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Utah State embarrassed by Wyoming on senior night

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson, left, tabs quarterback Logan Bonner (1) on the head after he threw a touchdown pass against San Jose State during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, San Jose, Calif. Utah State won 48-17.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson, left, tabs quarterback Logan Bonner (1) on the head after he threw a touchdown pass against San Jose State during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, San Jose, Calif. Utah State won 48-17. (Tony Avelar, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

LOGAN — Utah State had a chance to say goodbye to their graduating players by nabbing their ninth win of the season and picking up a crucial win over a divisional rival. Instead, the Wyoming Cowboys stepped onto Merlin Olsen Field guns blazing to steal the show.

Entering Saturday having lost five of their last six games, Wyoming played like they were the conference leader and bruised the Aggies on both sides of the ball en route to a decisive 44-17 win. The Cowboys out-gained Utah State on the ground 362-181 and in the air 242-181 in the win.

Wyoming dealt a major blow to the Aggies' Mountain West championship aspirations as the Cowboys claimed the "Bridger's Rifle" for the first time since 2017. Utah State needs to defeat New Mexico next week and then hope Boise State loses to San Diego State in order to win the Mountain division and reach the championship game.

"We played hard but we did not play well," Aggies head coach Blake Anderson said. "Guys were excited, they knew what was at stake. But we made way too many mistakes to stay in the game, and we honestly just got shoved around on the offensive line and on the defensive line tonight."

The Cowboys largely shut down the dynamic Aggies passing attack and held quarterback Logan Bonner to just 19-of-40 passing, and the nation's leading receiver, Deven Thompkins, was limited to just 67 reception yards. Bonner had limited time to throw and played from behind most of the game, which forced the Aggies to sell out on the pass and resulted in a failure to score points in the second half.

"We knew they were top-5 passing defense in the country," wide receiver Brandon Bowling said. "We knew that was going to be a really big challenge for us. They're very well-coached on the defensive side of the ball and their guys play really well in man coverage. Credit to them, they did a really good job, and we didn't execute."

The Wyoming passing game, which has struggled all season, outperformed the Aggies. Quarterback Levi Williams was 12-of-15 for 242 yards and two passing touchdowns, but the most success came on the ground. Running back Titus Swen rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Xazavian Valladay rushed for 145 yards.

The Aggies defense held Wyoming to just 17 rushing yards in the first quarter by loading the box, but as the game wore on the defense began to miss tackles and failed to limit big plays.

"​​Wyoming is a good running team, right? That's their bread and butter," defensive end Nick Heninger said. "The team that usually wins is the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. And tonight, the Cowboys made the least amount of mistakes and they were able to capitalize on it."

After six games this season where the Aggies trailed by double digits in the first half and found a way to win, the assumption was they'd be able to do it once again.

But in the third quarter, the bubble burst.

The Aggies trailed 24-17 at halftime and started the second half with the football, where they marched down field into field goal range to attempt a 42-yard kick. But the snap was high and suddenly Wyoming had possession of the fumble. The Cowboys immediately responded with a 43-yard touchdown run from Swen to go up 31-17.

It got worse.

Utah State's offense went three-and-out and was forced to punt the ball back to Wyoming. Valladay found an edge and gained 33 yards to set up a Cowboys field goal to extend the lead to 34-17. On the ensuing drive, Utah State got to Wyoming's 31-yard line and Bonner was sacked to push the Aggies out of field goal range — another costly drive.

Swen then busted through a gap up the middle on Wyoming's next possession and took it back 99 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.

"Let's get real. Momentum, as much as you love and as much as you hate it, it's a powerful thing," Heninger said. "They came out, they had momentum and we weren't able to take it back. And they were able to keep it rolling and capitalize."

Wyoming's offense, which entered the matchup averaging 22 points per game, broke their average in the first half and scored 24 points behind a 40-yard touchdown reception by Isaiah Neyor and a kickoff return that went 99 yards for a score by Cameron Stone. Williams later hit Joshua Cobbs on a 17-yard catch for a score that was followed by two field goals to take a 24-17 lead.

The Aggies passing game had some success in the first half, with Bonner connecting with Bowling on a 10-yard post route for a score and a 49-yard touchdown grab by Thompkins, who played through a declined pass interference penalty by Wyoming.

"Tonight was a night you wanted them to be able to celebrate with their families and really remember this one in a different way," Anderson said. "And for that reason, it hurts."

Utah State will look to regroup on the road in Albuquerque when they face New Mexico.

"We've got to recoup, refresh these guys on a short week," Anderson said. "Go find a way to win No. 9 and then all become really big San Diego State fans. I mean, that's all we can do."

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