Defense strong, special teams gets ugly in Utah State's OT loss in Jonesboro

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JONESBORO, Ark. — At first glance, Utah State’s 21-14 overtime loss at Arkansas State (2-2) may not seem to have a whole lot of good that came from it.

But there were moments of greatness from several sides of the Aggies' game. The offense showed flashes of brilliance, the defense forced turnovers and third-down drops all night, and another wide receiver has opened up as a weapon in the passing game.

The good doesn’t outweigh the bad, and it’s still a loss on the record. But there are plenty of positives to take away before Utah State’s post-bye showdown Oct. 3 at BYU.

The Pretty Good: Offense ------------------------

No, you read that right. The Aggie offense came out strong, considering the circumstances. Darell Garretson was sharp in his first start of the season, completing 27 of 46 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and one interception — including 115 yards and a touchdown in the opening quarter. His 81-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Sharp was the longest completion of his career, and the longest catch of junior college transfer Sharp. Ronald Butler caught his first touchdown of the season, bringing his 2014 total to two scores.

The Aggies struggled to score through large portions of the game. But for a team that was starting a backup sophomore quarterback (albeit one with a half-dozen wins under his belt), on the road, and with several key absences due to injury, the offense wasn’t bad.

Double mention for Sharp’s touchdown, which combined a perfect over-the-top throw by Garretson and a great catch-and-secure by Sharp. The junior wide receiver from Palmdale, California, led all receivers with 130 yards and a touchdown on nine catches, and Butler chipped in 80 yards on five receptions.

The Really Good: Defense

Utah State started to take the ball away early with a forced fumble by linebacker Nick Vigil. The defenders continued to bring pressure with a sack by safety Devin Centers. The Aggies have now forced 10 turnovers in their last three games and held teams scoreless in the first quarter in 27 of their last 33 contests.

The defense nearly pulled out the win, too, when LT Filiaga recovered a fumble with 47 seconds remaining to give Nick Diaz a chance in regulation. But the kick was blocked to send the game into overtime.

The Ugly: Kicking and Special Teams

Jake Thompson missed his first attempt, though a 45-yard field goal was no gimme.

Jaron Bertrude, the solid punter, muffed the snap on a punt attempt in the third quarter and gave the ball to Arkansas State just 13 yards from the goal line to set up the Red Wolves’ first touchdown.

Nick Diaz missed a long field goal as time expired in regulation that would’ve won the game for the Aggies, and the Red Wolves would score quickly in overtime to plant the game-winning dagger.

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Sean Walker


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