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Utah State's QB Troubles Continue

After injuries to star QB Chuckie Keeton and now to backup Darell Garretson, Utah State has chosen to place the weight of the starter responsibilities on senior QB Craig Harrison.

Darell Garretson smiles on the sideline after the Aggies score a go-ahead field goal against CSU.
Darell Garretson smiles on the sideline after the Aggies score a go-ahead field goal against CSU.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomore Utah State QB Darell Garretson stepped up in a big way the past couple of seasons as he was called on to replace star senior QB Chuckie Keeton. Keeton's absence left a large hole in the Aggies' offense, but Garretson was up to the task, leading USU to an 8-1 record when he started a game and was healthy all the way through. He was not, however, the Aggies' first choice to replace Keeton after the initial injury to the Heisman hopeful. That honor and responsibility went to then-junior Craig Harrison.

Prior to coming to USU, Harrison had played for Snow College in southern Utah. Harrison had never been a serious challenge to Keeton for the starting spot, but had positioned himself as the backup, and when Chuckie went down early in the game against BYU he got his shot. He had played backup to Keeton and Adam Kennedy since 2012, but never really been given the opportunity to really be the Aggies' QB till Keeton tore his ACL and MCL on the same play that night. That was the first time we got to truly see Craig Harrison.

Unfortunately, seeing was not believing with the hopeful junior. Harrison closed out the BYU game, and started the next game against Boise State, but to say he underwhelmed would be an understatement. He completed 43.1% of his throws (25 completions in 58 attempts) for 290 yards and 1 touchdown. In the second half of the Boise State game, Coach Wells pulled Harrison in favor of Garretson, and Harrison was permanently knocked down a peg on the Aggies' depth chart.

Time and again, Harrison would enter the game in the Aggies hour of need, and fail to perform. Against BYU, the Aggies were in a close game, losing 7-10, when Harrison entered the game; they ended up losing 31-14. Against Boise State, he led the team to a 31-10 deficit before being pulled (Garretson led a small comeback, with the game ending as a 23-34 loss).

In the MWC Championship game, Harrison replaced Garretson with the title on the line. Garretson had just led the Aggies on a TD scoring drive when he was taken out of the game with a concussion after taking a cheap shot from Fresno State safety Derron Smith. Down 14-24, the Aggies recovered an on-side kick, and Joey DeMartino took the team to a 1st and goal situation. Fresno State knew Harrison wouldn't throw the ball, though, and stuffed three straight run attempts by the Aggies, two of which were from Harrison. On fourth down, the Aggies took the safe points, and missed a golden opportunity to bring the game within a field goal. The next Aggie drive was a three and out on three straight incompletions from Harrison. And on the final drive of the game, Harrison was starting to get some momentum, completing passes for 11 and 31 yards, when he forced a bad pass, and was picked off to seal the game in Fresno State's favor.

Now we got a chance to see him again this past weekend, and the nightmares continued. Harrison replaced Garretson again against Colorado State in an incredibly close game, tied 10-10 coming out of the half. Harrison, who once again was never a passing threat, was shut down the entire second half, going 5 of 12 for 28 yards, a mere 2.3 yards per attempt. He consistently over- or underthrew his targets, narrowly avoiding several interceptions, and the Aggies lost the game 13-16 on a last-second field goal from CSU.

We now have word from Coach Wells that Harrison will be the starter with Garretson on a prolonged leave of absence due to an injury to his wrist. And the only coherent thought I can actually get to stick in my head is "What the heck are you thinking?!!!" I understand the desire to keep Kent Myers' redshirt season intact; he's the future of Aggie football, and having him burn a redshirt now would leave at most three years of eligibility, one of which would be played behind Garretson next year. But naming Harrison as your starting QB after seeing him play seems to me to be an act of self-determined defeat. Harrison has never performed well enough to be a D1 quarterback, and has lost every game in which he has taken more than five pass attempts (except against UTSA when he closed out a game where the Aggies were already up by 30+ points).

I get that UNLV is not a top-tier team, and that the Aggie defense is good enough to possibly win this game on their own. But Harrison is just bad enough that he may be able to lead USU to a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. I have nothing against Craig Harrison as a person; I am sure that he is a fantastic person, with many wonderful traits that distinguish him as a person you want to be around, and be friends with. But he is not, and should not be, the person to lead this team onto the field of battle till Garretson returns, especially with conference title aspirations still within reach. Please, Harrison, I'm begging you... please prove me wrong.