USU looks for redemption against BYU
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 23:10
With last year’s loss still fresh in their minds, members of the Utah State football team have nothing but victory on the mind as the Aggies play host to in-state rival Brigham Young University on Friday at Romney Stadium.
"It should be a great atmosphere. I'm looking forward to it,” said USU head coach Matt Wells. “With 6,500 students and the Hurd there, and the game has been sold out for a few weeks now. The atmosphere and the buzz around Logan is big-time, and fun. Internally, the way we prepare and practice, we need to stay very consistent."
The Cougars lead the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel series, holding a 45-34-3 record all-time against the Aggies. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall is 5-1 against USU, with the most recent victory coming last season in Provo, 6-3.
In a defensive struggle, the Cougars got a touchdown with three seconds left before halftime that proved to be the difference. This season, the Aggies are looking to avenge that loss.
"Honestly, we obviously want some redemption for last year. That was a very big disappointment for our offense. We pride ourselves, especially the offensive line, on scoring points and getting touchdowns,” said senior offensive tackle Eric Schultz. “I can't really say what it was last year. Something wasn't right with us. I think from the top-down we just didn't perform to our best, and this year we want to come out and show what we really can do."
The teams are evenly matched statistically on the offensive side of the ball. The teams are ranked 21st and 24th nationally, with the Cougars averaging 492.5 yards per game and the Aggies averaging 491.4.
Quarterbacks Chuckie Keeton and Taysom Hill both rank among the top 10 in the country in several statistical categories.
Keeton is second in the country in total touchdown passes this season with 17, while Hill is tied for third in rushing touchdowns with six. Hill also ranked ninth in the country in total rushing yards, having amassed 565 yards on the ground in four games.
"He can run the ball very well. He's fast, he's athletic, he's strong, he's a good player and we got a little taste of it when we played them last year down in Provo,” said junior defensive end B.J. Larsen. “He's a good player, but we're going to be able to scheme to the point where we can contain him. We'll be able to do what we need to as a defensive front, as well as a front-seven, to be able to stop the run. That's our number one objective, don't let anybody establish the run. That's what we do best, so that's what we plan on doing."
Both offenses hope to better their performance from a season ago against two highly-ranked defensive squads.
The Cougars and Aggies are neck-in-neck as the 22nd and 23rd ranked defenses in the country. USU has allowed 315.4 yards per game to its opponents, while BYU has allowed 320.5.
Leading the way for the Cougars on defense is senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who is tied for 19th nationally with an average of 1.5 tackles for loss per game. Van Noy is on the watch list for several national awards, including the 2013 Butkus Award and the Walter Camp Award.
"Kyle Van Noy is going to play on Sundays for a long time. He's long, he's ranging, he's twitchy and he's fast. He can go from slow to fast really quick. He can redirect,” Wells said. “He's a really good pass-rusher against running backs and O-linemen. He causes major match-up problems. I'll be happy to shake his hand Friday night and be done facing him. He's a really good player."
Wells said playing at home will be big for the Aggies.
"It's nice to be back here this week and be in our home week routine,” he said. “Playing in front of our fans more than anything, putting that Aggie Blue jersey on to play in front of our families and our friends and the student body, it will be a great atmosphere and great to be home."
The last time the teams met in Logan, USU came away with a 31-16 victory on Oct. 1, 2010 — the weekend of Keeton’s recruiting trip. The Aggies are looking for their fifth win over BYU in the past 38 years.
"It's big, it's really big. I kind of have a sour taste in my mouth from last year and hoping to get rid of that,” Larsen said. “This is why you play sports, for rivalry games. I grew up around BYU and the University of Utah, I'm from Logan, my dad actually went to BYU, but I've converted him to an Aggie fan. I bleed Aggie Blue and I want this win more than anyone."
The Aggies and Cougars are scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. Friday at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium, and the game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.