By Jeff Hunter
For the Deseret News
LOGAN — Although the defense looked a little over the Hill at times, Utah State had little trouble burying the Cowboys Friday night at Maverik Stadium.
The Aggies, who didn't punt until there was just 3:12 left in the game, cruised to a 58-27 victory over one-win Wyoming despite surrendering 201 rushing yards to sophomore running back Brian Hill.
"We came out fast, ran the ball and established the run; I'm very proud of the offense," USU head coach Matt Wells declared. "It was a very good performance, especially by the offensive line. Devante Mays ran behind his pads and was real strong all night. I thought Kent (Myers) was very efficient in the passing game, and some young men caught the ball out on the perimeter.
"It was a good win."
Utah State (4-1 in the Mountain West, 5-3 overall) won its 13th consecutive home game, as well as its third straight "Bridger's Battle," which provides the winner of the annual Wyoming-USU game with ownership of a .50 caliber Hawken rifle similar to the one carried by celebrated mountain man Jim Bridger.
But playing without starting nose guard David Moala and starting defensive end Ricky Ali'ifua, the Aggies had trouble containing Hill, who entered the game fourth in the nation in rushing with 1,061 yards. Hill, who churned out 201 yards on just 26 carries, broke loose for a 47-yard touchdown run in the second quarter after a missed tackle at midfield.
"We lost the edge a couple of times early, and he ran through a few tackles," Wells said. "Brian Hill's a good back; he's a real good back, I told ya'll that. I have a lot of respect for him, and the job that they have done with him. That's a very good offensive line with tough guys up front. That's a team that runs the ball very, very well."
However, it was the Aggies who ended up winning the rushing battle, edging the Cowboys (1-4, 1-8) in overall yardage, 302 to 282. Most of that was due to a career-high 176 yards by junior running back Mays, who also found the end zone twice on his 22 carries.
The Aggies, who were determined to bounce back from last week's 48-14 humbling at San Diego State, also got a very good performance from quarterback Myers. The sophomore completed his first 10 passes on his way to going 14 for 17 for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Utah State, which also got a late touchdown pass from sophomore backup quarterback Damion Hobbs, ended up with 592 total yards against the Cowboys.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Smith made his first career start for Wyoming, and while he was just 10 of 18 for 83 yards, he didn't throw an interception while completing two passes for touchdowns. Smith also added 53 yards rushing while getting sacked just once.
"I thought the defense didn't play very well, especially because they ran the ball on us at will," said USU linebacker Nick Vigil, who led the Aggies with 13 tackles. "We didn't do a very good job. Thank goodness that the offense had a really good game tonight, otherwise we would have been in a dogfight down to the end."
Although the Aggies had the ball just four times in the first half, the USU offense ended up scoring three touchdowns and a field goal. The Cowboys tried to keep pace, but after Hill was dropped for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter, Utah State maintained control of the contest.
Already up 24-14, the Aggies used a couple of timeouts to force Wyoming into its first punt of the night with 42 seconds left in the first half. With the Cowboys' formation overloaded at the right, USU brought four men up the middle, resulting in a blocked punt by Brock Carmen that was eventually corralled in the end zone by Jontrell Rocquemore for a 30-14 Aggie lead.
"That was big juice," Wells said. "We tried to take a couple of timeouts there at the end, and at least put the punt-block team on the field and give us an opportunity to do that. Those kids did a nice job of executing, and I thought it was very well schemed up by (special teams coach) Dave Unger. Those kids went out and made a play, and it was nice to see."
Myers ended up completing passes to eight different receivers and connected with tight end Wyatt Houston for two touchdowns passes of 8 and 25 yards, and also found senior wide receiver Brandon Swindall for a 19-yard score. Myers also ran for a 5-yard TD before giving way to Hobbs, who hit Jaren Colston-Green for a 34-yard strike with 6:34 left in the game.