Van Leeuwen sees ‘bigger picture’ needed to be a team leader

Oct 18 2013 - 10:52pm

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LOGAN -- Travis Van Leeuwen is on a mission.

Not the Latter-day Saints type, though he partially credits his faith in motivating him to succeed. He wants to receive all-Mountain West Conference honors -- he monitors the stats of other MW receivers each week. With 27 receptions and three touchdowns, he says he is a "playmaker" and go-to guy for the Utah State offense.

He wants to honor his family. He is working toward graduation in December and marriage to his fiancee Annie the month after that. He says he "does things right."

Also, fellow senior Travis Reynolds says Van Leeuwen has joined him in seizing more of a leadership role for the Aggies, which have lost by double digits each of the past two games.

"That's very accurate," said Van Leeuwen, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound Provo native. "I'm not the most vocal guy on the team, but I lead by example in everything I do, doing things the right way."

For Van Leeuwen, that includes being a "father figure" in the receiver's meeting room and making sure his fellow wideouts maintain their assignments and techniques. It's needed after season-ending injuries in the past three games to starters Joe Hill, D.J. Tialavea, Kyle Whimpey and of course, former Heisman Trophy candidate Chuckie Keeton.

All play on an offense scheduled to be led Saturday at New Mexico by 19-year-old freshman Darell Garretson.

"I have been here the last couple of seasons, when we have gone from losing seasons to winning seasons, so I know what it takes," Van Leeuwen said. "I see the bigger picture."

Yet Van Leeuwen also says it will take that more collective perspective in order for USU to succeed in their final five games, including when the Aggies (3-4, 2-1 MW) face the Lobos (2-4, 0-2) in Albuquerque.

Robert Marshall is also looking elsewhere. Agreeing that the offense doesn't have "rah-rah guys," the senior, who started the season as a third-string running back, is looking to himself as another "role model kind of guy" as he gains more playing time. With the loss of Hill and a high ankle sprain limiting Joey DeMartino, Marshall had 19 carries against Boise State, a career-high.

But Marshall also cites senior offensive linemen Jamie Markosian and Tyler Larsen as leaders. Markosian has tried to rally the team at the start of the fourth quarter in recent weeks with personal encouragements, Marshall said, adding that Larsen is more of an "example guy."

Mentioning Van Leeuwen, Reynolds, Markosian and Larsen, offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven also suggests offensive linemen Eric Schultz and Kevin Whimpey could take on-field leadership.

Done quietly, on any account.

"Chuckie was not a vocal leader, either," McGiven said, "so the focus is more to go out and execute than be more vocal than in the past."

With the loss of so many offensive players, senior defensive lineman A.J. Pataiali'i says "the defense has to win the games."

"Week in and week out, we take the game into our hands," he said. "It sucks to have our players go down, but... nothing phases our defense. We've just shot ourselves in the foot."

The USU defense gave up just 17.5 points per game entering its BYU game on Oct. 4 before yielding 31 that night. Boise State scored 34 points last week.

UNM coach Bob Davie said he doesn't feel for the Aggies, as only 10 of 40 third- or fourth-year players who originally enrolled at the school are still with the program.

"That kind of puts it in perspective," said Davie, the head coach at Notre Dame from 1997-2001. "Certainly, I understand what a reduced roster looks like."

WHY GARRETSON IS STARTING: Wells was quick to assert on Monday that Garretson would take the starting reins on Albuquerque. Garretson had already been listed as the starter on USU's weekly football briefing before Wells started his weekly press conference.

Garretson went 9 of 14 for 116 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against Boise State after replacing junior Craig Harrison early in the third quarter. Harrison had gone 7 of 17 and had led his team to two field goal attempts before getting sidelined after a drive ending with a punt.

"When you ask a young quarterback 'What did you see?' after you just saw it, whether from a pressure or secondary situation and he tells you exactly how you saw it, he's dialed in," Wells said. "It gives you good confirmation that he is."

McGiven told the Standard-Examiner that Harrison has cracked ribs.

"He can barely throw the football," he said on Tuesday.

Davie said UNM has watched all of both Garretson and Harrison's snaps on film.

HIGH-RATED NEW MEXICO RUSHING ATTACK: The Lobos are No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense at 349.3 yards per game and third in the country in rushing TDs with 23 on the season. Senior running back Kasey Carrier has rushed for 789 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging six yards per carry. He leads the MW in both all-purpose yards (138.7) and rushing yards (131.5) per game. Quarterback Cole Gautsche also has 516 yards rushing this fall. With a sprained MCL, he is questionable for the USU game, the Albuqerque Journal reports.

 

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