Utag defense will be a test for Lobos

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By Richard Stevens

For a change, the spotlight on the University of New Mexico Lobo football team’s opponent doesn’t shine down on a quarterback.
It shifts to the defense.  It beams down on Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil, a tenacious duo of headhunting Utah State linebackers, who defend their turf like a junkyard dog guarding a bone.
These Utah State Aggies — or Utags, as the Aggies are better known — do not like running backs. They do not like quarterbacks.  They do not like giving up first downs. Doughty had 19 tackles against Boise State. Vigil had 12 tackles.
The Lobos and Utags meet at University Stadium Saturday.
The two linebackers will be looking to greet Lobos at the line of scrimmage and they are good at seeking out their targets.
Doughty, a senior, is No. 5 in the nation with 11.9 tackles per game.  Vigil, a junior, is No. 25 with 9.7 per game.
They are at the heart of a Utag defense that is ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 31 in the nation, 29th against the run, holding opponents to 129.1 yards on the ground and 351.6 total yards.
This also is a defense that has an extra challenge knowing that its offense lost a special player in quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Keeton has missed two games this season and is still No. 3 in the nation in touchdown passes with 18. Keeton led the Aggies to 52 points at Air Force, 70 points against Weber State and 40 points at San Jose State.
The Utag offense is looking to redefine its identity and solidify its quarterback spot, but the Utag defense has been there to help make up for it.
It held the Air Force option to 20 points, held USC to 17 points and gave up just 12 points to San Jose State.
Utah State gave up 34 to Boise State, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad game for its defense, or any defense, for that matter. Boise State’s Broncos scored 60 the week before against Southern Mississippi and were averaging 51 points in their four games prior to last week.
That is the challenge for UNM’s pistol offense.
Meanwhile, the quarterback question looms large for both teams. Head coach Bob Davie must decide whether to go with Cole Gautsche, who has a strained knee, Clayton Mitchem, who is suffering from concussion symptoms, or David Vega, who did a lot of good things last Saturday in Wyoming including rifling a touchdown throw through a small hole in the Wyoming defense.
Utah State, meanwhile, will likely go with the two-headed huddle they used against Boise State. Craig Harrison has appeared in six games, going 30-for-63 passing with no interceptions, while freshman Dare Garretson, who went 9-for-14 for 116 yards and one TD throw in the closing seconds last week.