Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
BOISE — Out of the blue, literally, came Michael Smith.
The senior running back from Utah State has spent the season as a complement to WAC offensive player of the year Robert Turbin. But in Saturday's 24-23 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to Ohio — on Boise State's electric blue turf — it was Smith who made the biggest commotion.
Two big runs, two touchdowns, and a performance that earned him the game's co-MVP award.
The other award winner was Ohio receiver LaVon Brazill.
Except for the game-concluding score by Ohio, which came with 13 seconds left, Smith would have been the hands-down star on a nationally televised game. As it was, he settled for the consolation: Great game, disappointing day.
"(Running backs) Coach (Iliasa) Tuiak tells you finish the play, break a tackle, run as hard as you can to the end zone. That's what I did," Smith said.
With the Aggies nursing to a 9-7 lead in the early third quarter, Smith turned it up. On USU's second play of the quarter, Smith burst over the left guard and suddenly was in the open for a 63-yard touchdown.
Ohio came back with a field goal, closing USU's lead to 16-10, but on the next possession Smith hit the right side of the line, this time for 38 yards to set the Aggies up on the Ohio 33. He finished up the drive with two straight carries from inside the 8, the second garnering his second score.
"To me, that's why he's one of the best running backs in the nation," Turbin said.
Smith's 157-yard rushing total was his highest of the season, surpassing the 121 he rang up against New Mexico State. It gave him 885 for the year. Turbin finished with finished with 1,517 rushing yards.
"All I can do is be grateful to be here to play this game and be happy about it," Smith said.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," he said after the game. "I'm kind of shocked. I felt we were better team by far, but at the same time, stuff happens. Adversity."
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