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Same song, third verse as Aggies lose to BYU

Same song, third verse as Aggies lose to BYU

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PROVO -- The Utah State Aggies may be the most charitable football team I have ever seen. Auburn, Colorado State, and now BYU all agree, and their records show it.

It was all too familiar for Aggies fans on Friday night in Provo. Utah State controlled the first three and a half quarters and then gave the game back to the Cougars.

Fans on both sides of the equation may argue about the way in which BYU won the game. Did BYU win it or did Utah State lose it? Was it Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson that won the game or was it a combination of the Aggies' fourth quarter struggles on offense and defense that lost the game?

Or was it a balance of both sides?

The discussion of this topic could go on for quite a long time. In fact, in the time since the game on Friday night, I have seen it in several different circles, sometimes in a much heated manner.

Regardless of that particular discussion, it was the same song, third verse for the 1-3 Aggies. Utah State was this close to holding onto the Old Wagon Wheel for a second consecutive year and winning in Provo for the first time since 1978. If games were only 58 minutes long, the Aggies would be 4-0 this year.

USU junior running back Robert Turbin provided a simple answer to the question of why the Aggies collapsed again late in the fourth quarter.

"We just don't make plays when we need to", he said, referring to his offensive unit.

That has been the story of 2011 Utah State Aggies so far this year. It's the song that has come back to haunt the Aggie faithful this season. This was just verse three of that song.

Friday's game was the first time that the Aggies did not lead their opponent in total offense. BYU amassed 451 yards overall, while Utah State recorded 406 yards which is 75 yards less than the season average for the Aggies.

Utah State is one of 14 teams in FBS college football that is perfect in the red zone. The Aggies red zone performance on Friday kept them in that category, as they scored on both chances they had on the night.

A continuing theme on the season is the Aggies rushing attack. Utah State is ranked fifth nationally in rushing at 308 yards per game, but against BYU they ran for only 284 yards. Even though that is a mere 24 yards less than their season average and is still impressive nonetheless, Utah State relies on their run game for a large percentage of their total offense and needs to dominate each game in order to succeed.

The Aggies ran 37 times on the day in a very balanced manner as four players rushed at least six times. Turbin ran nine times for 125 yards and a touchdown. He now owns sole possession of third place on USU's career rushing list with 30 rushing touchdowns. Turbin also is only one of two players in all of FBS college football with at least two touchdowns in all of their games during the 2011 season, as he is tied with running back Montee Ball of No. 7 Wisconsin.

Utah State only scored once with the rushing attack on Friday, the first time in three games that the Aggies have not scored at least five rushing touchdowns in a game.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton continues to impress as he threw two touchdown passes on Friday. Keeton now stands at four touchdowns and zero interceptions on the season for the Aggies.

The freshman quarterback's accuracy was a little lower than his season average of 62 percent as he completed only 13 of 25 passes (52 percent) for 122 yards.

Keeton connected with eight different receivers on the night including once to Stanley Morrison, who extended his WAC-leading games with a reception streak to 28 straight.

The Aggies' defense struggled, according to their standards, on Friday. The 451 yards that Utah State gave up against the Cougars is 180 yards more than their season average. The Aggies came into the game ranked 12th nationally in total defense.

Senior linebacker Bobby Wagner collected 11 tackles on the night, just shy of his 12.7 tackles per game average coming into the game. Wagner ranks sixth in FBS college football and first in the WAC in tackles. Walter McClenton recorded nine tackles while Kyle Gallagher collected eight Friday night.

The special teams had a flawless day in terms of turnovers along with good coverage on kickoffs, punts, and returns.

An interesting twist this week was the use of four different players on kickoffs. Usual kickoff specialist Josh Thompson only kicked the ball once for Utah State, resulting in the ball going out of bounds. Jamaine Olson, Jaron Bentrude, and Jacob Haueter all kicked the ball for the Aggies, with Haueter getting two chances and ending up with the best average of all four players at 66.5 yards per kick.

Running back Kerwynn Williams became the WAC's all-time leader in return yards on Friday when he broke Cedric Johnson's 15 year-old record of 2,782 return yards. Johnson, who played for UTEP from 1993-96, was a senior when he earned the all-time record. USU's Williams is a junior, giving him yet another season of action to increase his total. His record-breaking performance just adds to the hype of Williams being the most dangerous return man in FBS college football.

Utah State's loss is their 16th straight in Provo against the Cougars, and 11th in the last 12 games against their in-state rivals. The Aggies trend of poor outings on non-Saturday games continued as well with their 15th loss in the last 16 contests. September 30th is also a historically bad day for the Aggies to play, as they now fall to 7-10 all-time including seven straight losses.

The Aggies have also not won on the road within the state of Utah in 14 years. The last time they won on the road in the Beehive State was against the Utah Utes in 1997.

Utah State was looking to win consecutive games against BYU for the first time since 1973-74. The Cougars lead the all-time series against the Aggies with a record of 43-34-3.

The team now heads back to Logan to regroup once again and prepare for their final non-conference game of the season on October 8th against their border-rival, the Wyoming Cowboys of the Mountain West Conference. It will be the last night game at Romney Stadium for the 2011 campaign, with kickoff slated for 6:00 p.m.


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Matt Harris


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