Utah State gave No. 11 Michigan State all it could handle Friday night but, at the bitter end, it couldn't pull off the upset, falling 38-31 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.
"We came in here to win," Utah State head coach Matt Wells told 1280 The Zone after the game. "The goal was to get it into the fourth quarter up a touchdown or down a touchdown. I said within one score get it to the fourth and we have a chance."
Utah State accomplished its goal of being within a touchdown at the start of the fourth as the Aggies trailed by three points at the start of the fourth quarter.
Utah State stunned the home crowd as it took a 31-30 lead with just 5:05 left in the game. But the defense couldn't stop Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke from leading his team down the field one last time setting up a 13-yard touchdown run by Connor Heyward. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love and the Aggies had one last chance with exactly two minutes to go. Love led the Aggies into Michigan State territory before his pass got deflected and intercepted by linebacker Joe Bachie to seal the deal for the Spartans.
Love had a lot riding on his arm as the Aggies struggled to rush the ball against a staunch Spartan rush defense that held Utah State to just 25 yards on the ground. And for the most part, Love held up well under pressure. He led the Aggies on three big touchdown drives and finished the game 29 of 44 for 319 yards and a rushing touchdown with two interceptions.
"We knew they had a really great run defense," Love told 1280. "In our game plan we knew that we would have to run it a lot and we prepared all week for that."
Aggies tight end Dax Raymond was Love's top target and finished with seven catches for 76 yards, including key catches during scoring drives. JC transfer running back Darwin Thompson picked up his first two touchdowns as an Aggie against a tough Michigan State defense.
Michigan State started to pull away in the third quarter before safety Gaje Ferguson took an interception 40 yards to the house to put Utah State within three points.
"It's something that I've been envisioning all week. I saw that play in film a bunch," Ferguson told 1280 about his interception. "I've been telling myself all week that's something I could definitely pick off."31 comments on this story
The Utah State defense largely held its own against a Michigan State offense designed to grind down its opponents. Michigan State had first-and-goal at the 2-yard line in the first quarter and the Aggies forced the Spartans to settle for a field goal. If that wasn't enough, Utah State had its backs to the end zone again as the Spartans had first-and-goal at the 3-yard line and the Aggies again held them to a field goal.
Despite the loss, TCU transfer Tipa Galeai had a great night with two sacks in his debut for the Aggies while Jontrell Rocquemore added a sack of his own.
"I think we ought to walk out of here with confidence with our chin up and our chest out," Wells said. "We came in here, we did exactly what we wanted to. We just couldn't finish it at the very end."
The Aggies return to Logan to try to avenge their Arizona Bowl loss against New Mexico State next Saturday.