I think we took a little bit of a step and grew up. We’ve got so many youthful players that are playing for the first time, and learning to play together and learning to prepare and learning to overcome adversity. —USU head coach Matt Wells
LOGAN — There was no way around it.
Once Utah State’s early 7-0 lead turned into a 21-7 deficit early in the second quarter of Friday night’s game against BYU, Utah State fans everywhere had the same thought: Here we go again.
In USU’s ugly losses at Wisconsin and Wake Forest early in the season, once things started to go bad for the Aggies, things went really, really bad for the Aggies.
But unlike Utah State’s 59-10 loss to the Badgers (which featured 59 unanswered points by Wisconsin) and its 46-10 drubbing at the hands of the Demon Deacons (who were up 36-0 to start the game), the Aggie defense not only stopped the bleeding, but it also ended up saving the day and the 40-24 victory at Maverik Stadium.
In addition to coming up with seven turnovers, the Utah State defense notched a couple of big stops down the stretch, helping to offset a so-so performance by the Aggie offense.
“I think we took a little bit of a step and grew up,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “We’ve got so many youthful players that are playing for the first time, and learning to play together and learning to prepare and learning to overcome adversity.
“And it happened with the score and the turnover early, and I think that’s a step in the right direction. That is a satisfying thing as a coach to see them overcome that.”
JALEN’S TROPHY ROOM: Just like Utah State’s first home game victory over Idaho State, senior cornerback Jalen Davis arrived for the postgame press conference carrying a football. Make that, the game ball.
Davis, who had two interceptions against the Bengals, including one returned for a touchdown, totaled three picks against the Cougars Friday night. Davis returned one of them 30 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, then all but sealed USU’s victory with a 50-yard pick-six with three minutes left.
“I guess I’ll have to hang them up in a shrine somewhere,” Davis said with a big grin when asked what he was going to do with all of his game balls.
Davis should actually share some space on his shrine with junior linebacker Chase Christiansen. On the second quarter pick, BYU quarterback Beau Hoge’s pass went off the right shoulder pad of Christiansen and bounced into the arms of Davis, who took it into the north end zone for the score that stopped the Cougars’ run of unanswered points at 21.
“I said, ‘Thank you so much for being in a great position!’” Davis declared. “The ball just fell in my lap. (Christiansen) didn't have any idea what happened. He said, ‘I just looked back and saw you running with the ball.’”
COUGAR KILLER: Combined with the Aggies’ victory at Provo in 2014, Wells became the first Utah State coach to notch two or more wins against Brigham Young since Bruce Snyder. Snyder, who passed away in 2009, coached at USU from 1976-1982 and beat the Cougars in '78 and ’82.
Wells was also a part of an Aggie defeat of BYU as a player. The Oklahoma native was a freshman quarterback at Utah State in 1993 when the Aggies’ pulled off an epic, 58-56 victory at Romney Stadium.
“It was a little bit different,” Wells responded with a big laugh when asked if it felt like 1993 out on the field following Friday’s victory. “I had a clipboard in my hands that day. It was Anthony Calvillo competing against John Walsh, and that was a big win for the Aggies, too.”