SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State football coach Gary Andersen was all smiles at his Salt Lake City press conference Monday.
That will happen when a defensive-minded coach like Andersen sees his defense collect a school-record 13 sacks in a blowout win over a conference foe.
“Thirteen sacks. I’ve never been a part of anything like that in my life,” Andersen said. “It was fun to see those kids have some success and see them get to the quarterback.”
It wasn’t a perfect game for the defense, which despite the sack attack allowed a season-high 27 points and 467 yards passing, but the end result was something that was hard to argue with. The Aggies now rank third in the nation with 3.86 sacks per game and still are among the hardest defenses to score against, allowing 14.9 points per game, the 13th best mark in college football.
“I thought coach (Dave) Aranda (defensive coordinator) and his defensive staff did a tremendous job preparing the kids, and the kids wrapped their arms around it and executed it,” Andersen said.
Normally, 13 sacks would point to a defense that blitzed nearly every down, but the Aggies mixed up the looks with a standard four rushers on most downs. The Aggies confused San Jose State quarterback David Fales with zone blitzes from every angle, resulting in nine different Aggies collecting a sack.
The defense will get another chance to get after the quarterback this week when Utah State faces New Mexico State. The southern Aggies have one of the worst rushing offenses in the country, but they average more than 275 yards a game through the air.
The freshman phenom among the Utah State defenders terrorizing the quarterback was linebacker Kyler Fackrell. The freshman wrapped up 11 tackles, had two sacks and forced a fumble and earned a second consecutive WAC defensive player of the week nod for the effort.
“I thought the minute he walked in here he was going to be a tremendous football player,” Andersen said about Fackrell. “It was very hard to redshirt him last year. He’s a mature kid, great athlete; he’s smart and plays within the scheme for the most part. It’s a great accomplishment for him, and to have him there as a freshman is pretty special.”
Fackrell’s emergence has been a big positive for the Aggie defense that was looking to replace Bobby Wagner at linebacker. Wagner hasn’t lost a step in moving from the college game to the pros. The rookie led the Seahawks in tackles for the third consecutive week, racking up 14 tackles in an upset of the Patriots, including the game-winning stop in the fourth quarter.
Wagner’s emergence in the middle of the Seattle defense has been a big reason the Seahawks are 4-2 and sport one of the best defensive units in the league and is a point of pride for Andersen and Utah State.
“It makes a big difference,” Andersen said of his former Aggies in the pros. “We have a good number of kids in the NFL now running around. It helps us in recruiting and helps us in a lot of different ways. It helps bring more people to recognize who we are as a program.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.