Wake Forest tries to bottle up Keeton, Utah State
The numbers haven't been as gaudy this season for the Utah State dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who is mentioned on nearly every preseason watch list and a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Keeton has thrown for 260 yards and one score through two games as he rounds back into form after suffering a season-ending knee injury last October. He's overdue for a breakout game - a Chuckie Keeton-type performance.
Keeton was off to a sizzling season a year ago - 1,388 yards passing and 18 TD scores - before injuring the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the sixth game of the season. The senior was picked as the Mountain West preseason player of the year for 2014.
''He's one of those quarterbacks where you can have the play defended exactly right and it can still be a 15-yard play because of his athleticism,'' Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. ''He's got a live arm. He's extremely athletic.''
Keeton's completion percentage is down considerably this season. Through two games, he's completing less than half his passes.
But the misses are a little misleading, Utah State coach Matt Wells maintains. According to Wells, quite a few of Keeton's recent incompletions were because he was throwing the ball away rather than forcing the ball into tight spaces.
''I'm just like anybody else - you want to see the kid go 22-for-25,'' Wells said. ''I don't think it was an accuracy issue with him. There are always reasons why certain numbers look like they do.
''Oftentimes, a quarterback goes 22-for-25 and you've got receivers making catches they shouldn't. ... I'm not satisfied with the reasons he had to throw the ball away, but he's an unselfish quarterback who does what he has to do to give his team a chance in that series or drive. You put away selfish desires for the team.''
''We've got guys stepping up all over the place,'' Wells said. ''They're going to continue to step up and play and find ways to win games. This business is about finding ways to win. It's fun and exciting to see who's going to step up.
''You'll know the identity of the team into October and November. We're not in mid-season form right now, it's still early.''
Things to consider as the Demon Deacons play their first game against a team in the Mountain West Conference:
IN SYNC: Quarterback John Wolford and receiver E.J. Scott connected for a pair of TDs in a 23-7 win over Gardner-Webb last weekend. Wolford finished with 291 yards. ''It was good to see us moving the ball. We moved the ball well,'' Scott said. ''We just want to keep building off that.''
LONG TRIP: Clawson doesn't think the cross-country journey to Utah will bother the Demon Deacons so much Saturday as the following week. He said returning from the game so late creates ''a lot more havoc'' as they gear up to host Army next weekend. ''The problem is always the next week,'' Clawson said. ''When you play these games you prefer to have a long week afterward because you basically lose a day on the flight back.''
FRESH FACES: Wolford is one of eight true freshmen who've made their debut for Wake Forest this season. Last season, the Deacons used 11 first-year players. That's bucking quite a trend considering that from 2001 to 2012, the Deacons never played more than three rookies.
TAKE YOUR PICK: Utah State freshman defensive back Jalen Davis intercepted two passes against Idaho State last weekend, returning one for a 44-yard score. ''His care factor is really high,'' Wells said. ''For an 18-year-old, he cares about being good and playing well.''
WHITE NIGHT: The Aggies will don white helmets, jerseys and pants against Wake Forest in what's being dubbed ''White Out.'' The team has split the last two games when wearing their all-white ensemble, beating UNLV in 2012 and losing to Boise State last season.