LOGAN — Un-bowl-ievable.
Running back Robert Turbin caught the game-winning touchdown to beat Nevada 21-17 last Saturday, and the Utah State Aggies are bowl eligible for the first time since 1997.
"Finally,” Turbin said. “It has been a long time for me, I have been here since 2007, and five years later we are finally bowl eligible. Words can't really describe the feeling that I have.”
“I couldn’t be more happy,” Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. “It’s a great day to be an Aggie; that’s all I can tell you. That was an unbelievable performance by a group of kids who just kept on fighting. All the credit goes to them. When their backs were up against a wall, they turn around a make a play.”
Quarterback Adam Kennedy sealed the win for Utah State with a 10-yard scramble on third-and-10 to allow an Aggie kneel on the next play to run the clock out.
“Right before the play they told me don't be afraid to give it,” Kennedy said. “It was just so huge that I had to take it. I pulled it, and I went in there. I didn't want to be that guy that fumbled, so if you see it I have both hands on the ball and fell forward, and luckily with my lengthy body I got the first down.”
Kennedy went 7 for 14 for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Nevada was poised to take the lead just minutes before, but Wolf Pack quarterback Tyler Lantrip fumbled the ball away to senior linebacker Bobby Wagner on fourth-and-1, 11 yards from the end zone.
“We fumbled the ball,” Nevada head coach Chris Ault said, “got the first down, got the chance and did not get it done. The difference in a ball game is a play like that — that was one of the differences.”
Utah State led for fewer than 20 minutes of the game.
Nevada got on the board first with a 19-yard chip shot field goal after the Aggie defense made a red-zone stop in the first quarter. The Wolf Pack followed the field goal with a 35-yard touchdown run by running back Mark Lampford in the second to make it 10-0.
Lampford led all rushers with 22 carries for 111 yards and one touchdown.
Kennedy connected with senior wide receiver Eric Moats for 50 yards to get to the Nevada 11, late in the half. Two plays later, running back Kerwynn Williams took the ball in from 10 yards to pull within three.
Williams led the Aggies in rushing with nine carries for 71 yards and one touchdown.
Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo drove Nevada from his own 26 after the ensuing kickoff, but the drive ended on the Aggie 14 when kicker Jake Hurst missed a 31-yard attempt and the half ended 10-7, Nevada.
The rest of the scoring came in the final two minutes of the third quarter.
Kennedy threw a 40-yard pass to junior wide receiver Matt Austin to get the Aggies to the Nevada 21-yard line, and on the next play the two hooked up again to give the Aggies a four-point lead with 1:48 left in the third.
On the second play after the ensuingkickoff, Nevada wide receiver Rishard Matthews caught a screen pass and ran 76 yards to put the Wolf Pack back on top 17-14.
Matthews had 12 catches for 205 yards.
Utah State got the ball back and called timeout with two seconds left in the quarter. Kennedy threw a bubble screen to senior wide receiver Stanley Morrison on the left.
Morrison dropped back and threw to Turbin, who slipped behind the Nevada secondary on the opposite corner of the end zone.
"Those balls that sit up in the air like that are the hardest ones to catch for some reason,” Turbin said about his bobbled catch. “The only thing that you think about is you wish it would hurry up and get down to you, and then you don't want to drop the ball.”
Turbin finished with 20 total touches for 97 all-purpose yards and a single touchdown.
“What a great way to send out these seniors,” Andersen said. “They deserve everything they’re getting.”
Utah State will next face New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M. on Saturday.
Tavin Stucki is a sophomore journalism student at Utah State University. He is the sports editor and football beat writer for the Utah Statesman, the Aggie campus newspaper. Twitter: @tavinstucki