CHUCKIE KEETON, QUARTERBACK
The fifth-year senior has played in only 15 games the past three seasons because of knee injuries but is an electric presence when he plays. He’s thrown for 7,279 yards and rushed for 1,416 in his career, second and first, respectively, in school history for quarterbacks.
He missed two months with a knee injury this season, returning in November. “It’s been a fun ride, but we still have one more game to go,” Keeton said.
HUNTER SHARP, WIDE RECEIVER
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The 6-foot, 200-pound senior has emerged as a top target for Keeton and sophomore Kent Myers. After not playing in the first two games, Sharp has hauled in 60 passes for 746 yards and eight touchdowns.
He also had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Nov. 21 against Nevada.
“He does it all,” senior receiver Brandon Swindall said. “He’s got the speed, he can stretch the field, he’s a big playmaker. He’s a go-to guy because there’s not much he can’t do.”
KYLER FACKRELL, LINEBACKER
A stalwart on a tough defense, Fackrell thrives on making the plays that help turn around games.
He leads the team with 13.5 tackles for loss, has 12 quarterback hits, is tied for the team lead with four sacks and leads the nation with five fumble recoveries. His intelligence and athleticism have made the senior a likely NFL Draft pick.
“You add all those things up and you have a player that’s special,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “... He’ll play a lot on Sundays for the next several years.”
NICK VIGIL, LINEBACKER
When a ball carrier moves into Vigil’s field of vision, the play is likely about to end.
The junior is active all over the field, tied for third in the nation this with 140 tackles (ninth in school history in a single season).
He is the only FBS player to have at least nine tackles in every game. He also had a touchdown run in the regular season finale against BYU.
“I think something that I look up to him for is ... hustle,” Fackrell said.
“In practice, Nick is a great example of just sprinting to the ball, whether it’s thrown 50 yards downfield or whatever it may be.”
DEVANTE MAYS, RUNNING BACK
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound bowling ball has emerged as a tough runner in his first season after transferring from Blinn (Texas) Junior College. Mays has 153 carries for 842 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and nine TDs.
Utah State is 5-1 when he runs for 60 yards or more. He combined for 309 yards in the past two wins.
“I mean, he’s going to run through you,” Keeton said. “He’s been working on his agility a little bit, and so he’s trying to improve himself every single day. But once he gets started, it’s incredible to see just because he can do so many different things, and hopefully we can get him going.”
Utah State bowl history
San Jose State
New Mexico State
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: UTAH STATE VS. AKRON
▪ When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday
▪ Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
▪ TV: ESPN
▪ Records: Utah State (6-6, 5-3 Mountain West); Akron (7-5, 5-3 Mid-American)
▪ Coaches: Utah State, Matt Wells (25-15, third year); Akron, Terry Bowden (18-30, fourth year; 158-92-2, 22nd year overall)
▪ Series: First meeting
▪ Vegas line: Utah State by 6 1/2
▪ Tickets: $20-$90, at ticketmaster.com; $24 for FitOne Family Field Day (pre-game NFL combine-type event at 10:30 a.m., lunch and game ticket)
▪ Kickoff weather: Mid 30s and partly cloudy, with 8 mph winds and a 15 percent chance of rain.