Tom Smart, Deseret News
Hopefully viewers didn't give up on Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl matchup between Utah State and Toledo before early in the fourth quarter.
After all, that's when the fun really began.
Kerwynn Williams' three consecutive touchdown runs preceded an 87-yard kickoff touchdown return from Toledo's Bernard Reedy. Then came another 32-yard scamper from Williams, setting up a 24-yard score from his backup, Joe Hill.
The offensive outburst amounted to 28 fourth-quarter USU points that not many might have expected, given the flow of the game in the first three quarters.
With a 41-15 victory, Utah State becomes the first team in school history to win 11 games in one season.
OFFENSE: Williams' 235 rushing yards (on just 18 carries) were the second-most in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl history. Named the USU bowl MVP afterward, three of his crucial fourth-quarter runs were 63, 56 and 32 yards. The first two set up himself for scores, while the latter paved the way for his backup, Joe Hill, to make a 24-yard scamper.
Quarterback Chuckie Keeton turned out to be not so bad, either. He added 92 yards on nine carries to his 21 of 31, 229-yard passing effort. His touchdown-less throwing game marked his first in seven contests. (The last time he didn't throw for a TD was during the Oct. 5 loss at BYU.) Sixth-year senior Matt Austin (6 receptions, 77 yards) and fellow senior Chuck Jacobs (5 receptions, 58 yards) both went out in style. Both receiving efforts were their second-highest tallies of the season.
The offense certainly was mediocre up until the fourth quarter. But an explosive final stanza — truly, an exploit of Toledo's tired defenders — made all the difference in the world. The Aggies totaled 582 total yards. GRADE: A-.
DEFENSE: Reedy (6 receptions for 62 yards; 10 carries for 51 yards) proved to be a thorn — perhaps a Rocket? — in the Aggies' side. He was moved to running back only after junior David Fluellen (7 carries, 38 yards) went down with an injury. Toledo, however, totaled just 315 total yards as starting quarterback Terrance Owens (6 of 17, 30 passing yards) was replaced in the second half by Austin Dantin (12 of 21, 132 yards). Considering that Toledo's lone touchdown came by virtue of a kickoff return, USU did a great job. The Rockets ranked 39th in points per game (32.9) entering the game. GRADE: B+.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Reedy's touchdown kickoff return was the only factor that spoiled the Aggies' magnificent fourth quarter. Three field goals from the Rockets' Jeremiah Detmer were really a product of staunch USU defensive efforts in the red zone. Nick Diaz proved to penalize the Rockets for rejecting a would-be 10-yard penalty by nailing a 44-yard field goal early in the third quarter. GRADE: C-.
OVERALL: Gary Andersen may have said he doesn't want to think about the program's future for at least a few days. After struggling offensively for three quarters, the Williams-spurred explosion ensured this year's Utah State finished on a high note — higher than any USU team had ever finished before. GRADE: B+.
Rhett Wilkinson studies interesting stuff at Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. A Deseret News editorial intern, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wilklogan.
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