LOGAN — Utah State is setting a dangerous precedent when the quarterback leads the team in carries and yardage in a game.
Last week, in a 49-21 loss to Troy University, Aggie quarterback Travis Cox led the team with 19 carries for a team-high 43 yards. Some of it was by design with quarterback draws and options to get the ball to the perimeter, but Utah State coach Mick Dennehy said it's a trend that needs to be curtailed.
"I would say from our perspective there will be a couple of plays that we'll take advantage of on four or five occasions," he said. "If there's good coverage downfield and there's a lane and he can go, that's fine. I think he's been pressured too much, and we have to do a better job of protecting him."
Five games into the season, Cox has rushed 51 times for 65 yards (third-best of the team). Last year, he had 102 carries for 53 yards, but he was sacked 34 times. He's been sacked 11 times so far this year.
"It would help, and I keep going back and referring to the running game, if the running game bothered people and they had to respect it. I think that in itself would be the one thing that would help him get over the hump," Dennehy said. "When you've got to go back and make almost every play, it's pretty darn hard."
Against Troy, six ball carriers (three were wide receivers) accounted for 56 yards on 23 carries. Running backs Tyronne McKinney and Chris Forbes had just 31 yards on 14 carries.
For the year, Forbes, a freshman, has 111 yards on 41 carries, and the USU running game ranks 112th in the nation at just 76 yards per game.
As a result, the passing game is suffering.
"I think people are respecting our receiving corps particularly to try to keep things in front of them," Dennehy said.
Cox had been intercepted nine times this season with only seven touchdown passes compared with seven interceptions and 18 touchdown passes last year.
"I think he's probably a little bit under pressure by opposing pass rushes and things like that (this year), and he had a little more of a comfort zone a year ago," Dennehy said. "It's been a little frustrating. I know there's nobody more frustrated right now really than Travis."
The Aggies (2-3, 1-1) face a North Texas team today that allows 239 rushing yards per game, but it surrendered just 144 in a win over Middle Tennessee last week.
The game kicks off at 6 p.m. at Romney Stadium.
FAREWELL, AGGIES: Following today's game with North Texas, the Aggies, over the next five weeks, will play at Clemson, have a bye, and then play at Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State before closing out the season at home Nov. 20 with New Mexico State.
A BAKER'S DOZEN: Thirteen different Aggie players have at least one reception this season. Utah State enters today's game with a streak of 10 consecutive games in which at least seven different players have caught a pass.
TAYLOR'S TACKLES: Freshman defensive back Antonio Taylor has back-to-back games with 10 tackles or more.
NOTABLE: The Aggies are looking to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time since 1991 when they lost to Wyoming and Oregon . . . DT Ronald Tupea is expected to make his team-high 35th consecutive start . . .A total of 34 different players have made starts for the Aggies this year, but OT Donald Penn, OG Victor Eti, C Elliott Tupea; QB Travis Cox, DT Ronald Tupea, DT Michael Gates, LB Kelly Poppinga, LB Robert Watts, LB Jared Johnstun, DB Joe Lindsay and DB Cornelius Lamb are the only players to start every game this year.
Aggies vs. Mean Green
North Texas (1-4, 1-0) at Utah State (2-3, 1-1)
Today, 6 p.m., Romney Stadium
Radio: 610AM (Logan), 98.3FM (SLC)