This is the next edition in the opponent preview series for the Utah State Aggies football team. Each new preview covers a different opponent for the Aggies.
Game 6: vs Air Force
Date/Time: Saturday, October 8th at a time TBD
Location: Logan, Utah
Series history: The Aggies and the Falcons have played 10 times and the Aggies trail in the series 4-6. Utah State beat Air Force in the most recent meeting in 2021, a 49-45 victory in Logan. Air Force won both matchups in 2020 and 2019, 35-7 and 31-7 respectively. Utah State won the 2018 game in Logan, 42-32. Air Force won three games in 2017, 2016, and 2015, 38-35, 27-20, and 35-28 respectively. Utah State won the first two games as a Mountain West opponent in 2014 and 2013, 34-16 in Logan and 52-20 in Colorado Springs.
Players to Watch
Senior quarterback Haaziq Daniels
Daniels started 12 games and finished second on the team in rushing with 731 yards and in rushing touchdowns with 11. He passed for 1,184 yards on 52-104 passing and threw seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He has made a major impact for the Aggies and will be looking to contribute more this upcoming season.
Senior running back Brad Roberts
Brad Roberts played in 13 games and finished second in the Mountain West in rushing with an average of 104 yards per game last year. Roberts rushed for 1,352 yards, which is the third most in Air Force history, and earned first-team all Mountain West honors. Roberts also rushed for 13 touchdowns, the most by a Falcon player since 2010.
Senior wide receiver Deandre Hughes
During the 2021 season, Hughes played in 10 games and started in seven. He was fourth on the team in rushing yards with 497 and scored three touchdowns. He had significant back to back games where he rushed for over 100 yards, 208 against Nevada and 108 at Colorado State.
Junior wide receiver Dane Kinamon
Kindamon played in 12 games in 2021 and missed the UNLV game due to injury. He rushed for 165 yards and five touchdowns and also finished second on the team in receiving yards, grabbing 10 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior offensive lineman Kaleb Holcomb
Kaleb Holcomb played in 10 games last season and started eight, a big improvement after not seeing any production in the 2020 and 2019 seasons. He helped to anchor an offensive line that paved the way for the Falcons to lead the nation in rushing for the second consecutive year, with 327.7 yards per game.
Junior offensive tackle Everett Smalley
Every Smalley is a 6-3 offensive tackle that played in 13 games and started in 12 games. Like Kaleb Holcomb, Smalley helped to anchor a very good offensive line and will be a significant factor on the line for the 2022 season.
Junior inside linebacker Alec Mock
Alec Mock played in 11 games last season and started nine. He finished fifth on the team in tackles with 53 and had 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Junior full safety Trey Taylor
Taylor played in and started 10 games in 2021 and finished second on the team in tackles with 62. He also recorded a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Senior defensive end Christopher Herrera
In 2021, Herrera played in and started 13 games and led all defensive linemen on the team with 44 tackles. He had four straight games with a tackle for loss and four tackles in a bowl game against Louisville.
Senior outside linebacker Vince Sanford
Sanford played in 13 games and made 12 starts in 2021, and was a leader in the Mountain West and the nation in forced fumbles (four), sacks (9.5), and tackles for loss (17). He is an extremely fierce linebacker that is undoubtedly going to be a leader on the Falcons defense once again.
After finishing last season 10-3, Air Force will be looking to continue to build on that consistency and has both the talent and experience to do so. The only loss in conference for Air Force last season came to Utah State at home in a comeback victory for the Aggies.
In order to have a better chance at winning this game, the Aggies must focus on stopping the combination of Haaziq Daniels and Brad Roberts in the rushing game. Utah State also must be very careful with wide receiver Dane Kinamon, who proved to be a reliable receiving target for Air Force. There are moments when Air Force takes a break from their tiring triple option and takes a chance down the field and Kinamon has the talent to make a play out of that situation.
Utah State must also find ways to get best shut down outside linebacker Vince Sanford and defensive end Christopher Herrera.
The key to winning this game for Utah State is going to be holding onto the ball and doing their best to consistently move it. Keep the defense off the field as much as possible to let them rest and prepare for the next drive of pounding triple option.
This is the second game in October for the Aggies and by this point, I expect that they will be getting over early season jitters and figuring themselves out more. This will very likely be a closer game but I give the edge to Utah State.