LOGAN – The Utah State football team outlasted both the weather and a pesky Colorado State squad en route to a 34-24 victory on Saturday night. Senior RB Gerold Bright carried the Aggies with 36 rushes for 179 yards, both setting career highs.
“That was a fight for sure. Those kids fought through a lot of things, battled through a weather delay. Battled through five turnovers to zero at one point in the game,” head coach Gary Andersen said. “They fought, they battled. It was not perfect by any means… but ultimately, it’s a great team victory.”
With heavy rain ruining any semblance of an aerial attack for either side, both teams struggled to generate consistent offense throughout the game. CSU opened the scoring with a 2-yard TD run from Jaylen Thomas following a blocked punt which set the Rams up deep in Aggie territory. The Aggies immediately responded via a 100-yard kickoff return TD from junior WR Savon Scarver.
The Rams retook the lead, piecing together an 80-yard drive on eight plays culminating in a one-yard TD run by Marvin Kinsey. The Aggies again relied on an explosive play to even the game as junior QB Jordan Love tossed a 37-yard touchdown to sophomore WR Deven Thompkins.
USU’s momentum would not last long, however, as Andre Neal intercepted a pass from Love, returning it 44 yards for the score and a 21-14 lead for the Rams. Yet again, Utah State responded, finding some offensive rhythm for the first time in the game. The Aggies pieced together successive nine- and 10-play drives to set up a 42-yard field goal from senior K Dominik Eberle and 40-yard TD pass from Love to senior TE Caleb Repp, respectively.
“I think probably my favorite play was when Jordan (Love) threw that touchdown pass to Caleb Repp,” Bright said. “That was nice, I liked that one.”
What momentum USU garnered at the end of the first half quickly evaporated via an interception on the opening drive of the third quarter which set up a 45-yard field goal for CSU’s Cayden Camper. The Aggies attempted a response, but eventually fumbled near the goal line on the ensuing possession. Utah State retook the lead late in the third quarter on a 48-yard field goal from Eberle in the midst of the worst of the storm.
“The long field goal was huge,” coach Andersen said. “It was right on the cusp of where he’s comfortable on a nice day with no wind and that was not a nice day with no wind.”
The Rams had multiple chances in the final stanza to tie or reclaim the lead until junior LB David Woodward thoroughly shut the door on CSU’s chances with a forced fumble, recovery, and 8-yard return for a touchdown to put the Aggies up 34-24.
“The defense stepped up. They had a good look in their eye,” coach Andersen said. “They were playing what was 11-strong tonight. It felt like they were in it for each other but they wanted to make the plays themselves. They want to make those tackles, they want to get the PBUs, they want to get the pick. But they were playing as a full defense.”
Bright was kept out of the endzone on the night, but seemingly carried the Aggies in every other part of the field, maintaining a 5.0 yards-per-carry average on the night on 36 carries.
“We got the dub, so I really don’t care as long as we win,” Bright said. “The win trumps the self-gain that you want. It’s more about the team than the individual.”
The game was delayed over 30 minutes at kickoff due to lightning in the area, with intermittent pouring rain remaining through the majority of the contest.
“I think definitely as a defense, we love the weather. We love the rain,” Woodward said. “I just think that when adversity comes, we all just accept it as a team and love fighting through it.”
The rain seemed to have an effect on Love, however, who threw for only 204 yards on 17-33 passing with two touchdowns and two INTs, while adding 44 yards on 11 carries. Repp led USU with 60 yards receiving on three catches, with Thompkins close behind with his own three catches for 55 yards. Defensively, Woodward piloted the Aggies with 14 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Junior safety Troy Lefeged Jr. added 11 tackles with one pass breakup.
The win moves USU to 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in MW play, putting the Aggies in first place in the Mountain Division with both Wyoming and Boise State sitting a half-game behind at 1-0.
Utah State will pause conference play next week to take on LSU in Baton Rouge. Kickoff is currently scheduled for 10 am MST.
“We’ve got a tremendous opportunity,” coach Andersen said. “This football team has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly out to Baton Rouge and play in that stadium and play against a top-four team… We’re going to fly over there and represent Utah State the best way possible.”
The Aggies will return to Logan, and to MW play, on October 19th versus Nevada.