The Utah State Football team looked more like the Aggies we expected to see this year before the influx of injuries that appeared to derail their season. Heading down to Albuquerque for their first MWC matchup against the University of New Mexico turned out to be a pleasant trip as the Aggies smacked the Lobos around to the tune of a 45-10 final score. Here’s how the Aggies were able to overcome a difficult past couple of weeks to lay the smack down on UNM.
In my preview of this game, seen here http://www.tornbysports.com/previewing-aggies-matchup-new-mexico-lobos/, I stated that I expected the Aggies to pound the ball on the ground and to make things easy on true freshmen starting quarterback Darell Garretson through the play calling. It was evident early on that this was indeed the game plan for the Aggies. Looking specifically at their first two offensive drives the Aggies did some things that set the tone for the rest of the game. Joey DeMartino wasn’t even touched on his way to an 8 yard touchdown on the first drive of the game following a fumble recovery by the defense. The second drive was a thing of beauty of which I give the offensive staff a lot of credit. Just like I predicted in the preview they came out with an array of runs and short passes as they marched straight down the field to take the 14-0 lead. On this drive the Aggies worked the flats in the passing game with quick outs, slant patterns, and wheel routes out of the backfield. These easy pass plays led to Garretson completing his first five passes of the game including a 21 yard touchdown pass to DeMartino. Garreston looked confident and relaxed coming off the field 14-0 after that drive. Kudos to the offensive staff for making things easier on him in his first career start.
The Aggies finished with a season-high 337 rushing yards as part of its 492 yards of total offense. Even the punter was able to run on the Lobos as Jason Bentrude took a fake punt for the slowest 72 yard touchdown run ever. Joey DeMartino had a career game finishing with 185 yards of total offense and 4 touchdowns. Garretson only needed to play three quarters before the backups came in to this one and finished at 15 of 23 for 144 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line, as I expected, dominated the weaker defensive line unit of the Lobos as it appeared they put them on roller skates and pushed them back 3 or 4 yards on nearly every run play. They deserve a ton of credit for this impressive offensive performance.
The Aggies rush defense is IMPRESSIVE. Don’t expect many teams to be able to run on the Aggies this year as they do an excellent job of filling the gaps and playing their assignments against the run. The Lobos came in to this game ranked 2nd in the nation in rushing at 349.3 yards per game. In this one however, the Aggies held them to a season low 160 yards. It was the first time all season that the Lobos didn’t have a 100 yard rusher. The defense also facilitated the first Aggie touchdown when defensive end Conner Williams jumped on the fumble by Lobos quarterback Clayton Mitchem at the UNM 8 yard line. This first drive by the defense set the momentum in the Aggies favor and it stayed that way the entire game.
Even though it was a great game for the defense I’m still a little concerned about their pass defense going forward. The Lobos, ranked 122nd in the nation in passing going into this game, were able to get off some big pass plays on the Aggies including receptions of 34, 21, and 33 yards. USU has had a bad habit of giving up big plays through the air the entire season and that will be something they will need to improve if they want to finish off strong in Mountain West play and get to a bowl game.
There were a couple of bright spots on special teams in this blowout. Bruce Natson looked good as a punt returner as he returned one punt for a touchdown and had another called back from a touchdown due to penalty. The Aggies also had a perfectly executed fake punt that led to the before mentioned 72 yard touchdown run by punter Jason Bentrude. One thing that concerns me is that this is the third straight game in which the Aggies have had a kick blocked. That absolutely has to be cleaned up if they want to win against some of the better teams in the MWC.
Reviewing My Predictions
Going in to the game I predicted the Aggies would beat the Lobos at their own game and pound them rushing the football. Check. I predicted that the offensive line would dominate. Check. I predicted the Aggies would win 31-17. Semi-Check. The Aggies played even better than I expected and it just goes to show you that even without Chuckie Keeton and other key members out due to injury that the Aggies are a still a middle to top tier team in the MWC and should compete for the rest of the season.