The possibility of an Aggie comeback was looking relatively promising after they capped off a 90-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Logan Bonner to Deven Thompkins, which pared the Cougars' lead to 27-20 with 9:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for Utah State, all of that momentum swiftly drifted away into a pleasant Cache Valley evening one play from scrimmage later. BYU star running back Tyler Allgeier broke contain and busted off a 68-yard run on first down, scored his third touchdown two plays later and helped propel the 13th-ranked Cougars to a 34-20 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 25,240 on Friday at Maverik Stadium.
“What a game, honestly," USU head coach Blake Anderson said. "What an atmosphere. That was an unbelievable crowd, electric environment, everything you want Friday night football to be. I’m extremely proud of our guys’ battle. We played a lot better than we did a week ago (against Boise State). We got better this week. We were frustrated with how we finished a week ago, with a lot of mistakes. We played a lot cleaner football, we battled our tails off."
Allgeier amassed 218 yards on 22 carries as the Cougars (5-0) returned to Provo with the Old Wagon Wheel for the two straight time in the long-standing series. Simply put, Allgeier elevated his level of play precisely when his team needed a boost, which was necessitated when second-string quarterback Baylor Romney was injured in the final minute of the second quarter. Starting signal caller Jaren Hall was sidelined with an injury for the second straight game.
"We felt like this was going to take 60 minutes, we were going to have to hold out early," Anderson said. "They were bigger than us, more physical than us and we knew it was going to be tough to move the ball and tough to stop. As the game went on, we felt like our conditioning and our speed and quickness would pay off, and it did. We battled back to a seven-point game. We made a crucial mistake at a crucial time, and it cost us the opportunity to go close it and make this thing fun.
"... They were a little bit better and stronger than us, but that will not last. We’ll recruit our tail off, we’ll develop our tail off and we will make this a battle every stinkin’ year. This is one we won’t forget.”
Indeed, they played hard, but it was still a missed opportunity for the Aggies, who somehow managed to only be down by 11 points at halftime, 24-13, despite giving up 291 yards of total offense. BYU got off to a very slow start in the third quarter with third-stringer Jacob Conover, a freshman, orchestrating the offense. Case in point: The Cougars went three and out on their first three possessions.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, they were unable to capitalize on the Cougars' bad luck at the quarterback position as they only had success moving the ball one of their three series in the third quarter. USU methodically marched to BYU's 33-yard line on its second possession of the quarter, but BYU came through with a stop on a fourth-and-1 run by John Gentry.
Both teams only mustered up 134 total yards in the third quarter --- 61 for the Aggies and 73 by the Cougars. BYU finally pieced together a promising drive at the end of the quarter and extended its advantage to 27-13 on a 32-yard field goal by Jake Oldroyd.
The Aggies answered back with the aforementioned 90-play march to paydirt, with was capped off by Thompkins's TD reception on play No. 14. Thompkins contributed with 125 yards on a career-high nine receptions. It was USU's second touchdown drive of 14 or more plays in the contest.
Allgeier, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards a year ago, then proceeded to put his stamp on the game with his 68-yard scamper, and the Cougars were in control the rest of the way. No. 25 gained 103 on his yards in the final quarter, making the game much more manageable for Conover, who completed 5 of 9 passes for 45 yards.
Bonner hyperextended his knee midway through the fourth quarter and was replaced by Andrew Peasley. Bonner was just off the mark on a few potential explosive passes, but showed a lot of grit and tenacity en route to throwing for 276 yards and a pair of TDs, vs. one interception, on 21 of 41 attempts.
"I don't know a lot, just what the trainers told me," Anderson said when asked about Bonner's injury. "They felt like structurally it felt OK. It was a hyperextension. It was kind of nasty. We're fortunate we have an open week, but we'll get it looked at, a MRI and we'll know more in a few days. But he did walk off the field on his own. He's pretty sore, but he's also pretty tough. I'd like to think that it's something we can get him past and get him back for the rest of the (season)."
Peasley completed 5 of 7 passes for 38 yards and was picked off once, by former Aggie Jakob Robinson with 1:19 remaining in the contest. BYU won the turnover battle, 2-0, and is now plus-eight in turnover margin during the 2021 campaign. The Cougars have only turned the ball over twice in five games.
Not only did the Cougars take care of the football, they did an outstanding job defending the run as they limited the Aggies to a measly 22 yards on 35 attempts. Calvin Tyler Jr., the leading rusher in the Mountain West, was limited to three yards on 12 carries. USU entered the contest averaging 213.5 yards on the ground an outing.
BYU's prowess on both sides of the trenches was certainly a big reason why it finished with 456 total yards to USU's 336.
“It was a fun game," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. "Thought it was a really, really cool environment. Just really, I mean it was loud and a lot of fun. A lot of credit to Utah State and their fans being loud tonight and showing up and supporting their team. Just like to thank all the fans that showed up for us. Glad that we were able to ground out the win. It wasn’t easy. Utah State, give them a lot of credit, they made things really difficult for us to get this win. But I’m just proud of our players and the way they made enough plays to win the game."
In addition to finishing strong, it was certainly an ideal start for the Cougars, who got a big interception from Malik Moore on the game's fifth play from scrimmage, and then promptly marched down the field on their first possession. The visitors only needed four plays to advance the pigskin 74 yards, and the drive culminated with a 22-yard scoring run by Allgeier, who broke a tackle on the play and was off to the races.
USU went three and out on its second possession, and BYU gave itself a short field courtesy of a 22-yard punt return by Hobbs Nyberg. The Aggies nearly kept the Cougars off the scoreboard shortly thereafter when Nick Heninger laid the wood on Romney as he was attempting a pass. The play was ruled a fumble and USU was unable to recover, despite being in great position to pounce on the loose ball.
Oldroyd lofted a 49-yard field through the uprights to give the Cougars a 10-0 lead with 5:06 remaining in the first quarter. BYU scored points on its first four possessions of the contest and accumulated 187 of their 291 opening-half yards through the air. Romney dissected USU's secondary during the half as he completed 15 of 19 passes.
The Aggies had some success moving the ball on their third series, which was highlighted by a 32-yard pass from Bonner to Thompkins and a career-long 52-yard field goal by Connor Coles late in the first quarter. The kick had enough distance by a matter of inches.
USU's momentum was short-lived, though, as BYU capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 15-yard pass and catch to paydirt from Romney to tight end Isaac Rex.
The Aggies did bounce back with an epic 18-yard drive that sliced 7:39 off the game clock and covered 75 yards. USU converted on third-and-8 (defensive holding), third-and-9 (12-yard pass to Derek Wright), fourth-and-2 (2-yard run by Elelyon Noa), third-and-4 (5-yard run by Noa), third-and-12 (15-yard pass to Wright) and third-and-15 on the series. Bonner deftly escaped pressure and fired a 21-yard scoring strike to Justin McGriff on the third-and-15 play.
But, just like he did in the fourth quarter, Allgeier speedily quelled USU's momentum, this time with a 59-yard sprint to the end zone less than two minutes after McGriff's touchdown. The Aggies did gain some of that momentum back when Coles booted a 45-yard field goal, paring his team's deficit to 24-13 on its ensuing possession.
BYU quickly drove into field goal range in the waning seconds of the second quarter, but Oldroyd's 49-yard field goal drifted wide left.
Despite their struggles stopping the run, the Aggies still managed to rack up a season-high 11 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Marcus Moore had 2.5 of them in his way to a career-high nine tackles. Heninger and Kevin Meitzenheimer chipped in with 2.0 tackles for loss apiece for the Aggies, who got a career-high nine tackles from safety Hunter Reynolds. Reynolds and Heninger each had a sack.
Three different BYU players had one sack, and linebacker Ben Bywater paced the visitors in tackles (nine) and tackles for loss (3.0). Kaleb Hayes broke up three passes for the Cougars.
Wright and Brandon Bowling teamed up for 112 yards on nine receptions for the Aggies, who converted on 11 of 21 third downs and 2 of 3 fourth downs. Not only was USU efficient on third downs, it managed to get back some of its mojo in the passing game after last Saturday's struggles against Boise State.
“It was good," Thompkins said. "That built up a lot of confidence with us just getting the ball down the field, the way that we moved the ball. We know that when we put the ball in the air that we can drive the ball down the field any time we want to."
Captaining the Aggies in their 90th installment of their rivalry with the Cougars were offensive lineman Demytrick Ali'ifua, tight end Carson Terrell, striker Patrick Maddox, linebacker AJ Vongphachanh and Heninger.
* USU fell to 5-62 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
* BYU now leads the all-time series, 50-37-3.