Utah State’s football team is heading into its first bye week of the season with some positive momentum after performing pretty well in all three aspects of the game in last Saturday’s 62-7 dismantling of Stony Brook at Maverik Stadium.
The Aggies put points on the scoreboard on five of their six drives in the opening half — a fumble at the Stony Brook 2-yard line prevented them from going 6 for 6 — against the Seawolves in their home opener. USU racked up 417 yards of total offense and scored 34 points in the first two quarters.
“We were a lot more electrifying tonight,” said explosive sophomore Deven Thompkins, whose team averaged an impressive 8.2 yards per play. “We had a bad taste in our mouth from the last game. We left three touchdowns out there that could have won us the game at Wake Forest. We played as hard as we could, but it wasn’t good enough. Today we really wanted to send a message to everybody in the conference that we’re here to play and we’re ready for anybody.”
A wealth of players contributed for an Aggie offense that broke the single-game program record with 35 first downs. A balanced USU attack, one that amassed 392 yards through the air and 325 on the ground, finished with 717 total yards, which ranks second in the program record books.
Five different Aggies scored touchdowns, with Thompkins and running back Jaylen Warren finding paydirt twice apiece. Warren scored on runs of 28 and 54 yards, while Thompkins returned a punt 45 yards to the house and turned a short pass from Henry Colombi into a 10-yard TD.
Tailback Gerold Bright powered his way into the end zone from 2 yards out, Siaosi Mariner snared an across-the-body pass from Jordan Love for a 29-yard TD, Colombi tossed a perfect 30-yard fade to Derek Wright in the corner of the end zone and third-string quarterback Andrew Peasley burned the Seawolves on a 59-yard sprint to paydirt.
Fourteen different Aggies caught a pass — 10 of them hauled in at least two — and seven different players combined for the 325 rushing yards. USU, which has racked up 40-plus points in its last seven home games, had six passing plays of 25 or more yards against the Seawolves and five rushes of 22 or more yards.
Meanwhile, USU’s defense didn’t allow any explosive plays. Stony Brook’s longest pass was 15 yards and its best run was an 11-yard QB scramble. Additionally, the Aggies were much better on third downs as the Seawolves only converted at a 5 for 17 clip. Wake Forest was successful on 13 of 24 third downs against USU.
“It was big,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “You just need to grow and grow as a football team, no matter who you’re playing. We kept challenging this defense to continue to grow, develop and put them in those spots. You have to earn your way to third downs, and third downs are the only down you have to get. We flipped the charts on that ... from a week ago.”
The Aggies were pitching a shutout until the Seawolves put together a 14-play, 75-yard TD march in the third quarter. It was one of only two drives by the visitors that lasted more than eight plays.
USU limited Stony Brook to 263 total yards — 111 in the first half — and 3.6 yards per play. The Seawolves went three and out on their first five possessions and seven times total in the contest. Additionally, Stony Brook only picked up one first down on two of its possessions. USU’s defense only had two three and outs en route to conceding 579 total yards against Wake Forest.
Granted, they didn’t have to square off against Wake Forest’s big, talented wide receivers, but USU’s defensive backs fared much better against Stony Brook. Two Stony Brook signal callers combined to complete 19 of 42 passes for 155 yards, one TD and one interception. The Demon Deacons racked up 401 yards through the air against the Aggies, who broke up nine passes against the Seawolves.
True freshman Cam Lampkin made his first career start at cornerback and looked pretty sharp. No. 18 had a pair of solo tackles and broke nice on a pass he knocked away, but definitely could have picked off.
“It’s just wild ... Cam’s composure,” Andersen said. “You know, Cam played in a very, very competitive league in high school, and that really helps him. And he came from a high school program that was very, very structural oriented, and I think it’s helped him adjust to this level. And he came in with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief, and he continues to grow and develop. ... He’s just been a pleasant surprise and, don’t forget, that two-and-a-half weeks ago he was a wide receiver, so it’s pretty special what that kid’s (doing).”
The Aggies were without a trio of their top cornerbacks against the Seawolves in Cam Haney, Zahodri Jackson and Arizona State graduate transfer Terin Adams. Haney, a projected starter, has yet to play this season, although he was warming up on Merlin Olsen Field prior to last Saturday’s game. Freshman corner Dominic Tatum played quite a bit against Stony Brook.
Troy Lefeged Jr. actually started at nickelback against Stony Brook, with fellow junior college transfer Cash Gilliam taking his place in the starting lineup at safety.
“Troy moving over to nickel was an adjustment that we thought we needed to make,” Andersen said. “But both of those guys, (Legefed) and Grace (Andre Grayson) did a nice job today. ... We need to be two-deep at those positions, also. Now that requires Troy to go back and forth from safety to nickel, but hopefully as we grow we’ll get more of those safeties that can come in and take some of those reps.”
Grayson came off the bench and intercepted his first pass as an Aggie. Shaq Bond continues to shine as USU’s other starting safety.
USU AMONG MW LEADERS
The Aggies currently pace the Mountain West in total offense (656.5 yards per game) and scoring offense (48.5 points per game). USU is third and 16th nationally in both of those categories.
Warren has rushed for more than 100 yards in his first two games as an Aggie, and currently ranks second in the conference and 12th among all FBS players in rushing yards an outing with 123.0.
Love ranks third in the MW in passing (355.0 ypc), total offense (371.5 ypg) and passing efficiency (152.2). The junior holds down the No. 9 spot nationally in passing offense and is 10th in total offense.
USU linebacker David Woodward ranks first in the league in solo tackles (20), second in total tackles (28), second in tackles for loss (3.5) and fumbles forced (two). The junior is third nationally in tackles per game with 14.0.
Mariner is third in the Mountain West and tied for 25th nationally with 6.5 receptions an outing.
MW WEEKLY AWARDS
Hawaii receiver JoJo Ward repeated as Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after catching 10 passes for 189 yards and four TDs in his team’s 31-28 victory over Oregon State at home. The senior matched the single-game conference record with his four TD receptions.
San Diego State senior linebacker Kyahva Tezino was named the MW Defensive POTW after finishing with nine tackles — seven solo stops — 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and one forced fumble in his team’s 23-14 road triumph over UCLA. The Aztecs limited the Bruins to 261 total yards.
SDSU kicker Matt Araiza was tabbed as the league’s Special Teams POTW after booting a trio of field goals and two PATs against UCLA. The freshman nailed a career-long 43-yard FG, and five of his six kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.