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Commentary: Aggies turn sights onto Bulldogs after locking up division

By Sam McConkie

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Dec. 2 2013 5:45 p.m. MST

USU's Robert Marshall looks for an opening as Utah State and Wyoming play Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 in Logan. USU won 35-7.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Aggies are within reach of attaining their preseason goal of winning a Mountain West championship. With a dominant win over the Wyoming Cowboys, the Aggies locked up the Mountain Division of the conference, boasting a 7-1 mark in conference play.

Todd Orlando's defense has played a major role in the Aggies' success this season. The unit allowed the Cowboys only one touchdown the entire game, coming early in the fourth quarter when the game was already well in hand. Defensively, the Aggies now rank first in the Mountain West and 11th nationally in total defense, giving up only 321 yards per game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Aggies did plenty against Wyoming. Darell Garretson gave a solid performance as he completed 20-of-29 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Joey DeMartino also became the 17th Aggie to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. In all, this has been his sixth game this season where he has rushed for more than 100 yards.

Special teams worked terrifically as well. Punter Jaron Bentrude pinned the Cowboys inside the 20-yard line multiple times, ensuring the Aggies won the field position battle handily. As a bonus, Jojo Natson busted out a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Now the Aggies face arguably their toughest challenge of the season against the Fresno State Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs, coached by Tim DeRuyter, have had a phenomenal season led by prolific quarterback Derek Carr, who has thrown for 4,462 yards and 45 touchdowns with only five picks. Carr rarely makes mistakes and has a knack for the deep ball. He has single-handedly carved up many teams this season, but there have been a few close ones.

After an overtime win against Rutgers to start the season, the Bulldogs easily handled Cal Poly. Shortly after, their game against the Colorado Buffaloes was canceled due to flooding. Then the Bulldogs survived another close game with a one-point win over Boise State at home, winning the Milk Can trophy for the first time since 2005.

From there on out, Fresno State appeared to be headed for a perfect season. Most of the Mountain West competition proved incapable of slowing down Carr's scoring ability as he racked up touchdowns and yardage with ease. Surviving two more close games against Hawaii and San Diego State only cemented the perception that the Bulldogs were a team of destiny this season.

Then San Jose State popped the perfect-season bubble.

Fresno fans watched in agony as the BCS dream died at the hands of Spartan quarterback David Fales, who easily matched Carr touchdown for touchdown and then some in a high-scoring affair. The two teams collectively scored 83 points in the first half alone. The Spartans went on to win 62-52, their first victory over a ranked opponent in 13 years.

Whether the Bulldogs are fired up over the loss or demoralized remains to be seen. As it seems though, the Aggies will have to assume it's the former and play their best game to stand a chance at knocking off the 24th-ranked Bulldogs.

Fresno's offense will be tough to slow down. It has averaged 47 points per game and 580 yards per game this season. Carr has mostly thrown to sophomore wide receiver Davante Adams, the biggest receiving threat on the team. He has 113 receptions for 1,477 yards with 22 touchdowns. Josh Harper is Carr's next favorite target, with 79 receptions for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Though rushing the football isn't the Bulldogs' forte, BYU transfer Josh Quezada has put up respectable numbers this season with 733 yards and six touchdowns on 132 carries. He's been relatively consistent, too, so Utah State will have to account for this. The Aggies also need to watch out for Marteze Waller, who has 608 yards and seven touchdowns on 113 carries.

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