BOISE, Idaho — Utah State football coach Gary Andersen called them lightning strikes.
Flash — there goes Aggies running back Kerwynn Williams, 63 yards for a touchdown.
Flash — there goes Williams, 56 yards to set up his own 5-yard TD run.
Flash — there goes Williams again, 25 yards into the end zone.
It all happened in a span of 3 minutes, 16 seconds of the fourth quarter in Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Bronco Stadium. And it happened immediately after a Williams fumble briefly gave Toledo the momentum.
"After that fumble happened, it made me more determined to get it going," Williams said. "I wanted to do something big."
Williams' fourth-quarter outburst led Utah State to a 41-15 win and placed a stunning cap on a historic season in front of 29,243 fans.
The No. 18 Aggies (11-2) set a school record for wins, won a bowl game for the first time in 19 years (and second time in school history) and will finish in the Top 25 for the first time since 1961. They also won their first outright conference title since 1936.
"They reached every single goal that they set on Jan. 7," said Andersen, whose team lost to Ohio by one point in last year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. "That doesn't happen very often in life and it doesn't happen very often in football.
". It's the best season ever in the history of Utah State football."
For Toledo (9-4), it was a game of missed opportunities.
The Rockets reached the red zone five times and scored just nine points. They looked confused at times - taking penalties and timeouts because they couldn't get lined up and once snapping the ball before the quarterback was ready. Plus, dropped passes were rampant.
"It's kind of been our Achilles' heel all year, red-zone offense," Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. ". If you're going to win the big game, you've got to execute the details."
The fourth-quarter excitement followed three sleepy quarters, with Utah State leading 13-6.
The Aggies scored the only touchdown during that stretch in the first quarter - a fantastic 62-yard run by sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who faked a handoff to Williams and ran the option to the right. Keeton leaped into the end zone from about the 5-yard line when it looked like he might step out of bounds.
"They kind of keyed in on Kerwynn on that play," Keeton said, "and the cornerback either had me to take or the option guy to take and thankfully he chose the wrong one."
Toledo missed a string of chances to draw even in the second half.
In the third quarter, they drove to the Utah State 15-yard line. On first down, senior quarterback Austin Dantin tried to throw a pass to the goal line. Linebacker Jake Doughty, who was about halfway between Dantin and the receiver, tipped the ball into the air and linebacker Kyler Fackrell caught the deflection.
Early in the fourth quarter, junior quarterback Terrance Owens - the starter who missed the regular-season finale with an ankle injury - came off the bench and led a drive to the Utah State 9. On fourth-and-1, Owens ran a draw up the middle and hit a blue wall.
"That was kind of a bad read on my part," Owens said. "I thought I could have bounced it outside." The Rockets immediately got another chance.
On the next play, Williams spun out of a tackle and broke into the open field for what looked like his first big play of the game.
Instead, Toledo linebacker Robert Bell reached from behind and forced a fumble. Safety Jermaine Robinson recovered at the Aggies' 29.
Again, the Rockets failed to capitalize - settling for a field goal that made it 13-9 with 7:28 left in the game.
"We've been good (in the red zone) all year long on defense," Andersen said. "They bowed up once again and made a bunch of plays when they had to. . It was a big part of this game." Meanwhile, Williams was on the sideline getting support from his teammates.
"They all came up and said they've got my back," he said.
Williams found redemption anyway.1 comment on this story
Two plays after the field goal, he broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage, burst into the open field and outran the defense on his 63-yard touchdown run.
After a quick three-and-out, he struck again.
And after an interception, he struck a third time.
"They got into some formations in the fourth quarter we hadn't seen in the first three," Campbell said.
After the fumble, Williams carried six times for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
Before that, he had 12 carries for 53 yards.
"You give this kid a crease," Andersen said, "and he's going to go all the way."