"They've got some quality receivers, the downhill run game is something you've got to worry about, but really it's all about that quarterback," linebackers coach Kevin Clune said. "He does a nice job. He is a better athlete than people think. He'll run around and make stuff happen. ... When you break it down, the quarterback is making a lot of good decisions, dishing it to the right people and making plays."
Calling Smith "good" might just undersell him. In a conference that started the year with a host of quarterbacks with high expectations, Smith is enjoying one of the best seasons of any.
He is No. 8 in the nation in total offense with 344.7 yards per game. Smith is coming off a performance against Hawaii in which he had eight total touchdowns and 640 yards of offense, both season-bests for any Mountain West player.
Getting pressure on Smith and taking away his scrambling ability is the top priority this week for Utah State's defense. But the Aggies recognize how tough that could be.
"He makes a lot of plays on the ground, and he makes plays through the air," senior end Connor Williams said. "All we've got to do is stay assignment sound and hopefully things will work out for the best. I'm excited to go up against him."
Tight ends making a difference
Luke Wells called Wyatt Houston in his office shortly before going on the road to New Mexico. Wells said he was removing his redshirt, and that he had seen progress out of the true freshman, but he needed more.
"I told him, 'This thing has got to accelerate,'" Wells said. "He's not there yet, but he's taking steps to get there."
Wells said he's been pleased with the results since electing to bring in Houston. The receiver has caught only five receptions, but he's averaging 20.2 yards per catch. For a high school quarterback, Wells said, Houston has surprisingly good hands and ball skills. He's picked up route-running quickly, and being roommates with the starting quarterback has helped, too.
The biggest difference he's made, especially last week, has been in the blocking game.
"He definitely has had his best blocking game now," Wells said. "He's doing extra stuff off the field, getting his footwork and everything down. Acutally all of our guys have done a great job blocking. Keegan [Andersen] has responded well, and he made a few big blocks to keep the chains moving."
The running game was a good testament to the downhill blocking. But Wells was adament, also, that the offense as a whole needs to show improvement: "That's not close to what our standards are in the passing game, and we need to do a better job."
Aggies looking for record-setting crowd
Thanksgiving usually isn't the best week to get the biggest draws, but Utah State is looking for its fans to show up Saturday at noon, and not just for the home field advantage.
If 10,955 fans come to Romney Stadium, the Aggies will set a single-season attendance record, currently at 129,209 from the 1996 season. The program has likely already sold that many tickets to the game, but Utah State is hoping for a big gate to send off the Aggies in their final home game this year.
- Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon