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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- An ugly two-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters was not enough to deter the Aggies.

Not even remotely close.

San Jose State turned a pair of Utah State turnovers into touchdowns during those potentially fateful two minutes, but the Aggies came storming back with 24 straight points during the final 12:40 of the opening half. USU then proceeded to bury SJSU in the fourth quarter and coasted to a statement-making 48-17 victory in a crucial Mountain West showdown on a pleasant late Saturday evening in front of an announced crowd of 15,135 at CEFCU Stadium.

In the process, the Aggies improved to 5-0 on the road -- the first time they've won their first five road games since 1973 -- and remained in the driver's seat in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with just two contests remaining. Additionally, it's the sixth time during the 2021 campaign -- fifth time in as many road games -- USU has prevailed after overcoming a double-digit deficit.

Much to the delight of head coach Blake Anderson, his Aggies put together arguably their best all-around performance of the season and in their biggest game, to boot. USU finished with a whopping 410-150 edge in total offense. It was, without question, Utah State's best defensive performance of the season as it limited the defending Mountain West champions to a paltry 2.77 yards per play and a 1 of 13 success rate on third downs.

"Great game, great game on the road against the defending (MW) champs," Anderson said. "I told the guys, 'if you want to be the champs, you've got to to beat the champs,' and that excepted the challenge.' So many games we've been the underdogs and I think, to some degree, the guys felt a little bit disrespected. They played with unbelievable effort all night long. ... Didn't plan on spotting them 14 points to get started, but they've got a good defense. We knew that. They made some plays that really rattled us early, but from that point on (we outscored them) 48-3, I think. Something crazy like that.

"That's just the defense playing lights out, the offense got rolling, we wore them down. The run game started getting going and we threw the ball well again tonight."

The Aggies were impressively opportunistic when they had the ball in the second quarter as they churned out 24 points on 118 yards of total offense, but it was their defense that ultimately stole the show. USU's defensive line dominated the most experienced offensive line in the country. Defensive linemen Nick Heninger, Marcus Moore and Phillip Paea each contributed with 1.5 tackles for loss for the Aggies, who limited the Spartans to a paltry 81 yards on 31 plays during the first 30 minutes of action.

The biggest defensive play of the half was made by striker Ajani Carter, who stripped SJSU quarterback Nick Nash on a sack and pounced on the ball at the Spartan 4-yard line.

USU capitalized two plays later on a 4-yard pass from Logan Bonner to sure-handed wide receiver Derek Wright in the corner of the end zone, pulling the visitors even at 14-14 with 9:55 remaining in the second quarter. Just like that, the Aggies were able to completely erase a 14-point deficit in just 4:31 of actual game time.

"Well, it was a big play to get a turnover on defense," Carter said. "We always work to get turnovers. ... It was an exciting moment. It feels good to get the offense back on the field and get a score off of it."

Utah State's first touchdown of the quarter was a 2-yard forward pitch from Bonner to Savon Scarver to cap off a quick five-play, 70-yard drive less than two minutes after SJSU had taken a 14-0 lead. Deven Thompkins set the tone on that possession with a 43-yard catch.

The Aggies enjoyed great field position throughout the first half, thanks to their dominant defense, and they capitalized on their ideal field position in their go-ahead TD. A 43-yard drive culminated with a 3-yard scoring plunge by Elelyon Noa with 5:54 remaining in the second quarter.

USU's advantage ballooned to 24-14 when Connor Coles booted a 32-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter. The Aggies benefited from a pair of roughing the passer penalties on that series and finished the opening half with 171 yards on 41 plays.

The Aggies went three and out on their first possession of the third quarter, and the Spartans promptly marched down the field and split the uprights with a 43-yard field goal to pare their deficit to 24-17.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, the Aggies immediately responded with quick touchdown and it snowballed on the visitors the rest of the way. USU's lone TD of the third quarter was a rocket of a 5-yard pass from Bonner to Brandon Bowling over the middle, and it took place 2:20 after Matt Mercurio's field goal.

The Aggies then proceeded to burn the Spartans under an avalanche of 17 fourth-quarter points. USU would have scored 51 points had Coles not pushed a 28-yard field goal wide left early in the quarter.

Wright ultimately put the game out of SJSU's reach when he made an outstanding adjustment on a 41-yard scoring strike from Bonner, extending USU's advantage to 38-17. It was a free play for the Aggies, inasmuch as the Spartans weren't able to get two of their defenders off the field in time.

Wright and Thompkins both made some timely contested catches, just like they have all season.

"Yeah, my job's pretty easy," Bonner said. "I just give (those guys) a chance to go make a play and they make all of the plays, and they make me look good. The O-line did great against a really good defensive front. We knew that we going to be a struggle and we knew that (SJSU's defense) was going to make some plays, and we didn't panic. But those (receivers) make my job a lot easier."

The Aggies only needed to advance the pigskin a combined 25 yards to score their final 10 points of the contest. Coles connected on a 40-yard field goal, followed by a powerful 6-yard run up the middle by Calvin Tyler Jr. Tyler's touchdown was largely made possible in large part thanks to a 45-yard interception return by Carter to the SJSU 8-yard line -- his team-leading third pick of the season and second turnover of the game. Carter also came through with a huge pass breakup on a third-down play earlier in the game.

"Man, I really should have house called that," said Carter, who was a talented high school receiver. "But, you know, I'm a little rusty with the ball in my hands. I've been on the defensive side, so I'm a little rusty carrying the ball. But, it was looking pretty good. I had fun, man."

Bonner ended up completing 20 of 33 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns as he bounced back in a big way after throwing a 58-yard pick-six to SJSU safety Kenyon Reed late in the first quarter. Bonner also established a new USU program record with three straight games with four scoring passes.

"The thing about playing this position is you've got to have a short memory," Bonner said. "(You've got to take) one play at a time and the next play could be something big. ... The defense played really great. I put them in a bad position and they played lights out tonight, and I give them all the credit."

Thompkins finished with 127 yards on five receptions -- the eighth time this season he has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier and the sixth time in a row. Wright, Justin McGriff and Bowling chipped in with three catches apiece.

USU had enough success running the ball to keep SJSU's veteran defense off-balance. The Aggies churned out 147 yards on 47 attempts, while the Spartans managed a paltry 12 yards on 22 attempts. As a result, USU completely dominated the time of possession battle by a 37:03 to 22:57 margin.

"We talked about needing to be patient today, that we had a lot of respect for their team, what they could do on both sides (of the ball)," Anderson said. "So, the ability to run the clock like that and maintain it, and kind of play field position football to some degree is something that we need to be able to do in tough games. And on the road against an opponent like this, that's a tremendous tough environment (to accomplish that)."

Star linebacker Justin Rice finished with a team-high eight tackles, including a couple on crucial third-down stops, for the Aggies, who got six tackles apiece from safety Hunter Reynolds and cornerback Michael Anyanwu. In addition to Carter, Heninger also had a sack for USU, which was able to put relentless pressure on both SJSU quarterbacks, especially in the first half.

NOTES

* The Aggies have won nine straight games against the Spartans and have scored 40 or more points in six of those contests. SJSU still leads the all-time series, 20-19-1.

* USU has won at least eight games in a season for the 13th time in program history.

* The 150 yards the Aggies allowed are the fewest since Weber State gained 138 in 2013.

* Coles had matched his career record with eight consecutive successful field goals before missing on the aforementioned 28-yarder.

* Captaining the Aggies for Saturday's showdown were Heninger, cornerback Zahodri Jackson, offensive lineman Alfred Edwards, Thompkins and long snapper Jacob Garcia.

* Edwards was able to return to the starting lineup after missing last week's road game at New Mexico State with a concussion. Fellow starting O-line Jacob South appeared to suffer a significant knee injury in the second half.

* The 48 points are far and away the most the Spartans have allowed this season. SJSU had only given up 30 or more points on two other occasions, against USC (30) and Colorado State (32).

* USU finished plus one in turnover margin, 3-2.

* The Spartans went three and out on eight of their possessions.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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