Sears wants ’Cats to douse Keeton’s fire danger

Sep 13 2013 - 11:53pm

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LOGAN -- Playing against speed is like playing with fire: Hesitate and you're going to get burned.

That was Weber State University football coach Jody Sears' message to his team preparing to face an explosive Utah State offense.

The Wildcats got torched a week ago against another in-state FBS foe, Utah; Sears doesn't want to see a repeat in today's 6 p.m. game against the Aggies at Romney Stadium.

But fire danger is high against dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton, Utah State's Heisman Trophy watchlist quarterback.

Keeton, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award national player of the week for his performance in a 52-20 win over Air Force last Saturday, is capable of lighting any team up. He ranks ninth in the nation in passing (337 yards per game) and fourth in total offense.

USU junior linebacker Zach Vigil, a Clearfield High product, earned the College Sports Madness MWC defensive player of the week award after collecting nine tackles, 1.5 for loss, and forcing a fumble against Air Force.

Utah State is possibly as experienced and as talented as it's ever been.

Keeton was the key to Utah State's best season in school history in 2012, leading the Aggies to an 11-2 record. In USU's first-ever Mountain West Conference game, he completed 32 of 40 passes, tied his own school record with five touchdown throws and rushed for 77 yards vs. AFA en route to earning four national weekly honors.

How does a team like Weber State prepare to face a talent like Keeton?

"You don't," Sears said. "You can't simulate it in practice. You try the best you can. We prepare for it on game day when we get out there and get in front of him, but it just goes back to the things we've stressed after the Utah game -- the energy, the speed and the consistency of those two things, how you have to play the game, especially when you play up."

Despite recent FCS successes against FBS teams, lower-division schools are always the underdog.

"When you play up, essentially that's how you're going to have to play if you want to be at a championship level," Sears said.

Weber State scored 50 points in a season-opening win over Stephen F. Austin, but points were scarce in a 70-7 blowout loss at Utah.

"Speed causes hesitation," he said. "We hesitated a few too many times last Saturday and we learned a valuable lesson. You can't hesitate. You've got to go match that speed. They may have better speed than us; that's not the issue. You attack and play with that energy, play with that speed."

Senior safety Chris Wheeler leads the Wildcats in tackles. Playing USU -- and trying to contain Keeton -- is about focusing on assignments, he said.

"You've just got to do your job. That's it," he said. "If you do your job and you play your role, then the whole defense works fluidly. Last week we didn't do that perfectly. If we do that perfectly this week, we should be able to cover up everything."

First-year USU coach Matt Wells believes the Wildcats will be ready.

"(Weber State) will come in and play very, very hard, so it'll be up to us to match that intensity that we know they're going to bring to Romney Stadium," he said.

Aggies offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven, a former Weber State assistant coach, says Keeton is very good, but he could get even better -- a scary thought for opposing defenses.

"He's progressed with some things since I've been here," said McGiven, who was the offensive coordinator for Montana State last year. "In terms of some mechanical things with his feet and with his arm motion. It's getting a little bit tighter. He's been really disciplined with his reads, he's working on his timing.

"Anybody that sees him on film is going to see a threat to run and pass and they're going to have to figure out how to contain him."

Weber State will counter again with not one but two quarterbacks, Sears said. As in the first two games, Jordan Adamczyk will start, with Austin Chipoletti coming in again to gain experience.

WSU will also have a new face on its sideline. Junior cornerback Deon'tae Florence, a Boise State transfer, was added to the roster this week and will be available for today's game. Florence appeared in seven games for the Broncos in 2012, mostly on special teams.

As excited as the 'Cats were to win the season opener coming off of a 2-9 season in 2012, they were disappointed in their performance at Utah.

"As coaches, that's one of our main priorities, is to make sure you're never too high or too low. You can't let one bad game or one bad quarter define your season," Sears said. "That's where your leadership comes in, that's where you've got to lean on your captains, your seniors."

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