The tone was set on the very first play from scrimmage.
Boise State's George Haloni busted off a 35-yard run into Utah State territory, and it would be a painful reoccurring theme for the Aggies in their most meaningful late November game on Merlin Olsen in recent memory.
The No. 20 Broncos racked up 383 yards of total offense and scored 42 points in the first half alone en route to a 56-21 beatdown of the Aggies in front of announced Senior Night crowd of 18,315 late Saturday night at Maverik Stadium.
"Congratulations to Boise State; that's a great football team," USU head coach Gary Andersen said. "It's a physical team, it's a tough team. They beat us in all three phases and obviously they deserved to win the football game from the get-go. And so our challenge is to rally back and battle back, and see what we can do to finish this season the right way. And I continue to look forward to doing that with these kids, and these kids will bounce back. But it's a very difficult loss and, again, a very good football team (that we played) ... and it got away from us."
All of the momentum USU gained from back-to-back nailbiting wins over Fresno State and Wyoming came to a crashing halt against a Boise State squad that clinched the Mountain West's Mountain Division title a the third straight year. In the process, the Broncos terminated an eight-game winning streak by the Aggies against MW opponents, and handed USU its most lopsided loss at home since a 45-7 setback to Hawaii on Oct. 23, 2010.
The Broncos (10-1, 7-0 MW) only needed 99 seconds of game time to dent the scoreboard for the first time when they capped off a seemingly effortless four-play, 75-yard drive with a 30-yard shovel pass and run to paydirt from Jaylon Henderson to John Hightower.
The Aggies (6-5, 5-2) recovered momentarily on a ridiculous one-handed touchdown catch by Caleb Repp on third and goal to pull the hosts even at 7-7 midway through the first quarter. Outstanding receptions of 25 yards by Jordan Nathan and 46 yards by Deven Thompkins set the stage for Repp, who made arguably the best catch by an Aggie during the 2019 campaign.
Unfortunately for USU, everything started to unravel with 5:14 remaining in the opening quarter. That's when BSU cornerback Jalen Walker jumped an out route and intercepted a Jordan Love pass for an easy 15-yard pick-six.
The Broncos then proceeded to score four more unanswered touchdowns in the first half to shatter any hope of an Aggie comeback and outside chance at a divisional title.
Haloni bulldozed his way into the end zone from 5 and 1 yards out to give the visitors a commanding 28-7 advantage. The freshman amassed 149 yards on the ground on 14 carries in the first two quarters.
Robert Mahone scored on a 1-yard plunge with 6:11 left in the second quarter, and Khalil Shakir took a short pass from Henderson and turned into it a 14-yard TD with 19 ticks left on the second-quarter clock.
When the Broncos weren't pounding the Aggies on the ground or completing third-and-long passes — BSU converted on 7 of 9 third downs in the opening half — they were keeping the hosts off-balance with a handful of trick plays. The aforementioned 5-yard TD scamper by Haloni was a statue of liberty play.
"I don't think there were any surprises at all," Andersen said when asked if BSU caught his team off guard. "It was a (BSU) football team that executed at a high level, and we had trouble stopping them in all three phases — on offense, defense and special teams today."
Things didn't get any better for USU in the second half. The Aggies received the opening kickoff of the third quarter and picked up one first down before punting. That punt was snagged by Avery Williams, who made several Aggies miss en route to a 74-yard return to the house. It was the junior's fourth career punt return for a TD and the first special teams touchdown USU has allowed this season.
The Broncos made it seven unanswered touchdowns on a 15-yard strike from Henderson to CT Thomas extending the visitors' lead to 56-7 with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter.
USU stopped the bleeding late in the third quarter on a nice 13-play, 75-yard march. Senior tailback Gerold Bright capped it off with a 6-yard TD run up the middle. Nathan had a trio of receptions on the drive, and Repp caught a pair of passes to put the Aggies in the red zone.
The Aggies found the end zone one more time in garbage time when backup quarterback Henry Colombi punctuated a 13-play, 84-yard drive late in the fourth quarterback with a 2-yard run. Colombi played the entire fourth quarter and completed 6 of 11 passes for 78 yards and one INT, plus gained 18 yards on five rushing attempts.
Love ended up passing for 229 yards on 21 of 36 attempts. Nathan and Repp combined for 93 yards on 12 receptions. The Aggies finished with 428 total yards, but the lion's share of them were tallied in garbage time.
The Broncos amassed 297 yards on 46 rushing attempts en route to 484 total yards. BSU's defense finished with four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Kevin Meitzenheimer led the Aggies with nine tackles, while Troy Lefeged Jr. chipped in with eight. Eric Munoz and Jacoby Wildman added seven stops apiece, Cameron Haney broke up a pair of passes, and Christopher 'Unga had the team's lone sack.
The Aggies went 4-2 at home this season. USU will look to secure its third road win of the year next Saturday at New Mexico. A victory over the reeling Lobos would put the Aggies in a better position to get selected for a bowl game.
"One thing I did tell (our players) that I'll share with you guys is six wins does not guarantee a bowl game, I'll tell you that much," Andersen said. "Six wins gets you bowl eligible, but it doesn't get into a bowl game. So, (our players) have an awful lot to fight for and they need to get themselves ready to go play New Mexico. And I watched that New Mexico team play, I watched every snap of that game today and they played hard, and they were excited about playing football today, so I'm sure they'll be excited to play football next week."
The Aggies honored their 15 seniors prior to the game in Devon Anderson (defensive tackle), Dalton Baker (defensive end), Bright (running back), Riley Burt (RB), Aaron Dalton (holder), Dominik Eberle (kicker), Tipa Galeai (DE), Cameron Haney (cornerback), Braden Harris (DE), Fua Leilua (DT), Siaosi Mariner (wide receiver), Repp (tight end), 'Unga (DT), Wildman (DE) and DJ Williams (cornerback). Williams was ejected from the game after his second unsportsmanlike penalty in the first half.
"You don't go win those five tough conference games that we found a way to win without good leadership and toughness ... and I've said that before and I don't think that needs to be said again," Andersen said of this senior class. "But there was some really good leadership there."
MW title game
Boise State will host Hawaii in the Mountain West championship game in two weeks. The Warriors earned their spot in the title tilt with a 14-11 victory over visiting San Diego State to claim the West Division crown.