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Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal via AP Photo

Balanced offense, stifling defense help Utah State cruise to easy 73-12 win

By Kyle McDonald, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Sep 13th, 2018 @ 11:00pm



LOGAN — Utah State tight end Dax Raymond fumbled on the first play from the line of scrimmage against foe Tennessee Tech Thursday night at Maverik Stadium, gifting the Golden Eagles an early 3-0 lead.

Aggie fans took a deep breath.

But like NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers says, "R-E-L-A-X," Utah State did just that. The Aggies bounced back and racked up 611 total yards of offense in a dominating 73-12 win.

Aggies quarterback Jordan Love threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-26 passing in two quarters before sitting the rest of the game. He also contributed a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

Running backs Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright led the team in rushing, combining for 165 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 45-6 lead at halftime. Thompson and Bright, along with most of the Aggies starters, were done for the night after halftime.

The 45-point first half is the most points in a half since the 2015 season when the Aggies scored 45 points in the first half against Boise State en route to a 52-26 blowout win over the Broncos.

In the win, the Aggies also set the school record for the most games of 500 yards or more of offense under one coach. Thursday's bout was Wells' 12th game with more than 500 yards.

"First of all, I'm proud of our team and our guys for their level of preparation this week," head coach Matt Wells said. "I thought they did a nice job throughout the week preparing and practicing on the short week (and) did a nice job of getting ready to play.

"I thought we came out and started fast."

In a balanced offensive attack, the Aggies ran 48 plays in the first half — 22 rushing and 28 passing plays. Of those 48 plays, 21 went for a first downs. At halftime, the Aggies were 5-of-7 on third down.

Following the opening Tennesse Tech field goal, Utah State reeled off 24 unanswered points that was capped off by a 2-yard run by Love to make it 24-3 to open the second quarter.

Love later connected with receiver Savon Scarver from 36 yards out for a touchdown and followed it up with a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Aaren Vaughns to make it 38-6 late in the half.

"He's got a ton of confidence," Wells said about his sophomore quarterback. "He's got weapons around him. I think that gives him confidence. The success that he has, he's earned that. He's a confident kid. He looks different. He's put on weight and I'm proud of where he's at. Now it's about staying in rhythm."

Receiver Jordan Nathan capped off the first half scoring effort with an electric 59-yard punt return for a touchdown that was aided by a seal block from safety Chase Nelson.

It was the first punt returned for a touchdown for Utah State since the 2015 season opener against Southern Utah when Andrew Rodriguez took a punt to the house in a 12-9 Aggies win over the Thunderbirds.

Utah State finished with 611 yards of total offense (320 rushing, 291 passing) and converted a score on 7-of-8 trips inside the red zone. The Aggies also had seven rushing touchdowns on the night from six different players. Morian Walker Jr. recorded the first two rushing touchdowns of his career, both coming in the fourth quarter.

The Aggies defense also dominating in the first half, holding Tennessee Tech to just 133 total yards, forced another turnover this season — a Gaje Ferguson interception — and held the Golden Eagles to 0-of-8 on third down. About the only thing the defense didn't do in the first half was record a sack.

Nelson, though, made sure the Aggies recorded at least one sack on the night, picking it up early in the fourth quarter on third down. Overall, Utah State held Tennessee Tech to 227 total yards of offense, recorded two turnovers, a sack and held the Golden Eagles to 1-of-15 on third down.

Utah State's 73 points Thursday marks back-to-back games where they've scored more than 50 points in a game. It is just the third time in school history the Aggies have accomplished that mark — all three times occurred while Wells has been the head coach in Logan.

In the win, the Aggies had a couple of negative plays, including two lost fumbles and six penaltiies for 60 yards.

"Our guys are ready," Wells said. "I can see the look. They were talking about it in the fourth quarter already."

Utah State improves to 2-1 on the season and get 10 days off before hosting Air Force in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams in a late kickoff on Sept. 22.

Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias

Kyle McDonald

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