LOGAN – The Utah State football team will travel to Jonesboro, Ark. this weekend to take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves, a team that Head Coach Matt Wells said will probably be a bowl team at the end of this season.
“It will be a major, major challenge for us to go on the road and find a way to win our first road game,” Wells said. “The bottom line for this program this week is to be 1-0. Find a way to win number one on the road. And that’s it.”
If the Aggies are to get their first road win of the season Saturday, it will have to be done without the help of starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Keeton was hurt near the end of the first half of last Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. Wells announced Monday that Darell Garretson, who took over Saturday after Keeton was hurt, will have the quarterback spot this week as well.
“I feel good about Darell.” Wells said. “Very, very good. He’s in a good spot. Chuckie is in a good spot. This team is in a good spot and we are going to play very, very well this week.”
Wells knows it won’t be easy to win in Jonesboro. He said he has a lot of respect for their program, a program that has won 17 of 19 home games since 2011. He said he expects to go up against an offense that plays at a “very rapid, frantic pace.”
“It will be as fast as we’ve seen all year,” Wells said “Maybe as fast as this program has seen since Louisiana Tech in 2012.”
Arkansas State has a 1-2 record so far this season. One of those games was a 19-34 loss against Tennessee, the team that the Aggies lost to 7-38 their first game of the season. The Red Wolves’ other loss came last week against Miami in Florida.
A major strength of Arkansas State is the wide receivers. J.D. McKissic and Tres Houston have combined for 337 receiving yards through their first three games this season. Wells specifically mentioned those two along with their quarterback Fredi Knighten as some of Arkansas State’s key offensive players.
Sophomore safety Devin Centers will be one of those on the Aggie defense looking to put a stop to those players. He said the Aggies need to come out fast if they want to win this game on the road, something he said they didn’t do at Tennessee during their first road game.
“If we come out and actually play at a high level like we did here against Wake Forest, I feel like we’ll be able to roll in there, play our game and come out with a win,” he said.
Utah State’s running backs have struggled to move the ball so far this season, something the team hopes to get on track this Saturday. The school’s leading rusher through the first three games isn’t a running back, but wide receiver Bruce “JoJo” Natson. Wells made it clear that he was concerned about the running game, but not necessarily concerned with producing from the running back spot.
“Our job as an offensive staff is to find ways to run the ball,” Wells said. “I don’t care if JoJo runs it, if Hunter Sharp runs it, if Darell runs it or if it’s a combination of three of four running backs. I’m not very pleased with the running game. I don’t think we were very efficient in it.”