For the most part, Utah State's game plan against Utah Saturday night went according to design.
The Aggies wanted to play smart on offense and not shoot themselves in the foot, to use their special teams to obtain good field position, and to rely on their strong defense to slow down the potent Utes."I thought we carried out our game plan about as well as we could until about the last seven plays of the game," said Dave Arslanian, who was coaching his first game at Utah State. "But we didn't get it done."
The Aggies twice had the ball in Utah territory in the last five minutes with a chance to possibly tie with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. However both possessions fizzled without a first down.
"I was very disappointed in our lack of offensive production," said Arslanian, who blamed the entire offensive unit and not just quarterback Riley Jensen.
Jensen, making his first Division I start, completed 11 of 25 passes for 99 yards under an offensive game plan that Arslanian admitted was "pretty conservative" and "in some ways contrary to our philosophy."
Except for the lack of offense, there was little for Arslanian to complain about as the defense, save for two plays in the first half (Nick Morgan's 49-yard run and Darnell Arceneaux's 20-yard TD run), contained the Utes, while the special teams outplayed their counterparts and gave the Aggies good field position all night.
Among the bright spots for the Aggies were:
- Cornerback Craig Miller, who led the team with five unassisted tackles and 11 in all. His best tackle stopped Daniel Jones in the end zone for a safety that gave the Aggies their first points of the year.
- Freshman Tony Walker, who returned a punt 44 yards in the fourth quarter to put the Aggies in position to possibly tie the game.
- Linebacker Tony D'Ama-to, who came up with two of the Aggies' five sacks and had three tackles for losses of 17 yards.
- Reliable Demario Brown, who picked up 108 yards in 22 carries, his 10th career 100- yard outing.
- The "attack punts" by Jensen, which pinned Utah inside the 20 five times and twice on the 2-yard line.
- No significant injuries in a hard-played game.
The Aggies will prepare for another WAC team in defending Mountain Division champion New Mexico Saturday night (6 p.m.) in Albuquerque.
"I feel absolutely lousy about the loss, and our players are very disappointed because they thought they could beat Utah again," said Arslanian. "But we're not that far away. We will get on track."