I know how they’re going to play offense; it’s going to be very fast. It will be as fast as we’ve seen all year, and maybe as fast as we’ve seen since Louisiana Tech in 2012. They will play a very, very rapid, frantic pace. – Utah State head coach Matt Wells
LOGAN — It was supposed to be Fredi vs. Chuckie tonight in Jonesboro, Ark. But thanks to Chuckie Keeton's "banged up" left knee, the matchup of quarterbacks with the horror movie-like names won't be taking place. Instead, Utah State sophomore signal caller Darell Garretson will be going up against Arkansas State and its dynamic quarterback, Fredi Knighten.
But even though 30,964-seat Centennial Bank Stadium is a long ways from Elm Street, the Aggies (2-1) are certainly aware that the less they see of Fredi, the better.
“I know how they’re going to play offense; it’s going to be very fast,” USU head coach Matt Wells said of the Red Wolves (1-2). “It will be as fast as we’ve seen all year, and maybe as fast as we’ve seen since Louisiana Tech in 2012. They will play a very, very rapid, frantic pace.”
Wells is very familiar with first-year head coach Blake Anderson, who made a name for himself as a cunning offensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi and North Carolina. Wells and Anderson first met in the late 1990s at football camps while they were young assistant coaches at Navy and Trinity Valley College, respectively.
And while Wells cracked that he’s a superior golfer, that might be because that sport is a bit slow for Anderson.
Even though the Red Wolves lost to Miami 41-20 last weekend, Arkansas State picked up four more first downs and ran 18 more plays. Giving up some big plays to the Hurricanes had something to do with it, but the Red Wolves did move the football. It was similar to the way they did against the Tennessee Volunteers in a 34-19 loss in Knoxville on Sept. 6.
“I have a great deal of respect for that program,” Wells said of ASU. “They’ve gone to three straight bowl games. The winning teams that they’ve had continue to do it. This will be the fifth coach they’ve had in five years, and it will probably be a bowl team.”
Knighten, who is 62 of 103 passing for 602 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, is also a dangerous runner and leads the team with 163 yards on 49 carries. The Little Rock native was the GoDaddy Bowl MVP after totaling 115 passing yards and 97 rushing yards in ASU’s 23-20 win over Ball State.
In the Red Wolves’ previous game, Knighten came in to replace Adam Kennedy after the former Aggie quarterback was injured. Interestingly enough, it was Kennedy who took over for Keeton in 2011 when the then-freshman was hurt in Hawaii.
Now it’s Garretson stepping in for Keeton — again. Much like he did last year as a freshman, he’s been asked to help guide the Aggies to victory during what was supposed to be a redshirt season. After going 6-1 as a starter in 2013, USU doesn’t seem concerned that Garretson will be up to the challenge.
“No. 1 is the confidence he has in himself,” Wells said of Garretson. “No. 2, the confidence the players have in him. And three, I know how to game plan a little bit better for him. It was a little bit of a wild card last year going into some of those games. But we have a lot of confidence in him. The locker room won’t flinch. They believe in him.”
Keeton, who missed the second half of USU’s win over Wake Forest last weekend, is unavailable to play. The Aggies then have a bye week before traveling to BYU on Oct. 3. Wells said Keeton’s knee will be re-evaluated prior to the game against the Cougars.