Sooner or later, when you go down to wire, you're not going to win every single game when you get in that spot," USU coach Gary Andersen said. "We had some good luck there for five weeks. I don't know if we were pressing it, but what we did is learn from it.
BOISE — In this memorable, fright-night, scream-fest of a season, the Utah State Aggies wrapped things up with one of life's invaluable lessons.
Don't get too close to the edge.
That caution sign isn't there for the scenery.
So it goes, whether it's driving too fast or just eating too much junk food. Eventually odds are going to nail you.
On a year in which 10 games were decided by a score or less – most in the nation – the Aggies ended up dying in the manner they beat their previous five opponents. Having grown accustomed to one Houdini trick after another, they lost 24-23 to Ohio in the Potato Bowl.
USU went ahead 23-10 in the third quarter of the low-scoring game. Time for the clincher. But to the Aggies' dismay, the game played out like every slasher film ever made: It isn't over 'til the dead people die.
But then they don't.
Somehow even the refs got into the suspense. When Ohio came storming in for the final drive, the Aggies executed a nice blitz, exactly as they should have, and came oh-so-close. But quarterback Tyler Tettleton launched a hurried but accurate pass that LaVon Brazill turned into a touchdown. Or not. Maybe. Wait. Is this multiple choice?
Initially, an official signaled touchdown, but another overruled it, placing the ball a few inches short of the end zone. That was confirmed upon review. Then came the possibility Brazill had fumbled into the end zone and recovered it himself.
Upon further review, said an announcer in the press box — for the second time.
It was determined the ball was down on the six inch-line. Seconds later, Tettleton took it in for the winning score.
That ended the Aggie season with nerve-jangling losses to Auburn, Colorado State, BYU and Ohio, and wins over Hawaii, San Jose State, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico State.
"Sooner or later, when you go down to wire, you're not going to win every single game when you get in that spot," USU coach Gary Andersen said. "We had some good luck there for five weeks. I don't know if we were pressing it, but what we did is learn from it."
As important as it was for USU to get in a bowl game for the first time in 14 years, that didn't mean conditions weren't challenging. It was cold. Not as cold as some of their games, but nippier than Hawaii.
Around 25,000 fans showed up in the 33,500-seat Bronco Stadium, though announced attendance was 28,076. Fair, but not great. That makes sense.
If Boise State isn't in it, Boise isn't totally interested.
Still, renaming the Humanitarian Bowl the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl wasn't a bad marketing move. It lends itself to all sorts of references and promotions. For instance, the potato sack race they ran after the first quarter. In the oddity of oddities department, the Potato Bowl actually ran out of mashed potatoes in the press box. But it made a nice recovery, switching from mashed to baked.
Done and done.
What, no au gratin? No French fried? No German roasted?
While it's hard to imagine anyone being too excited about a mid-December game in freezing temperatures,the teams certainly played as though they were.. As the temperatures dropped, the game heated up. After Tettleton scored the go-ahead touchdown, the Aggies had only seconds to respond. Adam Kennedy completed a short pass to Robert Turbin, who lateraled to Michael Smith, who tossed to Travis Van Leewen, who pitched to Kennedy, who handed off to the Secretary of Agriculture, who swung to the Director of Office of Management and Budget, who returned to the ambassador to Portugal.
Anyone else want to try?
Finally it ended up in the hands of Ohio's Phil Bates to end the game.
Thus completed one of the most interesting seasons in USU's history.
"We," Andersen said wistfully, "were the Cardiac Kids."
"Unbelievable," he said of the season. "Emotionally, up and down, back and forth. I think the true test was for some of the kids who have fought and battled. It's been most the gratifying season of my career, hands down. I think it turned some young men into men."
At very least, it taught them not to play with fire.