LOGAN — This is a new year for Utah State football, but the same flair for dramatic results have followed the Aggies to 2012. Last year USU invented new ways to make games go down to the wire, and if a 27-20 overtime victory over Utah Friday is any indication, it’s going to be the same song, different verse this year.
“I don’t know if I’m going to make it,” Utah State coach Gary Andersen said with a laugh about the team’s repeated cardiac finishes.
The difference is last year the Aggies couldn’t make the one play needed to win in their biggest games. The bowl game against Ohio; Riley Nelson leading a comeback at BYU; fumbling away a win against Colorado State at home; and the season-opener at Auburn. Those all ended with the Aggies letting a big victory slip out of their grasp and created a lot of talk of what could have been.
However, against Utah Friday the Aggies found themselves fortunate to be on the good side of lady luck. Utah State fumbled five times but only lost two. Tyler Bennet’s punt in the final minute rolled an additional 30 yards keeping Utah from getting in easy field-goal range and then Coleman Peterson’s 52-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
“We just knew we had to finish this game off,” running back Kerwynn Williams said. “We gathered ourselves mentally and knew we had to execute and finish this game off in overtime.”
In overtime the breaks kept coming. Keeton turned a dead play into a 23-yard run to set up USU for its overtime touchdown two plays later.
“We ran that play earlier for a touchdown pass to Joe Hill. We ran the same play again and they made an adjustment at halftime and covered it to the fullest,” Keeton said. “But they didn’t cover me and I’m thankful for that.”
When Utah got its turn in overtime a touchdown catch was ruled offensive pass interference and the ensuing play could have easily been called defensive interference but no flag was thrown.
“We came out of the huddle and just told ourselves, ‘Players make plays,'” linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu said. “When the ball hit the ground I just can’t even explain it.”
"Players make plays" was a quote Andersen often used in reference to the Aggies falling a play or two short from victory. Change any number of plays against Utah and Andersen and Utah State would have been bemoaning that they didn’t make the final play to win a big game. Instead, they are celebrating their first victory over Utah and first 2-0 start since 1997.
“It’s a place we haven’t been since I’ve been here,” Andersen said. “To be able to start 2-0 and now that’s seven straight regular-season games in a row we’ve been able to win.”
Not only has Utah State started 2-0 it has renewed its rivalry with Utah. Andersen had said it didn't count as a rivalry until Utah State won a game against BYU and Utah. Now the Aggies have beaten both during Andersen’s tenure.
“It feels good to know that when we wake up Utah-Utah State and Utah State-BYU are rivalries again,” Andersen said.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at DesNewsKraig@gmail.com or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.