FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) — Logan, Utah.
Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Air Force 3-0, USU 2-0. Away Record: Air Force
1-1, USU 1-2. Neutral Record: Air Force 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: Air
Force 1-1, USU 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Utah State Aggies finally get their Mountain West Conference
schedule off the ground as they entertain the surprising Air Force Falcons at
Romney Stadium on Saturday night.
The Aggies, who are playing at home for the first time in nearly a month, went
up against 18th-ranked BYU last week and managed to pull off a 35-20 upset in
Provo. The victory was the third in the last four outings for USU overall, and
was also the first for the program on the road versus the Cougars since 1978.
Just 4-51 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top-25, the Aggies are also
celebrating the fact that BYU was the highest-ranked squad they had ever
defeated. The previous high-water mark was bringing down 19th-ranked Louisiana
Tech in overtime back in 2012.
As for the Falcons, they too are celebrating a little these days, thanks to
four wins in the first five outings and a current three-game win streak.
Building on a stunning 28-14 win over league powerhouse Boise State a week
earlier, Air Force hosted Navy as part of the annual Commander-in-Chief’s
Trophy series last Saturday night and came away with a 30-21 victory. With a
win against Army on the first of November, the Falcons will claim the coveted
prize for the first time since 2011.
The teams have split the previous two meetings, with Utah State crushing the
Falcons a season ago by a score of 52-20 in Colorado.
As expected, the Falcons gave up considerable yards to Navy on the ground last
Saturday, 251 to be exact, yet the Midshipmen scored just two rushing
touchdowns on 55 attempts, which meant Air Force took care of business when it
needed to most. The pass defense also came to play as Christian Spears picked
off a throw in the end zone early in the second frame to keep the Mids off the
For his efforts Spears, who finished with 10 tackles, was named the MWC
Defensive Player of the Week.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons managed 198 yards of their own
on 48 carries, but they failed to cross the goal line a single time by that
method. Instead, quarterback Kale Pearson converted 11-of-16 passes for 112
yards and three touchdowns, and receiver Jalen Robinette added a 54-yard TD
pass of his own to Garrett Brown on a trick play in the first quarter.
The four passing scores for the Falcons were the third-most in program
history, and the most since the team had the same number versus UNLV back in
2006. While the passing attack certainly showed up, the team’s streak of 63
consecutive games with at least one rushing TD did come to an end.
The Falcons are now 10th in the country in rushing with 298.0 ypg and only
118th in passing (136.6 ypg), but as far as team pass efficiency is concerned,
Air Force is 16th in the country in that department with a rating of 157.89.
The Academy continues to struggle against the pass a bit, permitting 281.6 ypg
(108th nationally), but thanks to another INT and two forced turnovers total
versus Navy, the Falcons are now tied for 11th with a turnover margin of
plus-1.2 per contest.
Utah State caught a break, no pun intended, when BYU quarterback Taysom Hill
suffered a fractured leg in the second quarter of their meeting last Thursday
night, but even still the Aggies were playing well enough to possibly come
away with the rare road victory even if the Heisman hopeful was still in the
lineup for all four quarters.
USU quarterback Darell Garretson converted 19-of-25 passes for 321 yards and
three touchdowns, two of those going to Devonte Robinson who turned six
catches into 98 yards. Hunter Sharp added another 173 yards and a score on
five receptions, while the signal caller was credited with a rushing TD in the
meeting as well.
Nick Vigil played both ways for the Aggies, not only coming up with a team-
best nine tackles, but also scoring on one of his 16 rushing attempts, leading
to a team-best 57 yards. Vigil leads the team in total tackles with 49,
posting a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles along the way. Zach Vigil is
just seven tackles behind Nick, and is tied for the team lead with six tackles
for loss, not to mention four quarterback hurries.
The pressure that the Vigils and the rest of the USU defense brings to the
line of scrimmage has resulted in the unit being ranked eighth in the country
in stopping the run, allowing just 93.4 ypg. However, on both sides of the
ball USU needs to clean up some of its sloppy play, which has turned into 10
penalties per game for an average loss of 94.4 ypg, the latter ranking the
squad 123rd in the country.
Garretson, who has stepped in for an injured Chuckie Keeton for the second
straight season, has an efficiency rating of 152.23 thanks to six TDs, just
two INTs and 65.5 percent accuracy.
With a couple of huge wins in their pocket, it would be understandable if the
Falcons had a let-down this time around. However, if Air Force can run the
ball effectively and control the clock, and perhaps go to the air just as it
did versus Navy, there’s no reason to think the Academy can’t keep the good
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 23, Utah State 17