In the likes of road contests at UTSA and Louisiana Tech, Utah State may have seen critical conference matches on the horizon. That didn't keep the Aggies from getting distracted from Saturday's to-do list.
Explosive offense and opportunistic defense-- with for-the-better changes to a game-costing kicking game earlier this season-- carried the Aggies (6-2, 2-0 WAC) to a 41-7 blowout of New Mexico State (1-6, 0-3) Saturday afternoon in Logan.
Offense: According to social media postings, fans and the media alike need to remind themselves that quarterback Chuckie Keeton is just a sophomore. The 19-year-old did work in three quarters, going 16-of-26 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. His damage wasn't limited to the air, either: he rushed seven times for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including his last in the third quarter that really shouldn't have been. Keeton and running back Kerwynn Williams (13 carries, 83 yards, one TD) simply out-quicked, out-smarted and out-athleticized the southern Aggie defense all afternoon. NMSU's opposition did rank just 102nd nationally in scoring entering the contest. Chuck Jacobs had his first breakout game since last season at Hawaii, when he nabbed four receptions for 94 yards and a score. GRADE: A
Defense: The southern Aggie attack ranked 89th in the nation in scoring entering the game, and they did anything but improve that ranking. Granted, they faced the 11th-ranked defense in the same category. The most impressive USU play occured in the second quarter, when Andrew Manley's touchdown pass attempt was intercepted by out-spoken cornerback Wil Davis for a 35-yard return. Had Manley's throw fallen in other hands, it would have broken a three-touchdown deficit. Instead, NMSU found themselves entering the locker room down 28-0 moments later. However, USU gave up 321 yards and coach Gary Andersen acknowledged "some things need to be cleaned up" on this side. GRADE: B+
Special teams: After Aggie Nation lost significant amounts of hair following Nick Thompson's two critical missed kicks at Wisconsin and BYU, another Nick-- this time, Diaz-- may have proved that those bald spots can be filled back in. The redshirt sophomore, who was USU's kickoff specialist in 2010 before redshirting last season, made 53- and 48-yard field goals Saturday. The latter was the eighth-longest in USU history and the longest since Chris Ulinski's 56-yard success in 2008. A 44-yard attempt was blocked, but it came with just 4:17 remaining in the game, when it was much more inconsequential.
Kyler Fackrell this week became the second USU freshman to receive conference player of the week honors two consecutive times. He made big news again this season when he blocked a 41-yard NMSU field goal attempt early in the second quarter. GRADE: A-
Overall: Give Gary Andersen and the rest of the USU coaching staff credit for not overlooking a quite-poor team-- and program that, without a conference next season, is in shambles. The Aggies were solid in every category, though it wouldn't be a surprise if the team is upset by how many total yards the defense allowed. GRADE: A-
Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University and is the co-founder and editor of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. Previously an intern for the Deseret News, He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilklogan