This team is not about one person. It was a big question mark when Chuckie got hurt, but we have a freshman that came out here and put on his big boy pants. —Travis Reynolds, USU receiver
LOGAN — Darrell Garretson didn’t think he was going to get a chance to play for Utah State this year, but the true freshman quarterback has the Aggies just a game away from bowl eligibility.
In only his second career start, Garretson enjoyed a day that some veteran quarterbacks only dream of. The baby-faced signal-caller threw for 370 yards, the most ever for a freshman at USU, and three touchdowns as Utah State efficiently routed hapless Hawaii 47-10 on Saturday.
“I knew this day was going to come,” senior wide receiver Travis Reynolds said about Garretson. “As a freshman he has poise and I see him as a leader and a lot of players on this team see him as a leader.”
Garretson’s favorite target was Reynolds, who tied a career high with eight receptions for a career-high 152 yards and a score. Reynolds was hit hard on his first catch, resulting in a personal foul that ejected Hawaii safety Marrell Jackson. Later in the quarter Reynolds drew another 15-yard penalty when he was hit late out of bounds.
All the hard Hawaii hits only served as motivation to Reynolds.
“I told them, 'I would be mad too if I was you,'” Reynolds said. “'You are trying to stop the No. 1 receiver on the team.'"
Outside of Hawaii's first drive of each half, the Aggies (5-4, 4-1 MWC) were outstanding defensively. The Warriors (0-8, 0-6 MWC) were held to 319 yards overall and 59 yards rushing.
USU picked off quarterback Sean Schroeder three times, with the highlight coming late in the third quarter when linebacker Kyler Fackrell jumped over Hawaii's running back to grab an interception on the goal line. Fackrell then weaved through traffic before leaving everyone in the dust for a 99-yard touchdown return. It was the third-longest interception return in school history.
“It was really tiring. I was exhausted afterward,” Fackrell said.
Perhaps the only thing that went wrong for Utah State was some ineffectiveness inside the red zone on offense. The Aggies had to settle for field goals four times, a higher number than ideal for head coach Matt Wells. On the positive side, the occasionally shaky kicking game connected on all four kicks, three from Nick Diaz and a 52-yarder from Jake Thompson.
“I hold my breath every time they go out there. We didn’t get one blocked today, right?” Wells asked rhetorically. “Everybody knows that I get upset when we don’t score touchdowns in the red zone. ... I’m really proud of that unit. They’ve had a lot of scrutiny internally. For them to go out and perform well, I was very happy with them.”
With Saturday's win the Aggies need just one more victory in their final three games to become bowl eligible, something that many thought would not be possible when quarterback Chuckie Keeton was lost for the year last month. With Garretson at the helm, the Aggies have steadied the ship and could make an appearance in the Mountain West title game should Boise State slip up.
“This team is not about one person,” Reynolds said. “It was a big question mark when Chuckie got hurt, but we have a freshman that came out here and put on his big boy pants.”
Utah State will take its pants on the road one more time this season — Saturday at UNLV. Following the game against the Rebels the Aggies will have an off-week before playing their final two games of the regular season at Romney Stadium — against Colorado State and Wyoming.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.