Miscues, execution doom Aggies

Miscues, execution doom Aggies

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PROVO -- Utah State forced the vaunted BYU offense to fumble on its first series of the game, and the Aggies marched 42 yards from there to strike first on a six-yard touchdown run by quarterback Diondre Borel, but that was one of only a few positive plays of the night for USU.

Miscues and the inability to execute at key moments once again hurt the Aggies as they fell to the 20th ranked rival Cougars for the 10th consecutive time. USU's biggest miscue may have come just before the half.

Trailing BYU only 14-7, USU forced the Cougars to punt. With less than a minute to play in the second quarter, but with two timeouts remaining, the Aggie offense began to move to ball down the field.

However, on second and one from their own 31, the Aggies turned the ball over on a botched pitch between Borel and wide receiver Stanley Morrison. That mistake gave BYU a first down at the USU 29-yard line with 39 seconds remaining in the quarter. Two plays later the Aggies found themselves at the bottom end of a 14-point deficit, heading into the locker room down 21-7.

"That was real tough, we shot ourselves in the foot before half," said USU sophomore linebacker Bobby Wagner. "If they didn't score that touchdown I think it would've been a different game, but we still shot ourselves in the foot in the second half. We can't just go off that one play."

Though that was the Aggies only turnover of the night, it was certainly not USU's only flaw in the execution department. Multiple times the Utah State offense was able to move the ball down the field into Cougar territory, only to stall and punt the ball back to BYU.

USU also struggled to convert Cougar miscues -- specifically those made by senior quarterback Max Hall -- into positive momentum. Twice in the second half the Aggie defense intercepted Hall, who is leading the nation with 10 INTs, but USU was only able to muster three points off those turnovers.

Despite Utah State's struggles, the Aggies still had a chance to make a game of it in the fourth quarter. After turning one of Hall's interceptions into a field goal late in the third quarter, USU only trailed the Cougars by 11 heading into the final period.

The inability to execute at critical times hurt USU again though, as sophomore running back Robert Turbin was stopped on a third and then fourth down attempt when the Aggies only needed one yard. The turnover on downs gave BYU a short field at the Aggie 31 -- an advantage they quickly turned into seven more points that essentially put the game out of reach.

"Good football teams make plays to win games, and we have not done that yet. When it's an even playing field we have not made those plays," Andersen said. "Some people would argue with me and say it's not a level playing field with who've we've played other than the Southern Utah game, but I disagree with that."

Turbin, who had been averaging 124 rushing yards a game coming into the contest, was held to only 48 yards on 17 carries. As a team, USU was held 113 yards below its season rushing average and 164 yards below its average offensive output.

Trailing by two scores with nearly the entire fourth quarter remaining, the safe call may have been to punt, but Andersen defended his play calling.

"We need to be aggressive as coaches and we need to be aggressive as players to get this thing turned around to where we want it to be, which is to get to bowl games and to compete for championships down the road," he said. "If you're not aggressive, I don't think you'll ever get there."

After the game it was evident that Utah State was not happy about simply hanging with the Cougars for most of the game. Both Andersen and his players expressed not a sense of loss, but a sense of missed opportunities.

"I think we played hard and should've come out with the victory," Wagner said. "I think we fought hard, I think we came out ready to play. I think they didn't expect us to come out and do what we did in the first half. I think we shot ourselves in the foot on a couple plays on offense and defense and just gave them the game."

Andersen agreed.

"It's hard to look at a positive right now. We lost the football game, and I think we could have had a chance to win in the end," Andersen said. "A couple plays here and there made a huge difference in this football game. We fought hard, but the bottom line is we lost, and our goal is to win the game."

The loss to the Cougars wraps up a tough non-conference schedule for the Aggies, who will open conference play next Saturday when they travel to New Mexico State.

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