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Even facing Utah State this week, Bob Davie couldn't help but wince thinking back on the Aggies' misfortunes.
The New Mexico head coach was watching the Utah State-BYU on TV the Friday night before his Lobos were playing themselves. And seeing Chuckie Keeton laid out on the field was hard for the whole team to watch.
" I think even though we're an opponent, I certainly feel bad about the injury situation over there," Davie said in an interview with the Tribune. "We were watching that game. We all saw what happened to Chuckie Keeton. I know he's gonna be back, he'll have a chance to play against us next year."
For this season though, New Mexico will face a Chuckie Keeton-less Aggie team. Utah State's offense has slumped the last two weeks, but that's not really Davie's biggest concern.
His offense, with its No. 2-ranked rushing attack, is unlikely to feature his season-opening quarterback. His options are a junior college transfer and a walk-on, and he's about to face the Mountain West's best defense.
"Without a dout, they're the best defense we've faced this year," Davie said. "A lot of it is how they tackle. Even their linebackers and their secondary. They tackle as well as any team in this country."
Indeed, Utah State's No. 31-ranked total defense and scoring defense is not just the toughest unit they've faced so far, but also the best statistical defense remaining on New Mexico's schedule.
That match-up against the likes of Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil and the rest of Utah State's front seven is concerning, Davie said. He's hopeful that his Kasey Carrier-led rushing attack can hold up in the face of the Aggies' defense that lets up only about a third of what the Lobos have put up on the ground this year.
New Mexico's rushing attack, even without Cole Gautsche, still gets respect from Utah State.
"Their offensive line has pretty good size up front," defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali'i said. "But it comes down to our technique on the defensive line to be stout and stop the run. That's our goal as a defensive whole, to stop the run every game."
Stepping away from the Xs and Os of the game, Davie said he appreciates the way Gary Andersen rebuilt Utah State and made it a competitive Mountain West team. Davie, who is trying to go through his own rebuilding process in Albuquerque, sees what Andersen and Matt Wells have done as an example for New Mexico.
"You look at their roster and how much effort they put into making these kids great players," Davis said. "I hope we can do it the way Utah State did it. It is a building process. We've gained a little credibility. We are improved. Maybe Utah State was once where New Mexico is now."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon