Gameday Preview: Utah State at Air Force

The Utah State football team will put its conference winning streak on the line Saturday when the Aggies face Air Force at 1:30 p.m.

“As I look at Air Force, I’ve played against them quite a bit as an assistant at the Naval Academy and New Mexico,” said USU head coach Matt Wells. “The first thing I can say about them, as always, is that Troy (Calhoun) will have them ready to play. Coach Calhoun and his staff do a great job.”

The Falcons are coming off of a 38-13 win over Colgate in which they rushed for 409 yards on 41 carries — an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Jon Lee spearheads the Falcon’s rushing attack, racking up 130 yards against the Raiders last week.

Air Force passed for 1,334 yards last season, compared to 4,111 yards on the ground.

USU’s run defense will be tested after struggling to slow the rush against Utah in the second half of its season opener. The Utes rushed for 148 yards against the Aggies with three different players rushing for at least 30 yards.

“Those two kids did it last year too. Those guys are explosive,” Wells said of Lee and fellow-running back Broam Hart. “If they catch the safeties losing eye control, it’s going to be six real quick. I’ve seen it happen coaching against them year after year. You’ve got to have really good eye discipline in the back end and you’ve got to know what your keys are. If not, those two will slip right by you and it will be a touchdown.”

Air Force went 6-7 last season, 5-3 in the MWC, and has won 15 of its last 18 conference openers, including 10 straight from 2000-10 — a Mountain West Conference record.

Several Aggies had standout performances against Utah, including a great game from wide receiver Travis Van Leeuwen. The senior notched his first-ever 100-yard receiving game as an Aggie, connecting with quarterback Chuckie Keeton five times for 107 yards.

“Travis Van Leeuwen came up big, but he did that all training camp, so that wasn’t a surprise,” Wells said. “A lot of those guys are veterans who I expected to play well.”

Keeton threw for 314 yards and rushed for 85 to bring his career rushing total to 997 yards. Only one other quarterback has ever rushed for 1,000 career yards at Utah State — Diondre Borel from 2007-10.

The Aggies have won a school-record 11 straight conference games heading into their first-ever conference game as a member of the Mountain West Conference.

“First and foremost, it’s the goal of this program to play for and compete for the Mountain West Championship,” Wells said. “This is step one of being able to accomplish that goal. Just like last year, you have to win conference games on the road. It just so happens that our first conference game is on the road. There’s immediacy to it; there’s an importance to it. Our kids know it and we look forward to it.”

It will be just the second time the Aggies and Falcons have met on the gridiron, and the game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

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