Sophomore tailback, Joe Hill, broke out in a big way in Utah State’s season-opening win over the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah. Hill rushed for 116 yards on just 11 carries and scored three touchdowns – each from over 15 yards out.
Hill arrived in Logan two years ago as a skinny, fast tailback out of Fullerton, California. He has added significant weight since his arrival and it seems to really be helping him out. His added weight has allowed him to better break tackles, which makes him extremely dangerous given his amazing speed – Hill is regarded as the fastest player on the team. Now that Hill has shown what he’s capable of, it seems as though Aggie fans shouldn’t be too concerned about moving forward without Robert Turbin and Michael Smith.
Chuckie Keeton showed exactly what he is capable of on Thursday by lighting up SUU’s secondary to the tune of 22-26 passing for 304 yards. He showed great accuracy, which included some spot-on deep throws, two of which resulted in touchdowns. He also showed why he is considered a dual threat by scrambling and juking his way to a big gain in the first quarter. But what most impressed me was his willingness to throw into single coverage. More specifically, his willingness to throw to a covered Matt Austin and let him show off his ability to come down with a catch in a “jump ball” situation. This happened multiple times throughout the game, leaving SUU with no answer.
Friday’s game in Logan versus the 1-0 Utah Utes will be a huge game, to say the least. The Aggies can set the tone for a great season with a win over the Utes. It will be tough sledding for the Aggie offense, though. Utah’s defense is very impressive. They didn’t allow last week’s opponent, Northern Colorado, past the 50 yard line. That’s impressive no matter the competition. The Aggie offensive line will have their hands full keeping the Ute defensive line out of the backfield.
The key to the game may be the Aggie defense. They were able to hold Southern Utah to just three points, but were only able to get one takeaway, which happened on the last play of the game while the backup defense was on the field. The defense and special teams need to create situations where they can give the offense a short field to work with. Utah’s strength on offense lies squarely on the shoulders of tailback John White IV and his backfield mates in the running game. Fortunately, the Aggies seem to boast a stronger run defense than pass defense. When Utah does put the ball in the air, Utah State’s secondary needs to drastically improve their coverage technique. The Aggies were flagged five times for pass interference last week. That has to change if the Aggies want a fighting chance at victory.
It should be a good non-conference home game, which is tough to come by outside of the BCS. Will the Aggies take advantage and stun the Utes on national television? If you can’t make it to the game, it will be broadcast Friday night at 6 PM on ESPN 2.