They may have tallied just 250 total yards of offense Saturday against a one-win Idaho team. But largely due to an opportunistic defense, the Utah State Aggies won 45-9 and claimed their first outright conference championship since 1936.
They also won 10 games in one season for the first time in school history, causing chants of "Gary! Gary! Gary!" throughout USU's student section in recognition of coach Gary Andersen's accomplishments in four years at the helm of Utah State's program.
OFFENSE: Outside of the 6-3 BYU loss, Chuckie Keeton (17-of-25, 133 yards, 2 touchdowns) may have offered his second-worst performance this season. It was Kerwynn Williams (17 carries, 122 yards, 1 touchdown), already the USU career leader in all-purpose yards, who fueled the Aggie offense. In this game, he came short of the WAC single-season record for all-purpose yards. However, his 52-yard outburst in the third quarter set up a 3-yard USU score that made it 28-9 and kept the Vandals at bay. Ironically, two USU fourth-quarter touchdowns were with several backups on the field.
In their last games as seniors, wide receivers Chuck Jacobs (4 receptions, 41 yards) and Chuck Jacobs (4 receptions, 22 yards) led the way through the air. GRADE: C+.
DEFENSE: Give the game ball to this side. The ninth-best scoring defense in the nation combined for three interceptions of junior quarterback Taylor Davis (10-of-23, 49 yards), providing the offense two short fields outside of a pick-six from senior cornerback Will Davis. After no interceptions in the season's first seven games, it was his fifth interception in as many games. It is important to consider that Idaho's points per game entering the contest (16.5) ranked 123rd in the nation. GRADE: B+.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Nick Diaz improved to 3 of 4 from 40-49 yards — making him 8-11 on the season — with a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter. He was a WAC Player of the Week this season after a blowout of New Mexico State, his first start in place of maligned kicker Josh Thompson, who missed go-ahead and tying field goals against Wisconsin and BYU, respectively. There's not too much the Aggie kick defense group could have done against Idaho kicker Trey Farquhar, whose three solid field goals comprised all the Vandal scoring. One was from 52 yards, giving him 11 50-plus yard field goals in the senior's career. That's a current FBS record.Comment on this story
USU punter Tyler Bennett averaged just 37 yards on three punts, while Idaho's Bobby Cowan averaged 53.5 on four attempts. And not all of Bennett's punts were trying to pin the Vandals. GRADE: B.
OVERALL: The Aggies were once again imperfect against an awful team. But who among the Aggie faithful will be upset Saturday evening, with USU having accomplished so many milestones — including building on its first national ranking since 1978 and best start since 1961? Certainly none of the fans who stormed the field after the game were concerned as they celebrated a championship with the team. GRADE: B.
Rhett Wilkinson studies interesting stuff at Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. Previously a Deseret News intern, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilklogan