had a tackle for loss and a sack. So with him being possibly only the fourth best cornerback on the team, that says a hell of a lot about their capabilities as a unit.
- Connor Williams was the beast we thought he was and then some. He had a sack too and was the anchor of that defensive line tonight. Still hope to see him get more pressure on the quarterbacks, but a lot of that duty falls on the linebackers too in the 3-4 scheme. SUU's run game was non-existent, and he deserves a ton of that credit.
- I'm giving Matt Wells a solid B+ grade for tonight. Not 100 percent sure he really closed up most of the playbook, but for how good they looked when they needed to get a lead, I'm giving him the credit.
Dominating the running game like he did, especially in such a breakout way when everyone though the run game was a one-man show with Kerwynn, this is a total no-brainer! First POG of the year goes to Joe Hill