LOGAN In the first three minutes of Saturday night's game, the Utah defense gave up 24 yards and a touchdown.
In the final three minutes, playing their second- and third-teamers, the Utes allowed 42 yards, including 31 on one play.
And in between, the Utes gave up less than a yard a minute, allowing the Aggies just 50 total yards and a field goal during the other 54 minutes of play. It was a dominating defensive performance by the Utes.
"I thought we played very well all night on defense," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I don't know what we finished with, but any time you can hold a team to around 100 yards, that's exceptional defense."
Leading the way for the Utes was defensive end Paul Kruger, who spent as much time in the Aggie backfield as their two quarterbacks. He ended up tying a school record with four sacks and also had a tackle for a loss, deflected a pass and forced a fumble.
"Paul just played fantastic," said U. defensive coordinator Gary Andersen. "He had great speed and athleticism to the ball. I was worried because of the athleticism of their quarterback (Diondre Borel), but we had him corralled for most of the game."
Kruger had three sacks in the first half alone and forced a fumble deep in USU territory, setting up Utah's fifth score of the day, a 24-yard field goal by Louie Sakoda midway through the second quarter.
Kruger also almost scored a safety in the first quarter when he stormed through the line and caught USU quarterback Sean Setzer, tackling him at the goal line. Although Setzer was in the end zone, he was ruled down on the 1-yard line. Kruger's other sack came on the last play of the first half when he dropped Borel for a 7-yard loss.
In the second half, on consecutive plays, Kruger sacked Setzer for a loss and then hit the quarterback as he tried to pass, sending the ball to the turf.
Asked afterward about his performance, Kruger gave the credit to others.
"The coaches prepared us well," he said.
As for his sacks, he said, "It creates a lot of opportunity when you have other defensive linemen doing a great job of making him scramble and make him hold onto the ball longer than he should. Give a lot of credit to the corners and the safeties covering the receivers and making it possible to get in the backfield and be a part of the play."
Because Utah State ran just 47 plays compared to 80 for Utah, there weren't that many tackles to go around for the Utah defense.
Kruger and fellow end Koa Misi each finished with five tackles, while safety Joe Dale had four tackles.
"We've got two great defensive ends and I said at the beginning of the year we need 20 sacks combined for the year and we're on pace to exceed that," Whittingham said of Kruger and Misi. "They're not only great pass-rushers, they're exceptional against the run."
Utah State coach Brent Guy praised the Ute defense, saying, "They had pressure and would get to the quarterbacks. They were sacking us and we could not run the football at all. We would spread them out and they would still bring stuff up the edge. They physically dominated us."
One of the question marks coming into the game for Utah was the nose tackle position where two starters were injured the previous two weeks. The Utes used three players, Derrick Shelby, Aaron Tonga and Sealver Siliga, with Shelby getting most of the reps."Derrick Shelby did a great job today," said Andersen. "He got himself in there and held up very well."
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