SALT LAKE CITY — Good news, Aggies: Your team won't have to go through that again this year.
Bad news: You still had to go through it on Saturday.
Life after Jordan Love got off to a slow, if not expected start — a 42-13 loss at Boise State in the long-awaited season opener.
And it was slow.
At halftime, the Aggies had just 45 yards, had yet to cross midfield, and were down 28-0. The Aggies receivers couldn't get separation, there were no holes for the Utah State rushers to run through and Jason Shelley had hardly any time to throw. Even Love, a first-round NFL Draft pick last spring, would have had trouble running an effective offense with those limitations — and that might be underselling it.
"It was tough sledding in there from a protection standpoint," Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. "When you got guys whistling around your ear in 1.5 seconds, Peyton Manning in his prime is gonna have a hard time making some things happen."
Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier, though, didn't have any problems making things happen. He connected on his first seven passes of the game and had touchdown passes of 52 and 17 yards before halftime. He was 20-of-28 for 268 yards and three touchdowns for the game.
"I think it just took a while for us to get a feel for what they were running at us," said Cash Gilliam, who had a career-high eight tackles.
The first half was flat. But thanks to senior running back Jaylen Warren, the Aggies didn't look like that the entire game. Down by four touchdowns, Warren put the Aggies on his wide shoulders — at least, metaphorically. It would probably be more accurate to say the Broncos were the ones draped over Warren.
On the first Aggies scoring drive of the season in the third quarter, Warren carried the ball seven times for 49 yards, which included punching in a 1-yard touchdown. Following a disastrous Boise State punt — the kick went right into the back of a Broncos player and bounced backward — Warren carried a defender into the end zone on a third and goal. With that, the score was 28-13 with 11:57 left in the fourth quarter, and the Aggies had a sliver of hope.
Warren finished with 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 23 carries — the Aggies had just 203 yards of offense total. If it wasn't Warren running, not much was happening for Utah State.
"He's a competitor. He's tough-minded. He works extremely hard. Proud of the way that he kept moving and kept carrying it," Andersen said.
Warren made his first career start for the Aggies — something six other Utah State players could say Saturday. The Aggies were missing players expected to play big roles this season, including last year's leading tackler safety Troy Lefeged Jr.
That made a tough task just that much harder.
And while Warren's two touchdown runs got the Aggies back in the game, the hope of a comeback was short-lived. Boise State scored on its next two possessions and forced two consecutive Utah State turnovers to finish off the game.
In his Aggie debut, Shelley was 14-of-27 for 92 yards and an interception.
"I felt like he did what he could," Warren said.
That sentiment was echoed by the Aggie head coach.
"There's some throws I'm sure he'd like to be able to get back; a couple times he got out of the pocket and made some nice throws," Andersen said. "We've got to solve up the protection on the front to give any quarterback in the country a chance to be able to throw the ball and do some things effectively, and those young men are prideful about getting that done up front."
"We'll be prideful on working to get better at protecting the pass, and I think that'll help Jason," Andersen continued. "And I think Jason will continue to grow and develop as he moves through time."