It’s headed south.
After spending two years in Cache Valley, the Wagon Wheel is leaving.
BYU made sure of that late Saturday night at Maverik Stadium. The Cougars used two quarterbacks and neither seemed to miss a beat against Utah State. In fact, both shredded the Aggie defense in the 89th meeting between the in-state rivals, ruining a Black Out game for USU. BYU left town with a 42-14 win.
“BYU out played us,” Aggie head coach Gary Andersen said. “They deserved to win, and they did. So congratulations to them. Other than that, you can ask all the questions you want, but we got outplayed. We’re going to come back fighting. We’re going to learn from it.”
It got so bad, that early in the fourth quarter Aggie students started to exit the stadium.
The Cougars (4-4) gained 639 yards of total offense, including 418 through the air. Starting quarterback Jaren Hall threw for 214 yards on 12 of 16 passing in the first half. He did not play in the second half due to concussion protocol. Baylor Romney picked right up where Hall left off and threw for 191 yards on 10 of 16 passing. Romney tossed two touchdowns, while Hall ran for two as he finished with 54 yards rushing on seven carries.
“Turnovers and bad tackling,” Andersen said when asked what happened.
The Aggies (4-4) were coming off an embarrassing loss at Air Force a week ago, and it didn’t get much better Saturday. Well, for a half it was a little better, and the USU offense did seem to come out of its funk by running 82 plays and gaining 521 yards. However, there were five turnovers.
“We had some mojo at times tonight, which was good to see,” Andersen said. “We got some things going, but we have to finish drives and we can’t turn it over. We got yards out there, so we saw significant improvement from the last couple of weeks on offense, but you didn’t see us finish drives because we turned it over or had a big sack. When we continually understand our deficiencies, then that’s a big part of it.”
USU wide receiver Jordan Nathan, who caught a career-high seven passes for a career-high 133 yards, felt the offense played better Saturday, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“It’s very frustrating, but we have to fight through,” Nathan said. “We have to find our sweet spot in this offense. If that’s playing pitch-and-catch and blocking up front and running through stuff and making extra great plays, then that’s what we have to do as an offense. We can’t be hesitant anymore. We have to be willing to make plays for this team in order to get what we want. It’s a process.”
The loss also ended a streak of 10 straight victories at home for USU in which the Aggies had scored at least 34 points in each of those outings and won by double digits. The defeat also halted an attempt to beat BYU three straight times for the first time since the early 70’s.
With the Cougars celebrating and playing loud music just below the interview area after the game, the Aggies had to listen.
“We are not going to take it (loss) lightly,” said USU cornerback Cam Lampkin who had an interception. “We are pissed about it. But we have to move on. We can’t hang our heads because we have more games ahead.”
The Cougars have now won two straight now against Mountain West Conference foes. Before having a bye last week, BYU beat then No. 14 Boise State in Provo, 28-25.
“We played a little bit of a different, unique-base defense tonight,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I think we caught the offense off guard. I like that we made them earn it. Points are all I care about, so we’ll take all those yards if they only get 14 points.”
The Aggie defense was without star linebacker David Woodward, who came into the game as the second leading tackler in the country. Andersen does not talk about injuries, but did say the team knew Woodward would be out and prepared to play without him. Woodward has had some concussions in the past.
“Woody is a big part of that defense; it wasn’t good to not have him out there today,” Andersen said. “I wish he was. He would have made a difference, but he is not going to win the football game for us. More players need to step up and make plays.
BYU blew the game open in the second half. The Cougars scored on three of their first four possessions after halftime. Lampkin prevented it being four of four, coming up with his interception in the end zone.
“We left some points on the field, and we could have caused some more havoc on defense, but for the most part, all three phases I was happy with,” Sitake said.
After the Aggies began the game with a three-and-out on offense, the Cougars drove 93 yards on 11 plays. BYU converted two third-down plays, and wide receiver Aleva Hifo scored from six yards out on an end around. The opening score came with 9:22 left in the first quarter.
Both teams cashed in on turnovers later in the opening half. However, the Aggies had to drive 86 yards to get their score. BYU had to go just 16 yards.
With the Cougars knocking on the door of the end zone, Shaq Bond caused a fumble. Justus Te’i scooped up the free pigskin and returned it to the USU 14. The Aggies drove the 86 yards to paydirt. Siaosi Mariner created a little space in the end zone, and quarterback Jordan Love delivered a 26-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter. Love finished with 394 yards passing on 29 of 49 attempts, but had three interceptions.
After forcing the Cougars to punt for the first time in the game, three plays later Love threw his first pick of three in the game. Kavika Fonua made the interception, and Hall broke free for a 16-yard TD run on the first play of the drive.
Payton Wilgar came up with the second pick for BYU’s defense. The Cougars cashed in by driving 71 yards in seven plays. Hall scored again with his feet from seven yards out.
The Aggies came up with a big drive just before halftime. The hosts marched 86 yards on 11 plays, converting two third-and-long plays. Gerold Bright carried the ball on the last three plays of the possession, reaching over for a 1-yard TD with 34 ticks left in the first half.
The Cougars took a 21-14 lead into the break.
With Romney running the BYU offense, the Cougars quickly made it 28-14. By the end of the third it was 35-14.
USU turned the ball over on downs at the BYU 1-yard line, lost a fumble inside the 10-yard line in the red zone and late in the game was driving only to have an interception thwart another scoring opportunity.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted today against our biggest rival,” Nathan said. “Games like this help create a stepping stone for our offense and our team. We’ll just build off of what happened tonight.”
• USU kicker Dominik Eberle became the career scoring leader at USU late in the first quarter with an extra point. He added to his total in the second quarter and now has 310 points. Robert Turbin was the previous record holder at 308.
• With Woodward out, safety Troy Lefeged Jr. led the Aggies in the tackles department with nine.
• BYU wide receiver Moroni Laulu-Pututau is a Mountain Crest alum. He finished with three catches for 44 yards.
• The Aggie men’ basketball team showed off their Mountain West championship rings at halftime as they were honored Saturday night.