"Last year, I don't know what happened," Nielsen said. "They'll be ready for it."
Utah State is aiming high, but isn't necessarily expecting to replicate its sky-high sack total from 2012. Schematic changes under new coach Ron Caragher seem to be protecting Fales more as he drops back under center. To date, he's been sacked five times, with four coming against Stanford alone.
Fales left an impression last year with Utah State, throwing for 467 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Wells was complimentary of the senior who some have pegged as a top prospect in the next NFL Draft in his Monday morning press conference.
"He's he's got a tight release, he has great footwork, he has great confidence," he said. "He throws balls in tight windows when guys are covered and when they're not."
Utah State corner Tay Glover-Wright noted that the biggest change is that Wright's scheme allows Fales to make a quick read and get rid of the ball. The shortened clock on his release will challenge the secondary, fresh off one of the unit's stronger efforts against USC.
"Our coverages have to be on point," Glover-Wright said. "It's all about where we put our eyes, because we know the ball's coming out quick."
Aggies corners preparing for Grigsby
The San Jose Mercury News is among the outlets reporting that San Jose State's all-time leading receiver, Noel Grigsby, is expected to miss extended time with a knee injury. He was recently spotted on the practice field on crutches.
Utah State isn't counting him out, however. Glover-Wright said the team is still studying his film as if he would take the field. The Aggies would certainly like to be prepared if he could somehow play: He's caught 22 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns in his three matchups with Utah State.
Still, he's not the only one the Aggies must prep for. Chandler Jones was recently added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list after averaging more than 123 receiving yards per game this year.
"They're really deep," Glover-Wright said. "Those guys can do a lot of things. We're not counting them out."
Similar defensive scheme to USC?
Meet Kenwick Thompson, San Jose State's defensive coordinator. He coached at Cal for the last five seasons.
Who else coached at Cal for the last few seasons? Clancy Pendergast. The name should sound familiar: He presided over the defense that gave Utah State fits last week.
Thompson appears to have his defense built on some similar defensive principles as USC showed last week. Linebackers will get on the edge to form a five-man front and attempt to get to quarterback Chuckie Keeton from the side. Keith Smith, the leading tackler in FBS, will be one of the defenders tasked to swallow up whatever comes up the middle.
Keeton said he's noted the set-up, and he'll be prepared for whatever the Spartans throw at him.
"We kind of foresaw that a little bit," Keeton said. "I think we're going to have a great gameplan against them."
Utah State at San Jose State
P Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN