Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
LOGAN — After beating San Jose State rather handily Friday night in an ESPN-televised game, there was little for Utah State coach Matt Wells to complain about.
In the 40-12 win, his offense was as solid as it has been most of the season with 520 total yards — evenly balanced with 267 through the air and 253 on the ground. The defense, despite allowing 437 yards, was stingy in the red zone, only allowing a pair of field goals and a lone touchdown late in the third quarter.
But there is room for improvement, which is how Wells likes it with big games coming up against in-state rival BYU on Friday night and Boise State the following week.
"I don't think we played our best in a few areas, which is good to know that we still got more left," Wells said.
For one thing, the Aggies had a chance to score more points, but stalled several times in the red zone, resulting in four field goals by Nick Diaz to go along with four touchdowns by quarterback Chuckie Keeton — three passing and one rushing.
Then there were the penalties — nine for 95 yards — which negated some key plays and allowed San Jose State to keep drives moving. But all in all, Wells went home from California much happier than a week earlier after a loss at USC.
"I thought it was a total team effort,’’ he said. “I thought we ran the ball really well on offense, but the bottom line is when the ball got into the red zone, we bowed up again and the defense played really, really good red zone defense. I thought we got enough ahead of them to be able to dictate what we wanted to do and play the game we wanted to and so for that I'm happy with them."
Joey DeMartino rushed for 120 yards to lead the Aggies, while Keeton had 52 and Robert Marshall added 37. The Aggies’ top running back, Joe Hill, who has battled injuries this year, limped off the field in the second quarter. His injury status wasn’t known immediately after the game.
“Our coaches challenged us this week,’’ said DeMartino. “The line was blocking well; Chuckie was making great reads; and the receivers made some big blocks. All the credit to the line and everybody blocking again.’’
Keeton was efficient throwing the ball again, completing 29 of 42 passes for 260 yards. Travis Reynolds was his top receiver with eight catches for 77 yards, while Brandon Swindall had five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown and Bruce Natson also had five catches.
Defensively, the Aggies came up with three interceptions after having none in their first four games as Maurice Alexander, Nevin Lawson and Jeremy Morris each snagged one.
“I thought we had good coverage all night,’’ said Wells. “We got some rush and some things in David (Fales') face, and we got him out of his rhythm a little bit.’’
Kyler Fackrell led USU's defense with 11 tackles and one official sack and another on a two-point conversion try by the Spartans. Zach Vigil also had 11 tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
First-year SJSU coach Ron Caragher was frustrated with the big loss, saying his team went backward.
“Utah State is a very good team and we knew that coming in,’’ he said. “I think we should’ve competed at a higher level and that's what's so frustrating. We're going through some growing pains”
One negative in Friday’s game was an injury to offensive lineman Kyle Whimpey, who was helped off after a leg injury in the second quarter.
Next up for the Aggies is in-state rival BYU Friday night in Logan, before getting back into Mountain West action the following week at home against Boise State.
“We inch closer to playing for a championship, so we have to fast forward one more week,’’ said Wells. “We’re not looking past (BYU), but another week off and we get right back in the league again. The main goal was to be 2-0. The fact that it was on ESPN is great, but I was proud of our effort.’’
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