Grading Utah State's 21-6 win over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Utah State pulled off a 21-6 win over UTEP in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl Saturday for its program-record third straight bowl win, moving the Aggies (10-3) to 4-6 all-time in postseason play.

The game became the fourth-highest attended New Mexico Bowl of all-time, drawing 28,275 fans, or the most since 2010. It was also the fourth-coldest New Mexico Bowl at 39 degrees at the time of kickoff.

Here’s how the Aggies stacked up in their fourth straight bowl game.

Offense: B+ -----------

Kent Myers made good use of his first postseason trip, accounting for 138 of the Aggies’ 347 yards of total offense. The true freshman signal-caller scored a 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which would have been enough to beat the Miners.

The Aggies were forced to their fifth quarterback of the season, and wide receiver Ronald Butler got the call when Myers briefly went into the locker room following a vicious hit in the backfield. Butler’s first play at quarterback went for a 61-yard run, his longest of the season, and Myers later returned on that drive.

The game also saw the re-emergence of Nick Vigil at running back. The sophomore two-way wunderkind scored his third touchdown of the season on offense, barrelling in up the middle for a 3-yard score on Utah State’s opening drive of the second half. Vigil finished with 34 yards on eight carries — and didn’t account for a single negative-yardage play.

Joe Hill helped the offense put the game away late, scoring a critical touchdown in the fourth quarter and finishing with 50 yards on four carries.

Myers sputtered at times in the passing game, completing 5-of-12 passes for 68 yards and an interception as Jimmy Musgrave and the UTEP defense brought thorough pressure. Hunter Sharp caught three passes for 21 yards, ending his season just shy of 1,000 yards for the year.

Defense: A

It’s hard to fault a team for holding anyone to three points in the first half and six points overall. The Aggies didn’t allow an offensive touchdown for the first time since Nov. 7 at Wyoming.

The Vigil brothers — Zach and Nick — were their usual selves, accounting for a combined 16 tackles and a tackle for loss. Zach Vigil earned defensive player of the game in his final appearance with the Aggies, and Brian Suite came up from his free safety spot to lead the team with a season-high 10 tackles, including eight solo.

Tyler Floyd had his first interception of the year with a pick on Jameil Showers with 5:54 to go in the third quarter. Defensive end John Taylor had his first career sack as the Aggies pressured UTEP quarterback Jameil Showers all afternoon with two sacks and three quarterback hurries.

Special Teams: B-

There was not a ton of action from the third unit for Utah State, but Jaron Bentrude was solid when called upon at 38.2 yards per punt.

But usually steadfast kicker Nick Diaz had an off game, missing a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. He then missed a 47-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, but neither miff had much bearing on the game — except in Las Vegas.

JoJo Natson had 25 punt-return yards as part of his game-high 112 all-purpose yards.

Team: A-

Utah State rinsed its mouth of the sour taste from an embarrassing loss at Boise State in the regular-season finale. The seniors ended their careers on a high note, especially in defenders Zach Vigil and Suite, while the Aggie youth flashed several impressive moments that could have this team building even more for the future.

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Sean Walker


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