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Observations of the game: Utah State vs. Ohio, bowl edition

Observations of the game: Utah State vs. Ohio, bowl edition

By Justin McKissick, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Dec. 17, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.



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BOISE — The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl started out slowly for Utah State University and Ohio University — very slowly. The first half ended 9-7 in the Aggies' favor, but the second half ended the way everyone was expecting it to end: with last-minute big-time plays and last-minute heroics.

When the final whistle sounded, the Aggies had lost another close game, 24-23. Here’s what stood out in the Aggies' latest heart-wrenching loss:

Observation 1

The Aggies have shown all year long they can run the ball using the carousel of juniors Robert Turbin and Kerwynn Williams as well as senior Michael Smith, but the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was a Smith highlight reel.

Smith had touchdown runs of 11 and 63 yards and several times broke it open for big gains. Smith finished the game with the two touchdowns and 156 yards on 12 carries.

Credit the Aggies' offensive line for opening up holes so large that Smith was not alone in the 100-yards squad. Turbin finished his bowl game with 101 yards rushing.

Observation 2

The USU defense played as close to a complete game as it had all season. This is the game head coach Gary Andersen was looking for from his defense all season. Senior linebacker Kyle Gallagher was a force to be reckoned with against the Bobcats, making tackles all over the field.

The Aggie defense was able to come up with plays all night long, but when the game was on the line, the defense just could not answer the call. The Bobcats scored the game winner with just 13 seconds remaining on the game clock. Aggie faithful should have high hopes for coming seasons from this group.

Observation 3

At the end of the night, this was a very difficult loss for the Aggies, especially the seniors. All players played their hearts out but will most likely dwell on the points they left on the field and the plays they just couldn’t make.

Looking back, the biggest flaw for the Aggies was not player controlled. The Aggies' struggles on offense could be directly drawn to unimaginative play calls and obvious decisions.

Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin, yet again, was content calling plays that sent Aggie backs into the heart of the Ohio defense for short 2- or 3-yard gains. Baldwin’s conservative play calls have been a cause of concern all year long and should be called into question this offseason.

All that being said, the Utah State players have no reason to blame themselves. The Aggies played to the best of their ability and gave themselves a chance to win. When all was said and done, the night just didn't go in their favor.

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.

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