It won’t be an easy task, but one major point of emphasis this weekend for the Aggies will be establishing a running game.
Following its 70-6 Homecoming victory over Weber State in front of 25,513 fans last Saturday night at Romney Stadium, Utah State heads back out on the road again.
The Aggies square off against Southern California on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The Trojans feature one of the top defenses in the nation — especially when it comes to stopping the run.
“We’re going to have to play very efficiently on offense, take care of the football and find a way to run the ball, because three teams haven’t yet,” USU head coach Matt Wells said Monday during his weekly press conference.
USC ranks in the top 10 nationally in rushing defense, sacks, total defense, interceptions, pass efficiency defense, tackles for loss and scoring defense.
When it comes to stopping the run, the Trojans are allowing just 43.7 rushing yards per game.
“SC is everything that you’ve always thought about them, everything I’ve known about them as a kid,” Wells said. “They’re extremely talented on defense. We’ve been watching tape for almost a day now and I don’t think we’ve made a first down yet.
“They are really, really good up front and they’ve got some talented safeties.”
In the Trojans’ season opener at Hawaii, a 30-13 win on Aug. 29, the Rainbow Warriors managed just 23 yards on 31 carries.
The following week, in USC’s 10-7 loss to Washington State in its home opener, the Cougars were limited to 7 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Boston College has had the most success running the ball against the Trojans. This past weekend at the Coliseum, the Eagles gained 101 yards on the ground in 26 carries in a 35-7 loss.
The Aggies come into this Saturday’s game as the 37th-best rushing team in the nation as they average 219.0 ypg.
“The first thing we want to be is a physical run team, (so we need to) get a big-yardage game on the ground started against (USC),” USU running back Joey DeMartino said.
Aggie fans not making the trek to Los Angeles this weekend will be able to watch the game on ABC.
The game will be televised nationally on ABC in the western part of the United States and on ESPN2 throughout the rest of the country. Dave Flemming will handle the play-by-play duties with David Diaz-Infante providing the analysis. Shelley Smith is the sideline reporter.
“It’s going to be on a national stage,” Wells said. “It’s a chance for some exposure for the program and everything that goes with it. Hopefully, we can play well early and get it to the fourth quarter, then we’ll see what happens.”
Sharing the rock
Nine different Aggies carried the ball in USU’s win over the Wildcats — the most ball carriers in a single game since at least 1995, according to available records.
Players who had at least one rush against Weber State included DeMartino (8 for 107 yards, 3 TDs), Joe Hill (12-63), Robert Marshall (9-57, 1 TD), Kelvin Lee (4-26), QB Chuckie Keeton (5-25), Kennedy Williams (3-13), QB Craig Harrison (1-5), Paul Clark (1-1) and QB Jeff Manning (3-1).
“It’s always good when you can get six running backs in,” Wells said.
Connor Williams update
Senior defensive end Connor Williams has missed the Aggies’ last two games after injuring his foot in the season opener at Utah.
Will he be available this week?
“That will be day-to-day,” Wells said. “We’ll see closer toward the end of the week. He had a better week at the end of last week, so we’ll see where we’re at with that come probably Wednesday and Thursday.”
MW Players of the Week
UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week, while Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and Colorado State linebacker Shaquil Barrett earned MW Defensive and Special Teams honors, respectively.
It is the second-career MW weekly accolade for Barrett and first for both Herring and Lawrence.
Herring broke the school record for completion percentage by connecting on 24 of 28 pass attempts (85.7 percent), eclipsing Randall Cunningham’s old mark of 80.8 percent, in the Rebels’ 31-21 come-from-behind victory over Central Michigan. He passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns to help UNLV dig out of a 21-0 hole.
Lawrence tied a career best with nine tackles, including five solo, in the Broncos’ 42-20 league victory over Air Force.
Barrett blocked two field goals in the Rams’ 34-17 win over Cal Poly. Each block prevented the Mustangs from pulling to within one in the game.
Keeton, DeMartino and tight end D.J. Tialavea all earned national honorable mention accolades at their respective positions from the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) following the Aggies’ big victory over the Wildcats.
It is the fifth time Keeton has received honorable mention accolades by CFPA, but a first for both DeMartino and Tialavea.
Keeton was also tabbed the America First Credit Union Utah State Student-Athlete of the Week.
Two WSU players with connections to the valley actually played Saturday night against USU — Eddy Hall (Mountain Crest) and Shane Oliverson (Sky View).
Oliverson was not among those listed on the Wildcats’ participation report, but he did play in both the third and fourth quarters against the Aggies.
In fact, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound offensive tackle has appeared in all three of WSU’s games this season.