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Three Things To Watch: UNLV Rebels Vs. Utah State Aggies

Sep 23, 2022, 12:50 PM
utah-state-freshman-running-back-robert-briggs...
Utah State’s Robert Briggs (22) runs with the ball during a football game against the UConn Huskies at Maverik Stadium in Logan on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.
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LOGAN, Utah – Searching for an identity after a demoralizing 35-7 loss to Weber State, the Aggies look to right the ship in their Mountain West opener.

The Aggies (1-2) play host to the much improved UNLV Rebels (2-1) at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, September 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).

Believing in Bonner

“He’s earned the right to show that he can do it.”

Those are the words of Utah State head coach Blake Anderson when asked about starting quarterback Logan Bonner’s early season struggles.

The graduate senior still appears to have the support of his teammates and the Aggie coaching staff.

The question for Bonner is not whether his surgically repaired knee can stand up to the rigors of a college football season, but whether or not Bonner trusts himself and his knee enough to get the job done.

During the Aggies bye week, Bonner admitted to a lack of confidence in the knee, leading to a level of playmaking that doesn’t meet the standard of play the QB set in his first season with USU.

“He has been open that he is struggling a little bit anxiety wise with truly trusting his body,” Anderson said of Bonner.

After vociferously defending Bonner and his teammates after the home fans showered boos down in the loss to Weber State, Anderson’s tone his shifted ever so slightly.

“He knows that he can’t continue second guessing what the knee will and won’t do. This is a pivotal week moving forward. He’s earned the right to show that he can do it and I expect he’s gonna go out and be the guy he is capable of being,” Anderson said.

“If he doesn’t, we’re gonna move on at quarterback at some point very quickly. I am hoping this week proves that he can get there.”

Control Run Game

The Rebels average more than 200 yards per game on the ground as a team, tied for the 36th best rushing attack in the nation. Utah State has allowed 240 rushing yards per game this season (128th out of 131 FBS teams).

Last week against North Texas, UNLV ran roughshod over the Mean Green, finishing with 365 rushing yards on 7.2 yards per carry.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson mentioned the challenge of slowing UNLV’s rush attack in his weekly press conference. “They’re big, they run the ball they commit to running the ball, they’re good at it. They bring in a transfer running back in Robbins that is a massive 230 pound guy. It doesn’t get any easier for us.”

Robbins’ seven touchdowns are tied for the most TD’s in FBS this year.

Robbins isn’t the only threat out of the Rebel backfield as quarterback Doug Brumfield is the Rebels second leading rusher with 153 yards on 28 carries. Brumfield has a pair of rushing touchdowns to go along with his seven TD’s through the air.

Courtney Reese has served as a change of pace back behind Robbins. Reese is averaging 6.7 yards per carry on 18 attempts.

Keep Drives Alive

Beyond the obvious problems with Bonner and the passing game, why has an Aggie offense that averaged better than 32 points per game in 2021 fallen to just 12.3 points per game in 2022?

An inability to convert on third down or finish in the red zone have left Utah State’s offense searching for answers.

Last season, USU converted on 100-of-223 third down chances. Meaning the Aggies moved the chains nearly 45% of the time on third down. In 2022, that rate has fallen to a 23.4% (127th in the nation) success rate on third down.

In the red zone, the Aggies have just three touchdowns in seven opportunities and have not converted a field goal from inside the 20. Last season they found the end zone on 28 of 54 chances, adding a field goal another 14 times.

Utah State is 130th out of 131 FBS teams in terms of red zone offense this season.

How To Watch

Riding a two game losing streak, the Aggies (1-2) welcome in the UNLV Rebels (2-1) to Maverik Stadium in the Mountain West Conference opener for each team on Saturday, September 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).

Every Utah State football game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard and former Aggie quarterback Kevin White on the call. This game will be televised on CBS Sports Network with Chris Lewis and former Utah State great, running back Robert Turbin on the mic.

  • Utah State Aggies Scoreboard

  • Utah State Aggies Team Leaders

  • Utah State Aggies Standings

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