LOGAN – Utah State will take on BYU Friday night in Provo, but the team will be without star quarterback Chuckie Keeton. It was announced by head coach Matt Wells Wednesday that Keeton will most likely be out for the rest of the season because of the left knee he reinjured against Wake Forest.
Friday’s rivalry game will be the only instate game that either team will play this year and will come after both teams have more than a week of rest. The Aggies will take on the Cougars on national television. BYU comes into the game nationally ranked and undefeated. It is the last game the Aggies will play and could be the toughest game of the season for them.
“We don’t play Utah this year. We don’t play Weber State. We don’t play any of those guys,” sophomore linebacker Zach Vigil said. “So everybody in the state is going to be tuned into this game.”
BYU beat the Aggies last year in Logan 31-14. USU’s last victory over the Cougars came in 2012 when the Aggies won 31-16 in Romney Stadium.
“The last time we beat them was before I got here, so I’m looking for my first win,” senior offensive lineman Kevin Whimpey said. “What better place for it to come than down in Provo.”
The Aggie defense has been playing well this season. A lot of that can be attributed to its rushing defense, which ranks fourth in the nation, but it will have its hands full with BYU dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill.
“You’ve got a guy that if he’d play linebacker he’d be on the Bronko Nagurski Award list right now, except he runs like a tailback and throws like a quarterback,” Wells said. “He’s playing at a high level. I think every bit of Heisman talk is absolutely deserved.”
Vigil said it is hard to prepare to face a player like Hill because you can’t replicate in practice what he does on the field.
“All you can do is know what you are going to be up against in practice,” he said. “You have to think about, when you’re getting scout reps, what number four is going to look like and not what the scout guy is going to look like coming at you.”
While the defense has been impressive at times this year, the offense has struggled.
“We haven’t been the offense that we wanted to be,” Whimpey said. “Have we put in the time? Yes. Do we practice hard? Yes. Do we care? Yes. Do we want to make Aggie nation proud? Yes we do, but things haven’t fit together the way we wanted them to.”
A key part of improving the offense will be improving the offensive line. Whimpey said the offensive line hasn’t “clicked” yet and attributed the lack of success to the lack of in-game live reps.
“We have to be able to take the reps and let the reps add up,” he said. “So as we get deeper and deeper into the season we have gotten better. We ran the ball much better against Arkansas State then we did in games previous.”
Whimpey said even though there are still problems, he isn’t panicking yet. He said he believes the defense is championship level and as soon as the offense clicks they will be the team they want to be. If they want to be able to pull off the upset in LaVell Edwards Stadium however, the offense will need to click as soon as possible. If they do win Friday night, it will be the first time since 1978 USU has won Provo.
“I have not been very successful down there,” Wells said. “And neither has 36 years of Aggie football.”
“From a defensive standpoint I think we’re going to have to play at a really high level Friday night if we are going to give ourselves an opportunity to win this game,” Vigil said. “And I think we can win this game.”