Utah State’s key players
#16 SR 6’2” 210-pound QB Chuckie Keeton
2015 stats: 38 for 68 for 366 yards, 55.9% completion, 5.38 YPA, 2 TD, 3 INT, 102.0 RAT, 18 carries for 53 yards, 2.9 YPC, 14 long
Sneak Peak: Keeton is entering his fifth year at Utah State with a lot of experience under his belt. He started eight games as a true freshman before suffering an injury in 2011. After starting every game as a sophomore in 2012, Keeton started his junior season with an 18:2 TD:INT ratio in just six games before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. Keeton’s 2014 year was cut short after he reinjured his knee only three games in. He received a medical redshirt and retained eligibility for 2015.
In Monday’s press conference, Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen described Keeton as a competitor and said he was the type of player that’s willing to “get hit and do whatever he needs to do to help his team win”. Keeton has the ability to make plays with his arm and legs, throwing 60 touchdowns and running for 15 more during his Aggie career. He’s run into efficiency issues since his 2013 knee injury, and he’s only gained 926 yards of total offense (185.2 per game) with five total touchdowns and seven interceptions in the five games he has played since. While those numbers aren’t particularly impressive, Keeton is experienced, talented and can hurt defenses in multiple ways.
Husky Comparison: It’s difficult to compare Keeton to one of the Husky quarterbacks. In terms of size and ability to make plays with his feet I would say Keeton is similar to K.J. Carta-Samuels
#21 SO 5’8”, 195-pound RB LaJuan Hunt
2015 stats: 37 carries for 117 yards, 3.2 YPC, 14 long, 0 TD, 5 catches for 11 yards, 2.2 YPC, 8 long, 1 TD
Sneak Peak: LaJuan Hunt’s team leading 540 rushing yards in 2014 ranks third highest by any freshman in school history. While Hunt is on the shorter side, he has a well-built 195-pound frame that can power through weak attempts at tackling him. He’s a well-rounded back that also possesses good speed and quickness. Hunt is averaging 21 touches a game so far in 2015 and is an important part of the Aggies’ offense, but right now he's only averaging over three yards a carry and hasn't scored a touchdown. Everybody knows how important running the ball is for the success of an offense, and LaJuan Hunt is the guy the Aggies will task with establishing their run game.
Husky Comparison: Myles Gaskin
#4 SR 6’0”, 200-pound WR Hunter Sharp (has yet to play a game in 2015)
2014 stats: 66 catches for 939 yards, 14.2 YPC, 81 long, 7 TD, 6 carries for 28 yards, 4.7 YPC, 12 long
Sneak Peak: Hunter Sharp was suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season for a violation of team rules. He returns to the field Saturday against the Huskies looking to pick up where he left off last season as the team’s leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Sharp is a reliable and consistent target, hauling in nearly five passes a game last season. He also proved himself to be a playmaker with four touchdowns of 70 yards or longer last year.
Husky Comparison: It is difficult to compare his to a Husky wide out, but because of his speed, playmaking ability, and his six-foot frame, we’ll compare him to Dante Pettis.
#41 JR 6’2”, 235-pound LB Nick Vigil
2015 stats: 25 total tackles, 3.0 TFL, 0 sacks
Sneak Peak: After a successful sophomore season, Nick Vigil has had a hot start to 2015, leading the Aggies in total tackles and tackles for a loss. Opposing offenses frequently find Vigil in the backfield, where he has made 19.5 tackles for a loss in his last 16 games. His combination of size and speed was intriguing enough for the Aggies’ coaching staff to also give him some snaps at running back last season. Vigil found the end zone three times on 41 carries for 152 yards. He hasn’t taken a carry yet this season, and it is unlikely that he will anytime soon, but his involvement in the 2014 offense speaks to his versatility. Expect to hear his name plenty of times Saturday afternoon.
Husky Comparison: Azeem Victor
#9 SR 6’5”, 250-pound LB Kyler Fackrell
2015 stats: 11 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Sneak Peak: After redshirting his first year on campus, Kyler Frackell started all 27 games his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons. Even though he missed almost all of his junior season with a knee injury, Fackrell’s 30 starts are second most on the team behind QB Chuckie Keeton. In 2013, Fackrell led the team in tackles for loss with 13. He has emerged as the team’s primary pass rusher this season, posting two sacks in as many games. His long, athletic frame and speed around the edge make Fackrell tough to block. Failure to contain him could make Saturday a long day for UW freshman QB Jake Browning.
Husky Comparison: Cory Littleton
#13 SO 5’10”, 175-pound CB Jalen Davis
2015 stats: 9 total tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 pass breakups
Sneak Peak: After starting 13 games as a true freshman, Jalen Davis is off to a great start in 2015. He leads the team in pass breakups with four and has even notched two tackles for a loss and a sack. Davis plays with good speed and seems to always be in position to make a play, whether it’s batting a pass down or stepping up and making a stop in the run game.
Husky Comparison: Sidney Jones
What the Utah State offense looks like
Utah State has struggled to get the ball in the end zone thus far, with only two passing touchdowns and zero touchdowns as a team running the ball. Last season, the Aggies ran the ball 512 times and threw it just 389 times. This year, the split is much, much closer to 50/50, with 68 pass attempts and 67 running plays. That could be the result of the team’s 3.8 yards per carry or due to the fact they have trailed for the majority of both games they’ve played. I think it’s a little of both. The Aggies’ offense gets two starters back from suspension this week. The return of senior receiver Hunter Sharp should help Chuckie Keeton find a rhythm in the passing game and LG Tyshon Mosley should help jump start Utah State’s ground attack. Even with two crucial players coming back from suspension, a matchup against a stout Husky defense is not a favorable one for a struggling offense.
What the Utah State defense looks like
Utah State runs a base 3-4 defense. The Aggies starting front seven weighs 1825 pounds (just over 260 pounds per player). Their size is coupled with great speed and intensity. The Aggies already have 12 tackles for a loss and have sacked opposing quarterbacks five times in just two games. Utah State has also had success with their pass defense, limiting teams to less than 125 yards passing per game. They have allowed just one touchdown through the air. The strength of this team is definitely their defense. It’s tough to move the ball against the Aggies, and even harder to score points. Their 16.5 points per game allowed is impressive, but is it good enough to put their struggling offense in a position to win? Petersen and Washington Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith both talked about Utah State's penchant for relentless pressure, comparins that aspect of the Aggies' defense to Arizona State. Expect Utah State to do things more in the style of Boise State and a lot differently than Sacramento State.
Keys to the game
• Stop the run – In their 10-point loss to Utah, the Aggies allowed nearly 200 rushing yards. The Huskies got in the end zone five different times in their home opener, gaining over 200 yards on the ground. If Utah State is unable to prevent either Dwayne Washington or Myles Gaskin from having a big day, it will allow Washington to get into an offensive rhythm.
• Take care of the ball – The Aggies have thrown three interceptions and have lost a fumble through their first two games. Defensively, they have yet to force a turnover. Already sporting a negative turnover ratio, ball security is a big key for the Aggies.
• Make Jake Browning uncomfortable – One of the Aggies' defensive strengths is getting after the quarterback. With five sacks and three quarterback hits in just two games, Utah State has made their presence felt in the backfield. If they can rough up freshman QB Jake Browning, it could throw off his timing as well as his confidence.
• Keep the defensive momentum going – The Huskies, who are allowing only eight points per game, haven’t allowed a point in their last six quarters of football. This week’s matchup against a struggling Utah State offense is an encouraging one. If Washington can keep their defensive momentum going and force the Aggies to punt more often than not, the Husky offense will have more opportunities to break through Utah State’s tough defense.
• Run the ball – While the Huskies did throw the ball much better against Sacramento State, it was Myles Gaskin’s ability to get the run game going that sparked the offense. With Dwayne Washington listed atop the depth chart and Myles Gaskin second on the pecking order, the Huskies have two very different styles of backs that can pick up yards if given some adequate blocking.
• Find a rhythm - In the season opener at Boise State, the Huskies could not find an offensive rhythm and were unable to move the ball. After a slow first quarter against Sacramento State, the Huskies scored 28 points in the second quarter after the run game got them in a groove. Rhythm produces confidence, and confidence is key for an offense to function. Finding a rhythm and gaining confidence will be essential for the Huskies against a tough Utah State defense.