The biggest thing is we don’t control our own destiny now. —Utah State head coach Matt Wells
LOGAN — The road to the Mountain West championship got a lot more difficult for Utah State's football team Saturday night.
The Aggies were pushed around by Boise State, and the Broncos went on to win 34-23. In the process, Boise State took a firm grasp on the race for the Mountain Division title.
The loss dropped Utah State to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in Mountain West play, while the Broncos improved to 4-2 and 2-1 in conference play.
“The biggest thing is we don’t control our own destiny now,” head coach Matt Wells said. “There is still a lot of football left for us. There are still a lot of games for us to compete for an opportunity to go to three straight bowl games. There is plenty for us to play for. We will keep fighting, regroup and make some corrections.”
The Aggie offense struggled in its first full game without quarterback Chuckie Keeton. USU finished with only 348 yards of total offense, 221 through the air and 127 on the ground. Both totals were well below the Aggies' season averages of 275 yards passing and 204 yards rushing.
Robert Marshall led the team with 69 yards rushing and a banged up Joey DeMartino added another 37 on just 11 carries. DeMartino scored on a 1-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to get the Aggies on the board and pull them within three points, 10-7. But the team never got closer.
Boise State led 24-10 at halftime, and to try and give the team a shot in the arm, Wells pulled starting quarterback Craig Harrison just after the break.
“I thought we were dead,” Wells said. “I didn’t have a whole lot going. We didn’t have a whole lot of momentum and it was close to decide who would start.”
The Aggies did not score in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Darrell Garretson was able to lead the Aggies on a scoring drive in the final minute of the game.
While the offense had its struggles, the defense was boom or bust. Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick threw for a career-high 335 yards and two touchdowns. The Aggies were also gashed by Bronco running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 109 yards and a score on 22 attempts.
On the positive side for the Aggie defense were three interceptions. Cornerback Nevin Lawson had two picks, including one that he took back 65 yards for a touchdown. Lawson also had a career-high nine tackles, but did not want to talk about his individual performance after the game.
“Interceptions and stuff are all good, but I’m not here to talk about personal accolades,” Lawson said. “I’d rather have zero tackles and zero picks and win. At the end of the day I just want to win.”
The biggest issue for the defense was an inability to get off the field on third down. The Broncos converted 8 of 17 attempts, many coming on third-and-long. USU finished just 3 of 15 on third-down attempts.
“Defensively we played really well and then we couldn’t get off the field on third down and didn’t tackle well,” Wells said. “That’s about the first time the tackling deal has shown up.”
The Aggies will hit the road next week for their penultimate away game of the season at New Mexico.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.