Week 9: Utah State (5-2) vs Hawai’i (4-4)
When: Saturday, October 30th, 2021 – 1:00 pm MST
WHERE: Maverik Stadium; Logan, Utah (25,100)
TV: Spectrum PPV
STREAMING: Team 1 Sports app
RADIO: Utah State radio broadcast on 1280 the zone (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com
SERIES RECORD: Utah State leads the all-time series, 10-6
ODDS (via ESPN): Utah State -5.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Hawai’i by 4.6
FEI PROJECTION: Utah State by 7.1
USU stays home for their second consecutive game against an uneven Rainbow Warriors team. Ags should get a boost in the running game, but the defense needs to find ways to get stops.
Keys to an Aggie Victory
1. Don’t force throws against this secondary
Utah State’s passing attack has been exceptional this season. The Aggies rank 15th in the NCAA in passing offense and WR Deven Thompkins is close to surpassing 1,000 receiving yards with five regular season games left. QB Logan Bonner has effectively distributed the ball to numerous receivers and this has kept the offense well balanced as a result. Against the Rainbow Warriors’ secondary, Bonner might be facing his stiffest test yet.
This group is full of ball hawks that can make the signal caller’s life miserable at the drop of a hat. They are fast and they have length, so it will be harder to high point the ball to the elusive Thompkins, too. Khoury Bethley leads the group with three interceptions and he has proven himself to be a sheer terror to opposing offenses. He single-handedly took over the game versus a ranked Fresno State team earlier this year and he’s built like a bowling ball. He doesn’t shy away from man coverage and his aggressive play style has paid dividends to a defense that has otherwise struggled, coming in at 115th in total defense.
As much as USU’s offense relies on heavy passing volume, Bonner needs to throw the ball into the stands when the opportunity isn’t there. He took eight sacks versus the Rams and several of them could have been avoided had he simply offloaded the ball faster. Moving onto the next down is a much better alternative than risking field position or an interception. Unfortunately, Bonner has thrown eight picks this season. If the Aggies are not wary of Bethley, the next best corner for the Warriors in Cortez Davis is equally capable of making the big play.
Safe throws to the best receivers should be a priority for a successful offensive game plan.
2. Slow down the run game
With starting QB Chevan Cordeiro recently missing time due to injury, Hawai’i has relied more on its running game lately. And they have some great players powering it.
Calvin Turner is arguably the standout player here. The shifty senior is having a terrific year as he has amassed 294 yards and seven TDs on just 50 carries. He is second in yards per carry for the group and he is also used extensively as a wide receiver. He can easily line up in numerous formations to keep a defense honest regarding his presence.
Despite being banged up recently, Dae Dae Hunter remains a force to be reckoned with. He’s got fewer touchdowns than Turner, but he easily leads the team in total rushing yards with 558 on 78 carries. He runs faster than his size suggests and he’s a load to bring down. USU is gonna need at least two tacklers on him if he can get a head of steam against the defensive line.
It will require discipline and complete focus for USU’s run defense to be successful against the Warriors. UNLV’s Charles Williams and CSU’s David Bailey wrecked the Aggies on the ground previously. They had excellent first halves and even though USU shut both of them down in the second halves of each respective game, it’s a strategy that is highly risky versus a team with a deeper corps of runners to draw from. Taking another step forward in defending the run will go a long way in keeping the game within striking distance.
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) October 24, 2021
3. Remain superior on special teams
The Aggies and the Rainbow Warriors are similarly productive teams. Both score a fair number of points, but both give up almost as many points. USU does most of their damage through the air whereas Hawai’i has executed a more balanced offensive attack. Even then, both squads amass more than 400 offensive yards per game, so both have explosive capability and personnel.
USU having an extra weapon to rely on could mean the difference between winning and losing, just like it was against CSU. Connor Coles overall has enjoyed a strong year and he converted all four of his FG attempts versus the Rams. His efforts gave the Aggies just enough to get past a pesky CSU squad and it helped take the pressure off other groups on the offense.
Jordan Nathan and Savon Scarver, outside of his lone kickoff return for a TD, have both been relatively quiet as far as production goes this season. If either one of them can break out, it will go a long way in a game that is sure to be another close affair. USU hasn’t shown the ability to pull away from anyone, so the margin for error remains as small as it has been all season. Any lift the Aggies can get is critical.
— USU Football (@USUFootball) October 25, 2021
USU has dominated the Bows as of late, having won five in a row. Three of these games weren’t remotely close and USU has scored 35 or more points in each of these games to boot. It’s no stretch to say the Ags have this team’s number.
Hawai’i is going to bring a more potent offense than usual to Logan, but their defense is still fairly suspect. The Aggies can have another huge game through the air, yet their defense may also get pushed around considerably by their formidable running backs. Even so, that likely won’t matter if USU continues to limit turnovers and unleash its receiving corps the same way it has all season.
USU 35, Hawai’i 21