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Utah State football: Aggies open Mountain West play at Air Force

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 8:33 p.m. MDT

Utah State Aggies defensive end B.J. Larsen (99) taunts the cord after getting called for a tackle after he lost his helmet during NCAA football in Salt Lake City  Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies defensive end B.J. Larsen (99) taunts the cord after getting called for a tackle after he lost his helmet during NCAA football in Salt Lake City Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

LOGAN — It is only the second week of the college football season, but Utah State will start its pursuit of a Mountain West Conference title on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies (0-1) travel to Air Force for only the second time in school history.

“First and foremost it's the goal of this program to play for and compete for the Mountain West Championship,” head coach Matt Wells said. “This is step one of being able to accomplish that goal.”

While USU has no history with Air Force to speak of, Wells is well acquainted with the academy. As an assistant at New Mexico and Navy in previous coaching stops, Wells faced the Falcons yearly and knows how difficult they can be to prepare for.

“(Air Force head coach) Troy (Calhoun) will have them ready to play,” Wells said. “They're very disciplined, they're very tough and they don't get out of position a whole lot. They've very schematically sound on both sides of the ball.”

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) celebrates his run for a long gain  against Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City  Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) celebrates his run for a long gain against Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

While the rest of the college football world has been migrating to high-powered passing attacks, hurry-up offenses and spread formations, the Falcons have been the exception to the rule. Air Force continues to rack up yards using their throwback option run game. In their opener against Colgate, they attempted just 11 passes while rushing for 409 yards and five touchdowns.

“Air Force will play incredible assignment football,” Aggie linebacker Jake Doughty said. “They don’t have the biggest guys or the fastest guys, but they will find the breakdowns, wherever that might be. You just have to do your job and your assignment and that’s kind of the key to handling their offense.”

The Falcons will likely be without starting quarterback Kale Pearson, who suffered a knee injury in the opener. Sophomore quarterback Jaleel Awini is expected to get the start in his place. Wells said that Awini is a good passer, but did not get much of a chance to show it last Saturday, attempting just three passes after coming in for Pearson.

Air Force Academy football players and head coach Troy Calhoun run out onto the field for an NCAA college football game against Colgaite Saturday, Aug., 31, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo) MAGS OUT (Michael Ciaglo, AP) Air Force Academy football players and head coach Troy Calhoun run out onto the field for an NCAA college football game against Colgaite Saturday, Aug., 31, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo) MAGS OUT (Michael Ciaglo, AP)

Just like everywhere else on the field, the Falcons are undersized on defense but quick and disciplined. Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton believes that his offense can use its size difference to Utah State’s advantage.

“That’s the way the Air Force kids are,” Keeton said. “But at the same time I think there are some matchups we can take advantage of. I have a lot of confidence that our offensive line will open up some holes and keep me protected.”

For the Aggies, any advantage they can find will be helpful as they navigate their first Mountain West season and search for the division and conference championship.

“I know our kids are looking forward to it,” Wells said. “We'll be juiced up and energized. We look forward to it as a challenge to go on the road and play our first Mountain West game.”

Wide receiver Bruce Natson (9) of the Utah State Aggies runs against the University of Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Wide receiver Bruce Natson (9) of the Utah State Aggies runs against the University of Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.

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