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Utah State football: Aggies prepping to face Northern Illinois in Poinsettia Bowl

LOGAN — Over the course of the year, Utah State defended dynamic quarterbacks on several occasions.

The Aggies' defense faced pro-style quarterbacks Derek Carr and David Fales and mobile quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Caleb Herring. They also had to deal with their own star quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, in practice before he suffered a season-ending injury.

The hope for USU's defense is that all of those experiences will help against Northern Illinois Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Jordan Lynch in the Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday.

“It’s nice to have played Taysom and Chuckie multiple times to help us prepare and get our minds right,” Aggie linebacker Jake Doughty said. “(Lynch) is great. The whole offense runs through him. He’s their playmaker. A big key for us is to stop him and try to get the ball to our offense as much as possible.”

IN THE TRENCHES: While Lynch deservedly gets most of the headlines for the Huskies, Northern Illinois didn’t win 11 games with Lynch alone. The Husky defense gave up only 25.4 points per game on the season and has only allowed more than 20 points twice in its last eight contests.

“I think because they have such a powerful offense and such a great player they get looked over a lot,” USU senior center Tyler Larsen said of the Northern Illinois defense.

Larsen and the rest of the offensive line will be a key for the Aggies as they try to protect quarterback Darell Garretson and open up holes for the running game. The Huskies don’t utilitze the blitz much. Instead they look to win the matchup in the trenches with a talented defensive line.

ON THE BEACH: As the snow and inversion continue to pound Cache Valley, the Aggies are looking forward to spending the holidays on the sand and under the sun in San Diego.

“I’m excited for the warm weather and getting a chance to compete on ESPN,” Doughty said.

When they aren't practicing, the players and coaches will get a chance to see some sights in Southern California, including a visit to SeaWorld on Tuesday afternoon and a trip to the San Diego Zoo on Christmas Day.

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