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Sacks hurting Aggies yardage

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LOGAN — Utah State has the goal to rush 140 yards a game. In each of its first three games, the Aggies came fairly close to reaching that goal. They rushed for 110 at Utah, 97 against Nebraska and 131 against Arizona State.

The only problem is the net rushing yards in each of those games were 77, 60 and 65 yards, respectively.

The Aggie offensive line has allowed 13 sacks for a loss of 115 rushing yards.

In the Arizona State game, quarterback Travis Cox was sacked seven times for a minus 57 yards, and at Nebraska Cox went down four times for a minus 66 yards.

"It would be nice if we were getting 150 yards a game, but I think that will come if we protect our quarterback a little better," Utah State head coach Mick Dennehy said.

Cox was sacked on two consecutive plays by Nebraska's Demorrio Williams. Both sacks forced turnovers, and both led to Nebraska scores.

The following week Cox was sacked again on consecutive plays, but the Aggies weren't hurt by it.

But being sacked so many times can have a lasting effect on the quarterback.

"I do think those things have the tendency to get into your mind a little bit. It takes away from what you should be looking at downfield," Dennehy said.

He did give Cox credit for having the poise to look downfield instead of worrying too much about the rush.

"It's not like he's consciously takes the snap and zeroes in on the guy causing the problems," he said.

Dennehy preached from the beginning of fall camp that the success of the offense would depend on the offensive line.

"They (Arizona State) played better than we did up front, and that has to be a bone of contention for us," Dennehy said. "We're better than that. There is no doubt in my mind they're better than that. They need to take it upon themselves to make sure that those kinds of things don't happen again."

Senior guard Greg Vandermade agreed.

"I have all the confidence with everyone I play with that we're going to get it done up front," he said. "We've played against really good competition, which will help us. Even though we wound up losing three games I think it helped us overall.

"We've seen speed and we've seen size. We just have to be able to get it done and execute."

CONFERENCE WINS: The Aggies are 4-1 in conference games under Mick Dennehy. Since taking over at Montana in 1996, Dennehy is 31-6 in conference games. In the past five years of league play, Dennehy's teams have won three conference titles and finished second twice, including the Aggies' 2000 second-place finish in the Big West. It was Dennehy's first season at Utah State.

ON THE AIR: All of Utah State's football games can be heard live on the Aggie Radio Network, which includes Salt Lake (860 AM), Logan (610 AM), Ogden (106.3 FM) and Utah County (104.7 FM).

NO BYE BLUES: Under Dennehy, the Aggies are 4-2 coming off a bye week. The Aggies will host Louisiana-Monroe Saturday at 6 p.m., two weeks after falling to Arizona State, 26-16.

USU vs. THE SUN BELT: The Aggies are 43-33-2 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt Conference. The Aggies have a .500 record or better against the seven teams except for La.-Monroe (0-1) and Middle Tennessee (0-1).

STARTING SLOW: Last year, the Aggies (0-3) opened the year 1-5 but finished 3-2 in their final five games. It seems to follow a trend. The Aggies were 0-5 in 2001 and then won four of their last six. In 2000, they were 1-4 and won four of their last six and finished second in the Big West.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Aggies, who have played a home game since Nov. 9, 2002, are 6-2 in their last eight home games.

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com