The Utah State Aggies football team has not played pretty all year, but that doesn’t matter now after winning five in a row and securing a winning record with a 24-21 victory in the “Aggie Bowl” over the New Mexico State Aggies.
Head coach Gary Andersen led his team to an exciting road win in Las Cruces, N.M. After a game like this the Aggie-faithful are often left scratching their heads, but today they do so willingly. Let’s see if we can sort some things out:
It’s hard to say whether Utah State came out a little flat on offense and defense because they knew they were going to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl or because they felt they could walk over NMSU.
Maybe flat isn’t the right word to use – it might be better to say aggressively conservative. The Aggies ran for an impressive 393 yards, but they only threw the ball 16 times (including one from junior wide receiver Stanley Morrison on a fourth down attempt) for 123 yards. A lot of those throws were short crossing routes or wide receiver screens.
The two longest plays Utah State had through the air was a 21-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Adam Kennedy to junior running back Robert Turbin and a deep prayer pass to Morrison that went for 48 yards early in the game. Those two plays accounted for more than half of USU’s passing yards.
Amazingly, all three of USU’s touchdowns were in the air.
When Kennedy wasn’t simply handing the ball off to one of the Aggie running backs, he was usually running the read option.
Utah State did attempt two fourth down conversions, but were unsuccessful on both due to very conservative play calls.
One could say that offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin was playing his cards close to the chest as to catch the Aggies bowl opponent off guard. Whatever the case may be, let’s hope the Aggies don’t play this way on Dec. 17 in Boise.
Taking into account Observation 1, the Utah State running backs had quite the game. Senior Michael Smith ran for an impressive 117 yards and Turbin added a modest 98 yards.
Where the Aggies really showed their running versatility is with Kennedy, who came to Logan as more of a pocket quarterback then a runner, but the junior transfer ran for 95 yards.
Adding in junior Kerywinn Williams’ 68 yards and junior wide receiver Chuck Jacob’s end around, and the Aggies ran for an amazing 393 yards.
Combined, Utah State ran the ball 72 times in the game against New Mexico State. Every time USU ran the ball, they gave NMSU less and less time to make the big play that could have cost Utah State the win.
Considering the final score and the amount of passing yards Utah State allowed, the defensive secondary played well for the most part of the game.
Take out the 51-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Matt Christian to junior wide receiver Kemonte Bateman and USU’s defense might have had their best game yet.
That seems odd to say considering they allowed 252 yards passing, but sophomore cornerback Nevin Lawson held NMSU’s senior star wide receiver Taveon Rodgers to just six catches and 73 yards receiving.
With New Mexico State throwing up a Hail Mary near the end of the fourth quarter, Lawson recorded his first, and the USU defensive secondary’s first interception of the season. Senior linebacker Kyle Gallagher also had his first interception of the season in the second.
Utah State will now have two weeks to rest and prepare for their first bowl appearance since 1997 and there should be no worry in Logan; Andersen will have his team ready to go at kick-off in Boise.
Justin McKissick is a KSL.com contributor originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently seeking a Communications degree. Justin has been covering USU sports since 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @justin_sr.