PROVO — In a battle that was hyped to be two top-tier defenses going at each other, the Utah State defense did its part and lived up to the billing Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium against BYU.
The Aggies almost did everything they needed to on defense to win the Old Wagon Wheel, the Beehive Boot and secure their spot as the top dog in Utah.
USU's defense played hard almost the entire night and — with one major exception — kept BYU from scoring any points.
Ultimately, however, the Aggie defense — and the entire USU team — came up just short as BYU secured a 6-3 win over Utah State.
“Defensively we knew it was going to be a battle and we were going to have play extremely well to get a chance to win the game,” said Aggie head coach Gary Andersen. “We played well, but I’m not sure we played extremely well.”
Utah State played excellent defense for 59-and-a-half minutes, but fell asleep right before the half. BYU picked the Aggies apart on its only touchdown drive of the night. The Aggies punted away and looked to have a 3-0 lead going into the locker-room, but Taysom Hill sliced and diced the Aggies on a four-play, 61-yard touchdown drive in 25 seconds.
“We gave up a drive at the end of the first half that ultimately ended up being a big part of the football game,” Andersen said.
That touchdown was the only points BYU got in three trips into the red zone. The Aggie defense really showed what it was made of early in the third quarter when faced with a drive that started on the USU 9-yard line.
Not only did the Aggies keep BYU out of the end zone, but they kept the Cougars off the scoreboard entirely when the special teams unit sniffed out the fake field goal.
The biggest play on defense came later from linebacker Kyler Fackrell. With the offense sputtering in the fourth quarter and the defense needing to make a play Fackrell was there to come up with a turnover, tipping the ball to himself on a pass over the middle. The interception set up the Aggies with a chance to tie or go ahead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Aggie offense stalled out and Josh Thompson’s 38-yard field-goal attempt went wide left.
“That’s a tough one,” Andersen said. “You got to capitalize. That’s the name of the game. Both teams are going to look back and say they were pretty good on defense. You have to score some points against a great defense — whether that was on offense, defense or special teams.”
It was a similar story for the Aggies, whose only other loss of the year came when Thompson pushed a 37-yard field goal wide right at Wisconsin.
“Just like the Wisconsin game there were 20 plays that could have won the game for us,” Andersen said.
Ultimately though, it was the 30-second lapse from the defense before the half that cost the Aggies not just six points — but the game — and left the Aggies wondering what could have been.
“We can’t allow a 30-second touchdown drive,” Fackrell said. “I think the hurry up caught us off guard, but I don’t know what happened.”
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.