One of the biggest question marks surrounding Utah State's football team last week was who would start at quarterback against Boise State?

That same question mark has resurfaced again this week.

Only this time, it's the Aggies' opponent who must answer it.

USU travels to the Land of Enchantment this weekend for a Mountain West Conference clash against New Mexico on Saturday night.

The Lobos (2-4, 0-2 MW) come into the game fresh off a 38-31 loss to Wyoming last Saturday night. Starting quarterback Cole Gautsche injured his knee late in the contest and his backup, Clayton Mitchem, was unavailable after exhibiting concussion-like symptoms due to hits he took in New Mexico's 66-17 rout over rival New Mexico State on Oct. 5.

David Vega finished the Wyoming game after Gautsche excited, and the No. 3 signal caller threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Bundy with 1:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.

If Vega gets the start against USU (3-4, 2-1), will New Mexico's offense change much.

"We're probably in a similar situation to what Utah State is in," Lobos head coach Bob Davie said. "We are what we are and you plug in a new quarterback in that, and you continue to do what you do, but you pare it down a little to what his individual strengths are.

"So, it changes a little bit, but it's still going to look basically the same because that's what we are and that's what we've had success with.”

Vega is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound redshirt junior from Roswell, N.M. Prior to joining the Lobos, he played at New Mexico Military Institute.

"Vega is quick and he can make some things happen," Davie said. "It probably won't change dramatically (if he starts), but it will probably be a little bit condensed because he hasn't played a lot."

Gautsche is a 6-4, 223-pound sophomore from Rio Rancho, N.M., and Mitchem is a 6-1, 183-pound junior college transfer from Fort Smith, Ark.

Earlier this week, Davie said he had not ruled out Gautsche or Mitchem.

No matter who the Lobos start at quarterback, the Aggies say they'll be ready.

"They're going to run the same offense — that's what I've seen on film, anyways," USU linebacker Zach Vigil said. "Quarterback-wise, I wouldn't say we're preparing for either/or, we're just preparing for their offense and what they like to do."

Which is pound the rock.

The Lobos rank first in the MW and second in the nation in rushing offense as they average 349.3 yards per game, as well as 6.6 yards per carry.

"It's a big game for us defensively to stop the run," USU defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali'i said. "It starts with the defensive line. If the defensive line doesn't have a great game our chances of winning the game goes down, so it starts with us.

"We are the backbone of this team and it starts at the defensive line and works its way out. They're going to run the ball and they're very good at that, obviously. If we play with great technique, as we have all season, we will have a chance to win the game."

Against the Cowboys, the Lobos rushed for 257 yards. Gautsche led the way with 113 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

Blocking is a big key to a team's rushing success, and the Aggies are impressed with New Mexico's offensive line.

"They block very well," Vigil said. "They're big bodies and they do a good job of putting themselves in position to be in the way for the most part.

"Their running backs run really hard. They're lighter-type guys, but they keep their legs driving and they're hard to tackle."

Especially Kasey Carrier, who is well on his way to the 1,000-yard plateau with 789 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 132 carries.

"Kasey Carrier — I've known him since I coached there — is a really good back," USU head coach Matt Wells said. "I've got a lot of respect for him and what he does."

Carrier ranks first in the MW and eighth in the nation in rushing as he averages 131.5 yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry.

"He runs with balance, his lower body is strong and he's shifty," Wells said. "He's got a good first step and he runs with balance. He's a really good receiver out of the backfield."

Bundy leads New Mexico in receiving with 10 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns, but the Lobos don't pass very often — they average just 14.3 passes per game.

Against the Cowboys, however, New Mexico put the ball in the air 24 times. But, that might have been due to the fact New Mexico fell behind 21-0 early in the second quarter.

Defensively, linebacker Dallas Bollema leads the Lobos with 40 tackles, while safety David Guthrie has recorded 36 stops.

New Mexico is allowing 36.0 points and 478.5 yards of total offense per game.

"They're a multiple, odd-front defense," Wells said. "I think they play really hard."


Twitter: wdbowler


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