By Dave Reardon
LOGAN, Utah >> The injury to star quarterbackChuckie Keeton was a real buzz-kill for the Utah State fans. It's the first thing the young lady at the front desk of the hotel mentioned when I asked if she were a fan of the home team. "They were so good last year, and Chuckie was so exciting. Now, oh well. Go Aggies, I guess."
I told her things could be way worse. She could be a fan of a team still looking for its first win, like 0-7 Hawaii.
Keeton — who led USU to a monumental 11-2 record last year — tore up his knee against BYU in an Oct. 4 loss and is out for the year. Since that 31-14 defeat, the Aggies lost 34-23 to Boise State and then won 45-10 at New Mexico to even their record at 4-4 and improve to 3-1 in the Mountain West.
The replacement is true freshman Darrell Garretson … if that name is familiar, yes, he is a grandson of the man of the same name who was probably the most famous NBA referee of the 1980s and served as supervisor of officials for 17 years.
Garretson the younger had a rough game sharing time with Craig Harrison against Boise State, getting picked off twice. But he performed well against the Lobos, with 15-23-0 for 144 yards and a touchdown and no sacks. The extra week with the bye before Saturday's game had to be great for the true freshman to look at the tape of his first two games and work on correcting mistakes.
Garretson's coach at Chandler High School in Arizona was Shaun Aguano, who was a great all-around athlete at Kapaa High on Kauai. Garretson was preceded as Chandler's quarterback by UCLA star Brett Hundley.
The Rainbow Warriors are on their way now and have a 5 p.m. walk-through at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium.
They're going to like their rooms here at the Springfield Suites, I think. One of the nice features, especially for a roommate situation, is separate rooms for the toilet and shower.
Never in November: One of the many interesting notes provided by Utah State media relations. The Aggies have won seven in a row and 10 of their last 11 games played in November. I have to believe the home field advantage of playing in cold weather here is part of that.
It wasn't quite freezing when I arrived Thursday, but close enough. In the mid 40s, but thankfully not much wind to make it feel even colder. Still, when I went for a little two-mile run I wished I hadn't forgotten to pack my winter gloves. Need to hit Target and pick some up today.
It's 41 degrees and cloudy as I write this around 9:30 a.m. on Friday. Kickoff tomorrow is 2 p.m., and the day's projected high temperature is 61 with a low of 30. There's zero percent chance of precipitation but that climbs to 60 percent on Sunday when snow is expected.
More on the loss of Keeton: As defensive tackle Elvis Kamana-Matagi from King Kekaulike said, "We miss Chuckie, but in football there's no such thing as a one-man team. We're all pulling together."
As much as Keeton was the face of the team, the defense remains its strength; the Aggies lead the Mountain West in least yards allowed per game (345.1), as well as least points allowed (20.0). They are 19th and 22nd nationally in those stats.
They are also third nationally in punt return defense and second in kickoff return defense.