For 59 minutes Friday night, Utah State looked like the team to beat in East Lansing, Michigan, versus No. 11 Michigan State. Instead, a late Sparty TD and a costly Utah State interception turned the tides, but Aggie fans should be cautiously optimistic moving forward.
3 things from the past: USU vs. Michigan State
1. Who is Keith Patterson?
The new defensive coordinator was quick to showcase his defensive intensity and aggression as he and his boys weren't fazed by the name or size of Michigan State. By the end of the game, MSU put up 165 yards rushing, but it took 42 carries and a lot of pep to get there. What stood out the most were the first-half goal-line stands that established USU's control. Specifically, Patterson's game plan brought blitzes from the edge on third-down plays that resulted in sacks, forcing MSU into field goals. The USU defense also forced and recovered a strip-sack fumble and turned an interception into a TD. In short, Patterson and the D looked good.
2. Who anchored the defense on the field?
No. 9 David Woodward, a sophomore from Olympia, Washington, was another individual who stood out on the defensive side of the ball. He weighed 195 pounds out of high school, but he is now 233 with definition and muscle. It translated to the field where he led the defense with 16 tackles and two quarterback hurries. He was swarming like bees to a hive all night.
3. Blink. Did you miss it?
Prior to the game, Utah State head coach Matt Wells acknowledged the strength of Michigan State's front seven, but added: "Hopefully, the pace can wear 'em out a little bit, get 'em tired." On USU's opening drive for a touchdown, it only took the Aggies 2:02 to go 75 yards for the TD. Taking it even further, USU snapped the ball with 11, 15, 14, nine and eight seconds off the play clock during that series. Averaged out, the Aggies got off a play with only 11.5 ticks dropping, which is a fast pace. Michigan State controlled the time of possession and ran more plays, but Utah State kept the Spartans on their heels and forced them to adjust their substitution patterns while also inflicting a few penalties for 12 men on the field.
3 things for the future: USU vs. New Mexico State
1. Can the Aggies bounce back from their Arizona Bowl game loss to the other Aggies?
Everything indicates a resounding yes. The defense was solid against a Big Ten team, Jordan Love's arm was a golden spring from the heavens and New Mexico State just isn't very good. After making a bowl game last year for the first time in 57 years (and being 2-0 vs. USU in all-time bowl games for that matter), New Mexico State might be starting a new bowl-less streak. NMSU is 0-2 this year, only scoring 17 points total in the two weeks. Vegas and oddsmakers agree: USU opens as a 22.5 point favorite.
2. What to expect from New Mexico State?
Not a lot of offense. Junior transfer Matt Romero is the quarterback, averaging 186.5 yards through the air in the first two games (two TDs, one INT). Junior running back Jason Huntley will chase green, but he leads the team with 28 total rushing yards in the two games. Ouch. If you attend the game at Maverik Stadium, stripe the stadium by wearing either white or navy blue depending on your seating. If you can't make it to Logan, you'll be able to stream this game on Facebook.
3. Fun Fact:
New Mexico State is set to play Liberty University in its homecoming game later this month. Seven weeks later, the two teams will square off again, this time in Virginia in the season finale. It's the first time two Division I football teams have played twice in regular-season games since 1998. And guess what? It'll happen the following year, too. Such is life for independent New Mexico State.
Three things about the Mountain West
1. Mediocre debut
The conference didn't fare too well as teams hoping to spring upsets couldn't get it done, while those matching up against the cupcakes did get their wins. All in all, the Mountain West went 6-6. Aside from Utah State's near upset bid, no one else came close to knocking off a Goliath. For example, the MWC went 0-4 vs. the Pac 12: Washington St. 41, Wyoming 19; USC 43, UNLV 21; Colorado 45, Colorado State 13; Stanford 31, San Diego State 10.
2. Hawaii and its QB
After questioning whether Hawaii could find its pulse, the Rainbow Warriors have gone 2-0 in their first two games. Offensively, they are clicking. They scored 43 points in Week 0 vs. Colorado State and then put up 59 on Saturday vs. Navy. Sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald has thrown for nearly 900 yards (NCAA leading) already on 55 percent completion percentage while knocking in nine touchdowns, too. Deservedly, McDonald took home the MWC Offensive Player of the Week award, Hawaii's first offensive honoree since joining the conference in 2013.
3. Game to watch
The other New Mexico team beat Incarnate Word (ever heard of it? Me neither, but it is located in San Antonio), but the Lobos will play a more formidable foe in Week 2 at No. 4 Wisconsin. ESPN gives the Lobos a 1.5 percent chance of pulling off the win in Camp Randall Stadium. The game kicks off on the Big Ten Network at 10 a.m. MT.