Utah State vs Wake Forest takeaways: Everything is bad

Goin down in Flames

It’s been nearly three days now, and I’m not entirely sure I’m finished mourning the death of Aggie football. Saturday’s “game” at Wake Forest was less of an athletic contest and more like watching a poorly constructed moat-less sandcastle repeatedly drown in an unending surge of icy surf. The mangled remains of last week’s promising offense may as well have called Go routes every play of the second half and prayed for a penalty (up north we call this the Tanner Mangum offense). The defense gave up nearly 600 yards of explosive play after explosive play, until even Wake Forest fans retired indoors to scarf down some hot dogs and tune into Florida vs Tennessee. Senior QB Kent Myers even managed to get kneed in the face on a huge Wake Forest punt return.

Just…I mean really think about that sentence for a bit. For 60 minutes, Utah State managed to look worse against the Demon Deacons than it did against a Top-10 Wisconsin squad. This was a loss of epic proportions. This was Holly Holm turning Ronda Rousey’s jaw to mush, except drawn out from one sharp incredible flash of action into three solid hours of futility.

Bear with me now, as it will likely take a miracle of biblical proportions to draw any one positive thing from this awful no good very bad game.

Losers – The Aggie ground game

Utah State ran the ball 31 times Saturday for 42 yards, averaging 1.4 yards per rush. That amounts to someone essentially tripping at the line of scrimmage on every running play for an entire game, even in the fourth quarter when Wake Forest blatantly let off the gas pedal. For those interested, the breakdown of USU’s carries does illustrate an increased trust in surprise stud Eltoro Allen, who led all rushers with 13 touches Saturday for 20 yards. Senior LaJuan Hunt closely trailed with 10 carries, though for only five yards.

Also, it was revealed today in coach Matt Wells’ presser that Tonny Lindsay is out for the season after shoulder surgery last week. Bum deal for a really good dude.

Winners – That one fake punt play

Being down 17-0 never felt so electric.

Losers – The Aggie passing game

First, a soap box message. I don’t want to blast Kent Myers too badly here. These guys are not professionals — they wake up and grind and go to class and work out and study and try to put on a show for us sports fans every weekend for several months, and it’s generally a thankless job when the team is struggling. We should not hold college athletes to standards even professionals regularly fail to live up to. I’m mentioning Myers by name here purely because I believe even he would agree this was a rough outing. The senior completed 9-of-23 passes for 54 yards and an interception. Wake Forest worked over the Aggie OL and gave up just two big plays all game, both through the air in the second half to backup QB Jordan Love after the game was out of control.

Winners – Those two deep passes that resembled real football

Jordan Love stepped into this miserable game after nearly forgetting his helmet on the sideline and unleashed the dragon. His 77-yard touchdown bomb to Gerold Bright avoided what should’ve been a gruesome shutout, and immediately sparked roughly 37 posts on USUFans questioning Myers’ status as the starter. While these types of reactions are typical and generally not smart, this one intrigues me. Myers is the most well-rounded QB on the roster, but Love may in fact be better cut out for Yost’s offense. Myers struggles with deep ball accuracy, too often avoiding the vertical element of the offense in favor of flat passes and incremental yardage. Under Myers, the passing game grows one-dimensional and the ground game grows stale in a hurry as defenses stack the box.

Perhaps Love’s arm strength and willingness to take those deep shots unlocks more of what Yost wants to do, spreading defenses out and creating better opportunities for explosive plays and cleaner running lanes. It’s hard to imagine the offense struggling more under Love’s command than it did Saturday. My official ruling on this — Myers deserves the start this week against San Jose, but Love should keep his helmet handy. Swift changes may be in order before BYU on the 29th.

Losers – First downs (but also second, third and fourth downs)

I’ll let Wells take this one —

“We didn’t run the football very well. I think we had seven three-and-outs and you can look at it as first-down production, you can look say it is not explosives, it’s not running the football well enough on first down. It’s all three of those. An explosive gets you a first down and then here we go, and that is a key to this offense. It’s a key to most offenses. Even Wake Forest played with pace and they did a nice job. They had explosives, they played with pace and they got in a rhythm. We didn’t have explosives and we didn’t run the ball very well on first down. Part of the defense’s problem was the offense wasn’t staying on the field. Part of the offense’s problem is they weren’t doing those three things we just talked about.”

Agreed.

What’s next –

A very long bus ride to San Jose for what I believe now to be the key game of the season. If Utah State can get right in time for conference play, this is still a team loaded with really good players who haven’t fully emerged, and that may just be due to two very strong opponents. I fully anticipate a different team to show up this weekend, despite the Aggies’ well-documented road struggles. While many feel Aggie football is already in free-fall, I tend to lean towards coach Wells’ outlook. Everything to this point has in a way been USU’s preseason.

Now for the games that matter.


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