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Logan • In the heat and sweat of August, one could see the potential of Utah State's defense, a lively and athletic bunch that dominated intrasquad scrimmages in the month leading up to the season opener.
What the Aggies have done on that side of the ball, however, has gone past even the headiest of expectations.
USU has statistically, at least one of the best defensive units in the country, one that has tested itself against BCS conference opposition and dominated Western Athletic Conference opponents.
On Saturday at Romney Stadium, Texas State will take its shot at the seventh-ranked defense in the nation. The Bobcats could find that the Aggies are difficult to run against. USU also has a fierce pass rush and covers well in the secondary.
"Defensively, there is no question that we have played very well this season as a unit," Aggies coach Gary Andersen said. "I ask the kids every week to play great defense, and they have come up big when asked to. We need to work on things and try to get better every week. But I'm very happy with the effort and the performance by the kids."
The numbers are impressive. Utah State ranks first in the conference in scoring defense, pass defense and sacks per game. The Aggies are second in the WAC in rushing defense and total defense. USU has allowed opponents to convert on just 32 percent of their third-down attempts, and the Ags are near the top of the conference in defensive efficiency.
Observers have been surprised at Utah State's success without Bobby Wagner, the star middle linebacker who is now one of the top rookies in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.
But Kyler Fackrell, Bojay Filimoeatu, Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil have shored up the linebacking position. The secondary is deep and talented with Willie Davis and Nevin Lawson.
The biggest surprise has been a defensive line that has produced quarterback pressure and a stout run defense after being the weak link for the past few seasons.
Utah State has distinguished itself in a number of games, from registering a stunning 13 sacks against San Jose State to shutting down highly touted Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen and blanketing Wisconsin on the road.
"Every day, our focus is getting better," Fackrell said. "We still miss assignments and we still have a lot of work to do, but we're really good in the red zone. We have a goal of forcing three turnovers per game. If we can do that, we can take the next step and be great."
Texas State at Utah State
P At Romney Stadium
Kickoff • Saturday, 1 p.m.
Television • KMYU
Radio • 610 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Utah State 7-2 (3-0 WAC); Texas State 3-4 (1-1).
Series history • First meeting between the schools
About the Bobcats • Texas State is looking for its second road win of the season. … The Bobcats are in their FCS season but have been playing football for 105 years. … This is the fifth conference the Bobcats have belonged to.
About the Aggies • Utah State is looking for its fourth consecutive victory. … Utah State last won eight games in 1974. … The Aggies have never won 10 games in a season. … USU ranks seventh in the country in scoring defense.